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How to Use Lens Compression to Create Better Photographic Compositions

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Have you ever noticed that certain lenses just have a "look" about them? One of the main contributors to this is the focal length of the lens which creates compression between the subject and background.

Compression is an effect created by lenses. The compression effect varies, however: how the foreground and background elements relate to one another and how they are rendered in an image all vary depending on the characteristics of the lens and how it was made.

Longer focal length lenses create more compression, a flattening effect. This is particularly relevant when it comes to photographing subjects you want to stand out from a background. Compression strongly influences the relationship between the foreground and background elements in the final photo. As I demonstrate in the video above, using compression is a great way to selectively emphasize or hide elements in your composition.

The image below is the perfect example of creating compression between the subject and background. Even though the two frames have basically the same amount of the gazebo in the picture, the way it appears is completely different. The longer focal length used for the photo on the right creates compression, adds seperation between the gazebo and background, and basically flattens the railing.

Camera lens compression exampleCamera lens compression exampleCamera lens compression example

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Consider using longer focal length lenses to create compression in a photo. You can use this effect to put your subject in a different field-of-view that blurs the background perfectly.

You can learn more about making the right lens and settings choices in the course What Every Photographer Should Know About Lenses. You can watch that course as part of a subscription to Envato Elements, and gain access to the entire library of courses.

Check out these other lessons to help you level up your lens knowledge:

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