Before you raise your torches and pitchforks, this is not another post about how focal length affects your subject, or whether you should “zoom with your feet” or not. I’m sure you’ve already seen how changing focal length and/or distance changes perspective, but this video answers an important question – what can you do with this information?
Jay P. Morgan shows examples how changing your focal length and getting closer or further away from the subject affects the relationship between the foreground and the background. Knowing this helps you achieve different things in a shot, gives it different looks and meanings, or helps you avoid distracting elements.
When you want to get rid of something in the background, you can zoom in. But this will, naturally, make your subject look larger too. This is why you need to change your focal length and distance from the subject to get what you want.
In his photo shoot, Jay took photos of his brother with L.A. skyline in the back. And his examples show how combining proper focal length with proper distance changes the relationship between the subject and the background. There’s one important thing to note – his aim is that the subject takes the same amount of space in every shot.
Zooming with your lens
When you stay in the same place and zoom with your lens, you will make the subject and the background take more space in a frame as you increase focal length. However, when you crop the wider images, you’ll see that both the subject and the background take up the same amount of space in the shots. This is because you didn’t change the relationship between the subject and the background, only the crop.
However, in case you want to change how the background appears, you need to move your feet as well.
Moving towards or away from the subject
Once you combine zooming with your lens and moving your feet – this is when you affect the change in the background. If you step further away and use a longer lens, the background will appear bigger, closer to the model, and you’ll capture a smaller part of it. If you use a wider lens and get closer, it changes the background to appear smaller and further away from the subject, and you’ll capture more of it. Take a look at the examples:
Of course, if you use wider lenses (like 28mm or 35mm) and get really close to the subject, you’ll have some face distortion. But with 85mm and longer lenses, your model won’t have a face of a confused squirrel.
This is useful to know depending what you want to achieve and how you want to incorporate the subject into the background; whether you want more or less of the skyline or landscape to be visible. Also, if there’s a distracting element in the frame, move your model a few steps back and take the shot. In the video, you’ll see an example with that annoying sign you can spot in some photos. All in all, remember the first line of the video: “move your feet, change your perspective; zoom in, change your crop.”
[Change Your Feet to Change Your Perspective: Photo Video Tutorial | The Slanted Lens]