For a while now I've been talking about shooting portraits in a square format. Many have commented that they routinely shoot stuff in a 3:2 aspect ratio with the intention of later cropping to square. I had trouble getting my brain around post partum cropping because I was concerned about not composing correctly or, not having enough resolution with the outer (vestigial) wings cut off. I recently put a cheap, plastic protective cover over the rear monitor screen of my A7Rii and marked off the cropped square with a black Sharpie. Now I have permanent square frame lines. Oh joy! I'm also happy to know that I still have nearly 24 megapixels of image resolution left after the crop. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief and start making portraits the way I like them again.
The final piece of the puzzle for me was to find the right focal length to complement the square and the way I like portraits to look. Historically, the images I liked best all came from about 135mm of focal length. To that end I've been using the Rokinon 135mm t2.2 cine lens as my primary, square lens. It gives me the compression that I like and, when used near the close focusing limits and the aperture range of f2.2-f4.0 it gives me the kind of quick focusing ramp that helps to isolate faces in a charming way.
I always know when my brain agrees with my heart because I start begging my friends and colleagues to come over to the studio for a little portrait sitting. I've been on a roll lately.
The image above is the color file that corresponds to the black and white image I showed about a week ago. We aren't in my studio but in a airy space at the Topfer Theatre on the Zach Theatre campus. I used the lens to make this image of Rebecca and, previously, images of Jack Donahue. Now that I finally have some free time to post process I am very happy with the choices I made.
It's nice to find that sweet spot you have been missing...