Zoom and move.

How do you use your zoom lens?

Do you see a subject and zoom in or out from where you were when you saw it?

Did you get the best shot possible?

What are all these questions about?

Well let’s see. Your zoom lens is a handy thing, you can change how much is included in your picture by a quick twist of the zoom ring. Simplicity, great results, easy as you like! But you are probably missing out on some of the advantages of your zoom lens by using it for framing the subject, you aren’t using the zoom as the wonderfully variable bag of different lenses that it is.

Look at your zoom as a set of lenses of different focal length, let’s use a 24-70mm lens as an example, and pick out four different focal length lenses from the range available. Let’s take the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 70mm lenses, I know we have everything in between those lens options, but you’ll soon get the idea.

Each of the four lenses have a different angle of view which gives a differing view of the world around you. The 24mm lens has an angle of view of around 73 degrees, the 35mm is about 54 degrees, the 50mm about 39 degrees, and the 70mm is around 28 degrees. Talking in degrees doesn’t give you a real world idea of what’s happening, so try holding your arms straight out in front of you. When they are close together that’s like the angle of view with the 70mm lens. As you spread your arms apart you will get the wider angles of view of the other lenses. Obviously this isn’t an exact science, we’ll all hold arms out at differing angles, but you should get the idea, arms far apart is a wide angle of view and arms close together in a narrow angle of view.

Now here’s the important bit (finally, I hear you say!), those different angles of view can give you very different pictures if you zoom in or out, and change position by walking backwards and forwards. Let’s look at some examples where the subject has been kept the same size when using the four different lens focal lengths we selected.

24mm lens.

24mm lens.

35mm lens.

35mm lens.

50mm lens.

50mm lens.

70mm lens.

70mm lens.

Well, you can see four pretty different pictures, where the sundial has stayed about the same size in each. But look at those different backgrounds. For the first shot I was using the 24mm and was pretty close to the sundial, the wide angle of view of the lens meant that the background ended up looking smaller. For the other shots I needed to back off to keep the sundial the same size, and the background got progressively bigger due to the narrower angle of view at the different focal lengths.

So using different parts of the zoom range and moving can give you a huge variety of pictures. Imagine your friend filling the height of the frame standing in front of a mountain. If you use the wide end of the zoom range the mountain will look a certain size, but if you back off and use the longer end of the zoom range that same mountain is going to be much, much bigger in the background. Which picture will give the most impressive look to the end result? You can make the mountain look bigger!

So think when you are zooming, walk back to get a bigger background while zooming in, walk closer while zooming out to the wider angle to get a smaller background. You have an amazing amount of choice with your zoom, think about the subject and also think about the background.

But also think about what’s behind you, walking back over a cliff edge or into a road is not going to be a good idea!

Here’s a slideshow showing the focal lengths in order, in a looping sequence, just wait for the widest view and the following shots progress through to the longest view.


This entry was posted in Composition, Kew Gardens and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Zoom and move.

  1. This is such a cool post. I have had a great interest in trick photography and reading this is a real inspiration.

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