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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A sense of size 2

One thing I sometimes find difficult about showing you all the difference between shooting a scene with a wide-angle vs a telephoto lens is that often I know exactly the effect I want so I only shoot it one way.

So you'll be happy to know that as I was browsing through my pics looking for today's post I came across some pictures that illustrated it perfectly.

The first shot here is the wide-angle version. You can tell it's a wide-angle by the way the vending machines in the right hand side of the picture are kind of leaning over. Also the car in the background looks pretty small. And that's a really important point to keep in mind.

Things away from the camera look small. So even though you can tell that the bear on top of the building is pretty big, and there is a person and a car in the frame to give it a frame of reference, there's no real impact. All that space in the foreground gives more of an impression of space (in this case the space of the carpark) than it does the size of the statues. And the person is so far away from the camera that they are just too small in relation to anything else to be even noticeable. So what happens when we swap to the telephoto lens?

Now the person is much bigger in the frame so they become a vital element in showing the size of something. And look how much bigger the bear and fish appear to be because they're so much larger in the frame. Also, like the sand dune yesterday, by chopping off the bear at the waist it's left to your imagination how big the whole thing really is.

Now because this one is a telephoto I couldn't shoot it from where I was standing with the wide-angle shot above. If I had stayed where I was I would have only got the vending machine in. So I had to run back (very quickly before the man walked out of the frame) until I could see the top of the bear as well as the bottom of the man's feet all in the frame.

I ended up running back about 100 metres to get it all in. So remember that when you want something to look really big get the telephoto lens out. The longer the better. And to use it to its best effect you're most likely going to have to walk back to get away from your subject in order to get it all in.

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