Posted by: Brian Glass | May 12, 2010


27mm focal length

486mm focal length

Last week I started doing a photography class with Hannah. I didn’t want to make it feel like a class and thus cause her to dislike it, so I decided to take a somewhat informal approach. We don’t have a textbook and we don’t have any lesson plans. I’ve just decided to take one aspect of photography per week and experiment with it.

Photography, like Orthodox Christianity, is more existential than theoretical. That is, you can read tomes about the technical aspects of photography and still not have much of a clue how to take a decent photograph. You have to learn through experience.

The first week I decided to explore perspective as it relates to focal length. Often times a person doesn’t think about the perspective of the shot and just zooms to fill the frame with the subject. We took shots of a number of subjects from different distances, trying to keep the relative size of the subject close to the same in each shot and zooming and walking to make up the difference.

The shots with the long focal length clearly flatten the image (my kids said it made their faces look fat) whereas the shorter focal length kinda makes them look skinny and stretched front to back.

It also changes what happens to the background of the picture. Moving close to a subject and using a short focal length gets more of the background in, but shrinks the objects in the background, thus obscuring them if you have something like a house in the foreground. While the long focal length fits less in, in the case of the foreground house, it enables you to get the background trees into the picture.


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