Wide Angle VS Zoom Lens Photo Examples – The Difference Between Wide Angle and Zoom Pictures
| by JP Danko | Pictures By Mom | Learn How To Take Better Pictures |
Packing up our gear for an upcoming wedding photography session, I was putting my 24mm lens and my 85mm lens into my camera bag, and I though I’d take a couple quick snapshots in our kitchen to demonstrate the difference between photographing your subjects at wide angle versus zooming in. At the end there are three tips for using your camera lens to take better pictures of people.
The lenses I am using are a Nikkor 24mm f1.4 and a Nikkor 85mm f1.4 (because those are two of the lenses that I happened to be putting into by camera bag). Both are top quality professional level lenses – but the general qualities of pictures taken at wide angle (zoomed out) versus with a telephoto (zoomed in) are the same for any lens.
Both the Nikkor 24mm f1.4 and a Nikkor 85mm f1.4 are also prime lenses – meaning that they don’t zoom in or out – you have to physically move closer or further away to change your composition. Most people are used to zoom lenses – so when I refer to wide angle – I mean zoomed out. When I say telephoto, I mean zoomed in.
The first thing to understand is that in most circumstances, you can arrange a photo to have a similar composition whether you are photographing your subject at wide angel (zoomed out), or with a telephoto (zoomed in). At wide angle, you are physically closer to our subject, with a telephoto, you are physically further away – but the composition of the photograph is similar.
Photographs of people tend to look best when they are taken from about 15 feet away. (Take a look at this great article by Ken Rockwell for a bit more in depth information).
Zoomed In (Telephoto) Lens Photo Examples
Lets take a look at the first photograph taken with the Nikkor 85mm f1.4. This picture is a head and shoulders portrait of Dawn standing in the doorway to our kitchen. I am standing in the hallway, about 8 feet away. Ideally, I would stand 15 feet away and use a lens that has even more telephoto properties (zoom in even more), but in this case, I am against a wall and I can’t physically back up any further.
The properties of this photograph that are important to notice are the proportions of Dawn’s face, and the amount of blur (called bokeh) in the background. Because I am using a moderate telephoto lens (medium zoom), Dawns proportions are very similar to what my eye sees. The background is also very blurry – which tends to look much better in portraits.
Zoomed Out (Wide Angle) Lens Photo Examples
The second photograph is taken with the Nikkor 24mm f1.4 with exactly the same camera settings. The composition is similar, it is still a head and shoulders portrait of Dawn standing in the doorway to our kitchen. However, to achieve the same composition, I am only standing 2-3 feet away from Dawn.
In this photograph, you can see that the proportions of Dawn’s face are very distorted by the wide angle lens (with a wide angle lens, things that are closer to the camera will look larger, such as a person’s nose). You’ll also notice that the background is a lot less blurry – you can see empty pizza boxes left over from dinner and a whole bunch of other distracting background clutter that was hidden before.
Three Tips For Using Your Camera Lens To Take Better Pictures of People
Here are a three tips to remember when you are taking pictures of people:
1. People look best when photographed from about 15 feet away. To compose your pictures, try to stand 15 feet away and then zoom in to compose your photographs. If you can’t stand 15 feet away, or if even at full zoom you want a closer composition, at least try to stand as far away as possible and zoom in.
2. Standing back and zooming in will reduce distortion of peoples faces in your pictures and looks much more flattering. It will also increase the level of blur in the background of your pictures.
3. Standing close and zooming out with cause peoples faces to be distorted. People often look like they have very large noses, or big heads, depending on what part of their body is closest to the camera. Zooming out will also cause the background to be sharper, revealing distracting clutter in the background.
When you zoom in to take a picture, the amount of the photograph that is in focus gets a lot smaller (photographers call this “depth of field”). This is usually a good thing, because it gives the background a nice soft blur (photographers call this type of blur “bokah”). However, it can be important to focus accurately.
The most important thing to have in perfect focus in pictures of people is the eyes of your subject. If your camera is in Auto Area (full automatic) focus, it might focus on the tip of your subjects nose, or somewhere else on their body, leaving their eyes slightly out of focus. Switch your camera over to Single Point focus and use the single focus point to accurately focus on the eye of your subject that is closest to the camera.
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