Walk or zoom?

One subject that often comes up when I am doing talks or training is about zooming.  It’s generally when we’re talking about getting closer to the subject. People say, “Surely if I need to get closer I can just zoom in”.  By “zoom” they normally mean using a telephoto lens, or local focal length, to make the subject appear larger without actually getting closer to it.

Zooming is fine, but you need to know how it affects your images.  Take a look at these three images taken at different zoom positions.  In each image the subject is the same height in the frame, but the look is different.

“Focal length 1” by Derek Gale

This first image is taken with the zoom at its widest.  On this camera it’s the equivalent of a 24 mm lens.  I was quite close to the subject, and there is some distortion of the perspective.  The closest parts of the subject are are too large compared to the furthest parts.  The wide angle lens means that the background is quite sharp.

“Focal length 2” by Derek Gale

With this second image I’ve moved further away and zoomed to give a lens focal length equivalent of about 75mm.  This is great for portraits as it slightly flattens the facial features, which is often quite flattering.  The background is less intrusive and more out of focus.

“Focal length 3” by Derek Gale

In this final image moved even further away and zoomed to my maximum focal length.  It’s now the equivalent of a 400m telephoto lens.  You can see that the image has really flattened out, and the background, which seems a lot closer, is now well out of focus.

So, get closer or zoom?  The choice is yours, but always remember how it changes things.

PS  Should I use digital zoom to get even closer?  Three words; No, no, no!

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