Photo Notes

August 24, 2009

Lenses and Perspective

Filed under: Basic Photo Technique — John Siskin @ 8:15 pm

Custom Camera with a Fish-eye lensThe important thing to remember is that changing the focal length of your lens does not change where you stand it only changes the way your picture is cropped. So if you take a picture of a person’s face with your widest angle lens you will be inches from the subject if you fill the frame with just the face (unless you don’t own a wide angle lens). If you frame the shot the same way with your longest lens you may be more than 10 feet from the same subject, depending on how long a lens you own. You should really do this exercise and compare the results. In the image with the wide-angle lens your subject will probably look extended and strange. The telephoto image will look flat. The difference isn’t the lens it is where you stand. If you took a third image with the wide-angle lens, but standing where you stood with the telephoto lens and blew up the image to match the telephoto image, besides fewer pixels, you would notice the same flatness you saw with the telephoto lens. If you want to make images have a greater three-dimensionality stand closer to your subject and use a wider lens. If you want your images to be compressed stand further back and use a telephoto. No amount of new lens technology will change this. People often stand to far away from a person to make an intimate portrait, they find being close to the subject embarrassing. This causes a flatter look in the portrait. I use an 80-100mm lens on my full frame camera for portraits. I make more pictures with wide-angle lenses, 18mm to 40mm on my full frame camera, than often than telephoto lenses.

I’ve included a picture of a friend, Lance, made with a 28mm lens and with a  200mm lens. I tried to keep the size of the head the same. You can see the huge changes in the way the face appears, the charges are a result of the difference in camera position. With the 28mm lens I am just inches from the subject and with the 200mm lens I am almost 10 feet from the subject. You should try this for yourself.

Lance with a 28mm lens

Lance with a 28mm lens

Lance with a 200mm lens

Lance with a 200mm lens

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