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Lens Selection

Beginners don’t think about the choice of a lens or lens setting at all. The only thing they care about is that their camera can “zoom in” on something far away and make it appear closer or “zoom out” to let them include more of a scene in the photo. Photographers, on the other hand, understand that the choice of a particular lens or zoom setting can be an important part of the creative process. For example, telephoto settings compress the apparent distance between objects, making them appear to be closer together. Cinematographers use this telephoto trick when the hero of a flick runs in and out of traffic, apparently just missing vehicles that are actually dozens of feet apart. Wide-angle settings expand in the apparent distance, giving you vast areas of foreground while making distant objects appear to be farther away. Faces can seem to be broader or narrower depending on lens selection, too.

The perspective of different lenses and zoom settings operates in similar ways within both the conventional and digital photographic worlds. The chief difference you’ll notice in digital photography is that your choice of settings is liable to be more limited. The typical digital wide-angle view isn’t very wide at all, frequently no broader than you’d get with a 35mm lens on a film camera. The longest telephoto effect you might achieve can be no longer than the equivalent of 200mm with a film camera. Digital “zooming” can electronically enlarge a portion of your image to simulate a longer telephoto lens, but the quality often suffers. Even so, if you know how to use your lens arsenal with a film camera, you can apply the same concepts to digital imaging.


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