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6.2 Compress For Composition

As we learned in the last lesson, higher focal length lenses compress the image making faces more pleasing to look at. This concept is also useful when it comes to composing your shots by controlling how much and how large background elements are. In this lesson you will learn how to use focal length to change the composition of background elements.

6.2 Compress For Composition

As you learned in the last lesson, higher focal length lenses compress the image and make people's faces look more pleasing to look at. This concept is also useful when it comes to composing your shots by controlling how large the background elements are and how much background we see in the image. In this lesson, you'll learn how to use focal length to change the composition of background elements. All righty, in this example we're gonna be checking out what happens to background elements and how we can recompose those using focal length. So, very similar to what we did in the last example, we're gonna be taking a shot of something and keeping the main element about the same size. And then we're gonna change our perspective. So we're going to move back, we're gonna change focal lengths. And we're going to see what happens to the background elements and see how that affects our image. What we're looking at, right behind me I have this cool, old bell here from the 1830s. And behind there we have some trees, we have some sky, and we have an old brick building. So from my current perspective here on my camera, I'm using a 17 to 50 millimeter lens and I have it set to 17 millimeters. So I'm gonna switch to live view here and get this kinda lined up and in focus. I'm gonna use manual focus here cuz I don't trust my auto focus to get this right. And I'm gonna snap a photo. Gonna put this in two second delay here just to make sure I don't bump the camera. [SOUND] Cool. So, if you take a look at that photo, you can see all the elements that I've just described. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna move back and I'm gonna change focal lengths to something a little bit higher and we're gonna check out what happens to the background elements. All right, so we've moved back probably 25 feet using the same lens, but now I'm at 50 millimeters and I've tried to compose it so that the bell is roughly the same size. So I'm gonna take another shot here. I have the camera set to ten second self timer, because I have this column extended because we kind of went down hill a little bit. And I'm using the ten seconds to get out the shake. [SOUND] So, what you're gonna see between these two images is the size of the background and what's happening in the background is going to change. And a little bit in the foreground because we've come back so far. Now we can actually see the tree that I was standing next to before from this new perspective, which is interesting. It's something different. But more importantly, we have different things going on in the background. Between these two shots what's happening is it's making the space between the bell and the building look smaller from back here. When we use a higher focal length it compresses things. So the distance between objects appears to be less than it actually is. If you look at the ground between these two shots, what you'll see is that there looks like there's more ground between the bell and the building in the first shot. And the size of the building looks bigger in the second shot. Now, the size of the building didn't change but between these two perspectives, because we're getting a more narrow field of view, it changes what's happening in the background. The background elements look larger. We're gonna set up one more shot and we're gonna check this out again. This time we're gonna shoot in this direction, there's a nice gazebo over here so we're gonna set up for that and we're gonna take a look at what's gonna happen to the building that's behind the gazebo. And it's gonna become more obvious what this does when we change focal length to change perspective. All right, one more example where we're gonna look at this, we're shooting at a gazebo here right behind me and I'm pretty close to it here at 17 millimeters and it's mostly filling the frame and what you're gonna see is, let me take a quick shot of this. We're getting kind of a back light, kind of a sun-dappled thing happening. But there's a lot of other stuff happening in this shot. There, we have a whole bunch of, we can see sky. We can see the building back there. There, there's a lot of stuff in this shot, and I don't think this focal length, being super wide, is the best. So, we're gonna move way, way back. We're gonna change lenses, probably go to the 70 to 200 and we're going to try and really compress this to get the gazebo about the same size. But you're gonna check out what's going to happen to the background elements. Okay, now we've changed our position. I'll put the 70 to 200 on and I'm about, I don't know, maybe at 115, 115 millimeters. And we're probably maybe 35, 40 feet back from where we were. And we're getting a completely different shot here. I'm going to set this up, I'm going to take a quick shot here. I'm gonna set this to self timer, again because I have this column up here I want to get the shake out, especially with a big lens on here, it's gonna take a couple seconds for the vibrations to stop. [SOUND] So, check out the difference between these two shots. They look dramatically different. Even though the gazebo is about the same size, they look like they were shot in two completely different locations. When we use a wide angle lens because of the exaggerated proportions that it gives, it makes the gazebo look like it's a completely different shape. It looks much more angular and pointy and round and it has more depth to it. Where on the telephoto lens here at 115, 120 millimeters it's much more compressed. It looks flatter. We can see more of the roof. And what's going on behind there is a lot more pleasing. We're seeing a lot less sky, in fact there is very little sky in this shot. So, this is a completely different shot. And there's not one that's wrong or right. But it just goes to show you there's a range of different looks that you can get by moving from your current position to a new one and then changing your focal lengths. So you can see how just one focal length to shoot shots like this would be really limiting. Even the 17 to 50mm lens is not gonna quite give us the same perspective. We need something much longer to get something like this that's really really flat looking. Let's take a look at a few more examples of how we can use this shift in perspective and change in focal length to recompose our shots for some very interesting looks. So we're gonna take a look at a handful of shots here. And all of these example photos, I'm changing my perspective. So I'm moving back and I'm also changing my focal length so that the main objects in the scene are roughly the same size. And what you'll see is the background elements change drastically, and we get a little variance in what happens in the foreground. Now, these buildings here, we're gonna see a big shift in how close or far apart they look here as I back up and I use a longer focal length. It's really cool how we can compress all the buildings together and make for an interesting shot. Now, these last two photos here I shot, the wide one is a 18mm and the tight one here is at 35mm. And what you'll notice is the trees on the wide shot look like they're further apart, the background looks a little bit less dense on the wide shot, on the tight shot we're getting a little bit more background filling, right? We're seeing more of the hill and there's not one of these that's necessarily better than the other one. They're just a little bit different. We're also seeing the details of the columns on the wide shot look like they're more three dimensional. We're seeing a little bit more underneath them whereas we go to the tight shot, we can't really see that from that perspective. So, this is a really interesting thing that you can do by changing your position, which is changing your perspective, and then using your lenses to get a similar composition. And can really get a lot of interesting looks and you can really change up the composition of your shots. Now that you understand how to use focal length and field of view to your advantage when composing background objects, you're ready to move on to the next lesson where you're going to learn about macro.

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