What is focal length: definition, comparison and more

What is focal length: definition, comparison, every question answered

Understanding Focal Length: Wideangle vs Telephoto

Wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths each give pictures a very different look and feel. Here’s how to make the most of the extremes

What is focal length: adding depth

20mm

Adding depth
A wide-angle lens (above) exaggerates perspective, making the foreground 
and background appear further apart.

What is focal length: adding depth

85mm

A telephoto lens (above) appears to flatten the image, bringing the key elements closer together. Notice that the tree in the foreground is the same size in each shot.

 

What is focal length: cleaning up the frame

Cleaning up the frame
Because long lenses have a narrower angle of view, it’s easier to keep distracting elements out of the picture and create ‘tighter’ shots. Wide-angle lenses take in a much greater expanse, meaning you have 
to check the edges of the frame closely for unwanted elements.

 

What is focal length: controlling distortion

Wide-angle

Controlling distortion
Used at close range, a wide-angle lens (above) creates a distorted image, which can make portraits look like caricatures.

What is focal length: controlling distortion

Shot at a longer focal length

For more flattering results, stand further away from your subject and zoom in with a longer focal length (above). The narrower view isolates a cleaner background too.

PAGE 1: Focal length definition and common questions
PAGE 2: Understanding Focal Length: wideangle vs telephoto
PAGE 3: Focal length comparison cheat sheet

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