Quite often when you go out shooting
with your camera you’ll probably see a scene that you think’s interesting; frame
it up a bit and then zoom around with your zoom to try and get the composition
that you want, but there is a much better way of doing things than this. If you
consider your zoom as a selection of prime lenses, by prime lenses I mean
lenses which can’t zoom, they have fixed focal lengths like 18, 40, 50, 90, 150 whatever it may be. If you use a prime lens you can’t zoom
so you have to move yourself backwards and forwards in order to frame the shot
that you want. When you start controlling your focal length you can control what
the picture looks like, what’s in it and what isn’t, but how do you know which
focal length you’re going to need for which shot that you’re going to take? I’m
going to show you but to do so I’m going to need a nice, friendly, helpful
assistant called Natasha. Hello Nat! This is Jane’s daughter Natasha and
she’s kind of… well I guess I’m your evil stepdad am I that bad?
– Ahhh I can put up with you Mike Ah she’s sweet! Right Nat, could you come and stand here for a moment, go that way
a little bit, there we go – perfect. supposing Natasha and I were standing in our own the garden or something rather than in the street which is a little odd,
I might just think ‘Ah there’s Nat, that would make a nice picture’ stand there and zoom
around and just sort of zoom in and out like that and take a picture and it’s
going to be okay, but I could get a better result if I chose the focal
length for the shot. I’m going to show you a little exercise here which I would
like you to repeat afterwards. What I’m going to do is take the same picture of
Natasha over and over again but at different focal lengths, so you can see
what happens to the environment around her. Now this is going to involve a bit of
lens changing and fiddling around so you may have to bear with me for a minute.
Nat can we go over here? The reason I’ve chosen in the middle of a street is
because you need somewhere which has got sides that go off into the distance and
that has an end behind. Now it’s really important when you compose your shot that you compose it exactly the same each time, so I’m going to give Natasha probably about
a hands width of sky above her head, that’s going to be the very top of the
picture and the bottom of the picture is going to be this seam at the top of
her dress – that will be at the bottom of the frame each time. So first off 10
millimeters, now I’ve got to get right into your personal space here Nat to get the
seam at the top of your dress and only a handful of sky there it is – oop no – there it is – perfect. Now zoom the lens, I’m going to double it to 20 millimeters and do the same thing.
Now that’s made Nat come closer so I’ve got to move back a bit and that’s
only subtle – there it is. All right now we’re going to a longer
lens, from 20 millimeters (camera straps drive me me on the bend)
let’s go to 35 millimeters. So frame the same shot, now I have to move back
because the lens has got longer – again handbreadth of sky, seam on the dress,
excellent. Let’s double that, let’s go out to 70 millimeters so again, she’s
really filling the frame now because it zoomed on to her, so I move back a
bit and very carefully line up – this is a great exercise – oh you blinked, don’t blink!
Right, there we go. Now we want to go out further. I’m gonna
have to change the lens because the next set of focal lengths go out a long way.
We’re going to go from 10 millimeters right out of 500 that means I’m going to
use a whopper of a lens. Even if you don’t have lenses this kind of focal
length, please go and repeat this exercise because it really will help you
understand what on earth it is I’m talking about. Now with the last one at
70 I’m to do the next one at 150, so I’ve set the zoom on the lens I’m not going to
zoom in and out I’m going to frame the shot up with Natasha. Oh look that wasn’t
a bad guess, I’m actually going to go a little bit closer, here we go… train your
eye to look around the viewfinder to line up these gaps like the the bottom
of the dress and the hand breadth of sky. Let’s zoom then on out to 250. Again
Natasha will have come closer in the lens so I’ve got to move back to get the
same shot. Here we go, line up the elements, the gap at the top
and the seam on the dress and then finally we’re going to go all the way out from
250 to 500 millimeters so I’m moving back again. The environment behind
Natasha is changing with each of these shots and this one I promise, you would
never know we were standing in a street… but there’s a lot of fiddling to
get this right – still too close – there it is Good stuff. Nat! Come and have a look So beginning at 10 millimeters, here we go.
Here you are at 10 millimeters. yeah you see how it’s pulled Natasha’s face forward? But look
I’ve got the bottom of the picture as the seam of the dress, the top of the
picture but a handbreadth of sky. As we move on from 10 to 20, see how it’s
changed? Natasha has got a more normal shape. Also look, the cars and
the houses jump forward as we flick between them. Moving on out from there I
think we went to 50 which is a much more normal looking Natasha.
As we move on through – oop we want the other camera as we’re now out to 100 or
so. You see how everything’s starting to take a step forward
each time we extend the focal length until now you don’t know you’re in a
street, and we get to the very last shot there’s no hint of a house or anything.
We’ve just got a clear grey background which is actually the tarmac of the
streets as it goes off up the hill in the distance. This is all you need to do, it
doesn’t matter what you practice this with. If you don’t have a Natasha to take
into the street just put your camera bag on a table in the park or something like
that and take the same shot over and over again, changing the focal length and
moving back so that you get the idea of what’s going on
to the environment and then look at all the pictures one after the other.
This isn’t just the realm of a digital SLR you could do the same thing with a
little compact camera anything that has a zoom on it. If you’re cycling along the sea wall you might not want to carry a monster like that.
Natasha would you mind? We’re going to do a very brief one. Here you go, over
there a bit. If I set the zoom to its widest take the same picture of Natasha getting
right into her personal space, good stuff Nat, and then zoom it to it’s
longest zoom, do the same thing move back. You know if you’re at a party and just got a little camera and you think ‘Oh I’ll take a picture…’ There we go, as you can see the
two are very, very different. Don’t just think I’m going to go and try this in
the morning. Once you start treating your zoom lens as a series of prime lenses
and moving yourself around not being lazy, you’ll really set loose the magic
of your camera and your photography. Don’t leave it, get out there right this
minute! Go and try this.