Putting it into perspective

Greetings blog readers, and welcome to another post by me, Derek Gale of Gale Photography near Swindon. 

At my photography training courses I’m often asked, “What’s the best sort of lens to use” ?  That’s an impossible question to answer because so much depends on the type of photography the person wants to do.  If you like photographing insects, or other small things, then a macro lens would be perfect.  

"Paua shell" by Gale Photography

I used a macro lens (a lens that gives it best performance focussed on near objects), for this shot of some paua shell/abalone.  It’s beautiful stuff and is great to photograph.  Here it’s lit from behind as well as in front. 

If you like photographing birds, or distant objects, then a telephoto lens would be perfect.  

"The Weather Project" by Gale Photography

A telephoto lens is one that magnifies compared to the normal human field of vision.  This shot of “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in London, was taken with a lens with a focal length of ca. 150mm.  This gives a magnification of around 3 times. 

If you like landscapes, then a wide-angle lens might be the right thing for you.  A wide-angle lens generally has a wider field of view than the human eye. 

"Lake District landscape" by Gale Photography

This shot, of some bad weather approaching in the Lake District, was taken with a lens that had a focal length of about 35mm, which gives a slightly wider view than normal. 

Whatever type of lens you have, it’s important to remember that the “look” of an image changes depending on the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  The perspective, and the relationship of objects that are closer or further away, can change dramatically.  

Here’s a series of images to show you what I mean… 

I’ve shot a phone box with a number of different lens focal lengths ranging from very wide-angle to long telephoto.  I moved further away as I increased the focal length, and tried to keep the phone box the same height in the frame in each image. 

"Constant subject size: 18mm" by Gale Photography

 The first image is with a very wide-angle lens.  Note the wide-angle distortion, and how we are looking at the pillar box almost from the side. 

"Constant subject size:36mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the image magnification is approaching that of the human eye, so the perspective is looking more natural. 

"Constant subject size: 135mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the focal length used produces an image magnification of about 2.5 times.  Note how the background is beginning to look much flatter relative to the phone box, and also how the pillar box has appeared to rotate compared to the very wide-angle image.  This sort of lens is great for creative portrait photography as it produces a slight flattening of the facial features which is generally quite flattering. 

"Constant subject size: 300mm" by Gale Photography

This final image uses a lens focal length of 300mm, which gives a magnification of about 6 times compared to the human eye.  The foreground and background now all seem to be in the same plane, and we are looking straight at the pillar box. 

So you can see that the “look” of an image depends on a combination of factors; the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  Remember, when you use your zoom lens, that it doesn’t just get you closer or further away, it changes the perspective as well.  Using your feet to get closer or further away can be just as powerful; I call it “pedual zoom” – or “zooming with your feet”!  

So, what’s the best lens to use?  The one that gives you the results you want!  

Have fun with your creative photography, and if you want to learn more why not book one of our training courses

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk 

KenJune 10, 2010 - 4:12 pm

Hi derek, very useful. I think I need to get a couple more lenses!

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