2 years ago
JonPatrickHyde
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Photography & Cinematography 101 Which Lens Should I Use?
ABOVE - Two photos of the same model (an actress on a movie set that I worked on several years ago) "standing in" during a lighting setup. "Standing in" is the process of putting the main actor(s) for the scene on the set so the lighting can be adjusted around them for the shot(s). I shot the top image with a 24mm lens and the bottom photo with a 200mm lens - I was at the same distance from the actress in both shots. The graphs in the lower left hand corners of the photos show the "ANGLE OF VIEW" for the lens used in the photo. The ANGLE OF VIEW is the width in degrees of the lens you are using. The left-to-right boundaries for any lens can be expressed in degrees - think of the degrees of a circle (360 degrees).
Why would something like this ANGLE OF VIEW thing matter when shooting photos? This is the crux of a much larger question really... a question that involves the photographer's intent.
WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL WITH ALL OF THIS TECHNICAL STUFF?
I often get asked what qualifications does one need to be a "professional photographer". To this the answer is pretty simple; you only need someone willing to pay you to take photos for them. The truth is that I try not to let the bias of a (VERY) expensive photography school degree get in the way of my humility. The fact remains that one can be professional without being proficient; but is being proficient a necessity for being a professional? In my opinion it helps to understand the methodology behind why certain things are done the way they are. But this doesn't mean that a photographer with zero education in photography can't be an AMAZING photographer. Photography is one of those rare professions that is a mix of innate creative talent (having an eye for composition, having a great sense of timing, or having a natural instinct or sense for where the best place to stand or set up for a shot is) and of technical/scientific methodology.
I will say that it is much easier to teach someone with natural ability the technical side of photography than it is to teach the creative aspects of photography to someone who is purely technical in their knowledge/abilities. I have come to believe that being able to shoot with consistent results is greatly assisted by understanding the technical/scientific specifics which are an indispensable aspect of photography. This leads me to the purpose of this card. The one question I get asked most often is "Why did you choose that lens?" The answer is actually VERY important. Through experience and through my formal education in professional photography/cinematography I was taught all of the boring, tedious, technical background on camera optics and the various rules/laws/principles that govern their function.
To me, understanding the limitations or abilities of one lens type over another gives me the background knowledge needed to make competent decisions regarding how I compose and execute any given shot. The truth is that focal length, aperture size, materials used in the lens construction, and the camera body itself all work together as parts of a formula; a formula that can result in success or failure.
ABOVE - A good example of how a change in lens can create a dramatic difference a photo's composition. All three photos were shot in my studio at the same relative distance from the model. Due to the focal length and changes inherent to how light reacts with the glass of a lens at different focal lengths there is a significant different between the information displayed in each photo. NOTE - The wider lenses show a much greater amount of the background yet the model's face become more distorted at the same time. In each photo I've made the model the main subject, but each photo has a very different feel to it. This is a limitation of the principles of physics - which govern how light will bend (distort) when pushed through the glass elements of a lens. Knowing these principles and understanding how they will affect the final image is important from a technical and a CREATIVE standpoint. Use of an ultra-wide lens may be a creative choice as well as a technical one. BELOW - In the photos below I shot the same subject - my man, Eric Cartman - keeping his size and position in the frame exactly the same from shot to shot. In each shot I changed lenses - starting with a telephoto and moving to a fish eye (Long Lens to Ultra-Wide Lens). You will observe how each lens handles drop off (focus drop off behind the main subject), and how much distortion of the background occurs as the lens moves wider (and the ANGLE OF VIEW increases). THE BASICS OF WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW -
If you are unsure of which lens you should reach for when composing a shot - you can follow these simple guidelines to help make the best choice for what you are attempting to accomplish: WIDE ANGLE LENSES - 10mm - 40mm (using a full-frame DSLR or SLR camera) - QUICK REFERENCE - Wider view than the human eye - will distort the image - deep focus - things look further away.
• These lenses make everything look further away - much like the side view mirror of a car.
• These lenses may distort the image - especially the further you move away from the center. • These lenses are GREAT FOR landscapes, nature, or photos where you need a wide angle of viewing, photos where you want deep focus (focus to infinity).
• These lenses are NOT GREAT FOR capturing detail far away, shots with selective focus where you want to drop focus out of the background. NORMAL VIEW LENSES - 45mm - 55mm (using a full-frame DSLR or SLR camera) - QUICK REFERENCE - Approximately what the human eye sees - Little or no distortion - best if you want to shoot a photo of what you see with your eyes.
TELEPHOTO (LONG) LENSES - 60mm and Higher (using a full-frame DSLR or SLR camera) - QUICK REFERENCE - Brings the subject closer (like a telescope), Compresses depth perception, High focus drop off rate (Focus Depth is Shallow).
• These lenses make everything look closer - like binoculars or a telescope.
• These lenses allow for shallow depth of field - which gives the illusion of compression (where the distance between objects seems closer). • These lenses distort the image very little in comparison to Wide Angle Lenses - but allow for a very narrow field of view.
How might the effect seen in the series of photos above assist or detract from the photo you are attempting to shoot? This is an important question to ask yourself BEFORE you pick your lens.
One thing to consider is compression of the background. The first image above (200mm) the pencils in the background are large and appear close to the main subject. In the last photo (17mm), although the subject has remained the same size in the frame, the pencils look smaller and further away. How might these differences in how the background appears help or hinder the composition and presentation you want to create?
BELOW - In the photo below - my model is bravely standing on top of a 40 story tall radio tower. She's bare foot on an exposed steel girder with no safety harness while 20 mile an hour gusts of wind blow her hair all over the place. If I had shot this photo with ANYTHING other than an ultra-wide lens (fish eye 14mm f/2.8) you couldn't see the scope of the environment around her. You'd totally miss it if I used a 50mm or 85mm or greater focal length lens. All you'd see is the sky behind her and have no reference for WHERE she was standing with the sky behind her.
OK! Relax! The model above isn't REALLY where she appears to be. I cut her out from a photo I shot in my studio and inserted her INTO this photo. It's all Photoshop magic. It's not real. But the truth is that the illusion wouldn't be possible if I hadn't matched the photo of her in my studio with the focal length of the photo I used in the background. After a while you will be able to look at a photo and you'll know which focal length was used to shoot it because you'll recognize the amount of distortion (for wide angle lenses) or compression (for long lenses) produced by the lens in the photo.
ABOVE - This series of photos is of the same subject (my bud Eric and my desk in my office) shot from the same distance (8ft) through different lenses. Note how the background changes with each lens. BELOW - A series of portraits shot on a variety of different lenses. Notice how each works to tell the story of the subject in the photo. Knowing how each lens will work to limit or expand the backdrop for the subject of your photos is WHY you need to learn the properties of each lens. This is a creative/personal choice. To me I want the photos to tell the story of each subject. I want them to augment or to enhance so that you can immediately understand their world and why I have taken their photo.
Ultimately the reason for choosing any given lens for any particular shot should have a reasoning behind it. As a photographer you are not just taking a photo of a place, person, or thing at this or that time... you are hopefully finding a visual language with which you can share how YOU see the world around you. Or how a particular subject or event makes you feel. Perhaps you want to share an odd juxtaposition - something that seems out of place or strange... or maybe you see something and it is beautiful to you and you want others to share in that beauty. Whatever the reason you can choose a seemingly endless variety of lens combinations to capture it with - I only suggest that in doing so you MAKE a choice that is deliberate and thoughtful. Some moments once past will never come again... Confidence as a photographer comes from knowing that you've chosen the best lens for capturing whatever image of that moment you best feels expresses your unique viewpoint. ____________________________ BE WELL AND GO SHOOT LOTS OF PHOTOS!!! HAVE FUN! IT'S NOT GOOD UNLESS YOU ARE HAVING FUN!!!! ____________________________
© Copyright 2015, Jon Patrick Hyde - All Rights Reserved.
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