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Emily A. Cooper, Elise A. Piazza, Martin S. Banks; The perceptual basis of common photographic practice. Journal of Vision 2012;12(5):8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.5.8.
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Photographers, cinematographers, and computer-graphics engineers use certain techniques to create striking pictorial effects. By using lenses of different focal lengths, they can make a scene look compressed or expanded in depth, make a familiar object look natural or distorted, or make a person look smarter, more attractive, or more neurotic. We asked why pictures taken with a certain focal length look natural, while those taken with other focal lengths look distorted. We found that people's preferred viewing distance when looking at pictures leads them to view long-focal-length pictures from too near and short-focal-length pictures from too far. Perceptual distortions occur because people do not take their incorrect viewing distances into account. By following the rule of thumb of using a 50-mm lens, photographers greatly increase the odds of a viewer looking at a photograph from the correct distance, where the percept will be undistorted. Our theory leads to new guidelines for creating pictorial effects that are more effective than conventional guidelines.
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