Photography composition tips – Background
Understanding how different lenses behave will help you get the background you want
Knowing how different lenses will affect perspective in images is as vital to the photographer as learning how to draw converging lines is for a draftsman.
Just look what happens when we shoot our model Elle with a range of different focal lengths. By changing the distance between the camera and the model and altering the focal length we can manipulate the perspective and get some very different results.
In each shot we’re moving further away so the model’s head fills roughly the same amount of the frame, and as we move further away much less of the background is included.
There’s no right or wrong focal length to use, as it depends on how you want your image to look, but it is a great way to manipulate the background in shots.
It’s also worth noting that (as a very general rule) if you’re shooting a portrait, it’ll be more flattering to the subject at the longer end of the scale.
■ We started off fairly close to Elle, with a focal length of just 35mm. You can see the sweep of the buildings behind her, and make out the clouds in the sky. This is a great length if you want to give a sense of context to a subject.
■ Here we’ve switched to a longer, 80mm, focal length (the aperture is f/4.5 for all these shots). We’ve stepped back so that Elle fills roughly the same amount of the frame, but the buildings appear closer.
■ Photographed from even further away, with a focal length of 185mm, much less is visible in the background. The sky is now out of the shot, and the setting is much less important to the image. Elle’s clearly the focal point!
PAGE 1: What perspective means to photography
PAGE 2: Photography composition tips – Linear perspective
PAGE 3: Photography composition tips – Background
PAGE 4: Photography composition tips – Perspective of scale