How the Lens Affects Composition | Transcription

In this video, we’re going to take a few minutes to talk about how the lens affects composition.

Did you know that there are actually fat and skinny lenses? Why is it that people get that perception of certain lenses? Really, it’s about perspective, yes and the field of view of your lens. Exactly. You mentioned one thing there, perspective, which is huge because there’s actually two types of distortion that I wanted to talk about. One is lens distortion and one is perspective distortion. Oftentimes these two things are actually confused with one another. Now, perspective distortion has to do with how close you are to your subject. You’ll notice that, really, with anything in our field of vision, the closer it gets to our faces, the larger it appears. In relation to whatever’s behind it. In reality, my hand is not bigger than this entire house, but at this distance, it does appear to be. If we are close to her subjects, then you’re making subjects appear larger than they actually are. This is perspective distortion. The further away that we get, the smaller they appear in relation to everything around them. The closer we get, the larger they are.

What about lens distortion? Well, lens distortion has its own thing. Really a field-of-view of 16, which is a much wider lens, right, has its own distortion where it stretches out the edges. If you were to shoot a bunch of people and you put some on the edge, it might widen them. Exactly. Lens distortion typically it happens more so the wider the angle of the lens. You mentioned 16 mm. It will happen at 35mm. It will happen at 50mm even, but it just happens to a less extent. The lens is basically bending light around the edges. That’s where you notice the lens distortion the most. On a wide-angle lens, you’ll see lens distortion pretty much everywhere but the center of that lens. It wouldn’t be too flattering if I were to say pop on this wide angle 14 mm lens, and I shoot you from this distance.

What would be flattering then as a portrait lens? You probably want to use a zoom lens or something that’s fixed at, say, an 85, which is my favorite portrait lens. The 85mm or whatever variant you have. We’re using the 1.2 professionally, but for the entire workshop we use the 1.8, and it’s an incredible lens. It’s a perfect lens for portraiture. Yes, standing back a little bit further, zooming in, it will eliminate that lens distortion. Perspective distortion and lens distortion — those are the two things that we kind of have to combat. Now, we did a Canon Lens Wars Series by SLR Lounge. In that series, we actually took the exact same shot. Well, very similar shot, actually, where we basically took the same composition.

We shut it first at 16mm or I think it was 17mm to start with, and then we backed up to 24, 35, 50, 70, 100, 200, 300, shooting the same composition on each of these shots. What we did it for was actually to compare the lenses to one another. We want to seek visual differences in lenses, whether there was actually as big of quality differences as people would think between, say, a 50mm 1.8 versus the 1.4 versus the 1.2. Now, it was very interesting. We found out that really in reality when you look at these images there’s not as big of a difference between these lenses as you would think. In often cases, primes, even the mediocre primes like the $100 to $300, $400 primes, they outdid all the other cameras, or at least all the other lenses I should say.

A prime is a fixed focal length like a 50. You can’t zoom in or out. You literally have to step closer or farther from your subject. A zoom allows you to change that, so you don’t have to step closer to your subject. You just zoom in. Yeah, essentially with a zoom you get the convenience of having the extra…well, not having to move so much. You control your composition with your focal length. With a prime, like you say, you’re moving back and forth a lot. But then you get better low light. You get a better bokeh aesthetic. What we found out also was that in addition to comparing the lenses we were able to see the difference in distortion, in lens distortion, but also perspective distortion. It’s crazy to see, basically, when we take that shot up close at 17mm, our model looks all distorted, and each step back you can see the model kind of looked more and more normal. With every step back. The other thing that happens is that these telephoto lenses, they kind of emphasize something that we refer to as lens compression.

Here’s the thing. Lens compression, we refer to basically as telephoto lenses as demonstrating or illustrating lens compression. Basically, what that is is the background elements appear closer to the subject than they actually are. Now, the interesting thing is that if you take a shot at 24mm and you take a shot at 200mm, and then you zoom into that 24mm shot, all the way so you have the same exact field of view as you did on that 200mm image, the compression’s actually identical.

What would be the point of that? There’s absolutely no point in that. We go to these lenses because they kind of further emphasize that effect, but what that effect really is is by standing back further is what’s happening is we’re changing that perspective distortion, so we stand back further. The distance between the subject and the background is relatively shorter, basically.

Now you’re talking about photographer’s perspective? Exactly. When we took that shot, and you could see it. When we took that shot as 17mm, the trunk and the background of the tree looks like it’s actually like several feet behind the model. It looks like it’s disappearing into the landscape because our distance to the model is very close. The model’s distance to the background is further, and then as we start to back up, the distance of the model and the background didn’t change, but our distance to that model did. The further we step back, the more it looks like the trunk is actually coming forward. Okay, to add on to what Pye just said about lens compression, I want you to remember this very simple tip. wide-angle lenses exaggerate distances. Telephoto lenses compress distances. Like Pye said, while we call this effect lens compression and while we use different lenses to achieve the look, the compression really has nothing to do with the lens. It has to do with the photographer’s perspective. Now, when we talk about lens compression and the effect that we want, we just say that we want to compress the background with a certain lens. It’s actually good to know that the compression isn’t actually coming from the lens, but rather the distance between the photographer, the subject, and the background, and the lens is just there to help achieve that zoom and the composition that we want. Either way, the most important takeaway here again is that shooting close to the subject on a wide-angle lens will definitely exaggerate the distance between the subject and the background. Stepping back and using a longer telephoto lens will compress or pull forward that background, so it looks closer to the subject.

All right, so we covered lens compression. We’ve covered lens distortion and perspective distortion. Everything’s been covered, so if you guys want more information, check out the Canon Lens War Series on SLR Lounge. You guys can see us compare all the different lenses from the 16 mm all the way up to 300 mm. Everything in that range, we compared lens against one another. We compared basically the 50mm 1.8 versus the 1.4 versus the 1.2 and compared that to, say, a 24-70 at 50 mm to show you the visual differences. It’s a great visual comparison of all these different lenses.

CHAPTER 1: BASIC PHOTOGRAPHY CONCEPTS

CHAPTER 2: UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE

CHAPTER 3: FROM AUTO MODES TO MANUAL

CHAPTER 4: SHARP IMAGES AND FOCUSING TECHNIQUES

Chapter 5: COMPOSITION, ARTISTRY, AND CREATING GREAT IMAGES

Chapter 6: LEARNING MORE ABOUT YOUR CAMERA

Chapter 7: BONUS

Total Course Run Time: 6H 30M 21S