Category Archives: Photography Techniques

Scott Kelby: Two Lights, One White Background

(Originally published on 2016-03-28 as /archives/10922)

Scott Kelby made this video for Westcott, but it’s good information for everyone.

The next step would be to consider adding weak lights behind the subject: either to light-up the background, or to highlight the subject’s hair. A third light isn’t needed here, because the white backdrop reflects so much light.

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Lens Compression and Lens Distortion

(Originally published 2016-03-16 as /archives/10930)

This lens-compression-thing: we all agree on it correct?

Lens Compression

The definition of lens compression is this: if you use a longer focal length, then the background will appear to be closer to the subject. There are numerous examples of images that “prove” this out there (including the GIF below), but guess what? Lens compression doesn’t actually exist.

Here’s how the prove-it examples work:

  1. First the photographer makes a photo of a subject, standing in front of a background object, with a short focal length lens (wide angle, less magnification).
  2. Then the photographer takes the same picture, of the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, but with a longer focal length lens (telephoto, more magnification).
  3. Then we compare the two images, and note that the background object appears to be closer to the subject in image #2.Here’s the kicker:
  4. If we then crop image #1, so that the subject takes up the same amount of space in each image, we will note that the subject now looks to be the same exact distance from the background object as in image #2.

In other words: lens compression is just an optical illusion.

Lens distortion

Barrel Distortion, Pincushioning, Bokeh, etc., may be different with each of the two lenses. Generally the wider angle lens (shorter focal length, less magnification) will distort the image more and cause more foreshortening relative to the telephoto lens (longer focal length, more magnification), but not always. A lot depends on lens design, and post processing software is really good at removing distortion these days.

The following GIF was shared at “reddit /r/educationalgifs How different lenses affect portraits“. It shows the foreshortening issue and the so-called-lens-compression-issue at various focal lengths of a telephoto super zoom lens. For many people this will be proof that lens compression is real. It still isn’t real, and not all wide angle lenses will cause such drastic foreshortening.

OK: so if the focal length is changing, then why is the subject’s head mostly the same size? Because the photographer is moving physically closer to the subject, for the wider angle shots, and farther away for the telephoto shots.

Here’s the GIF:
XBIOEvZ - Imgur

Back to the Lens Compression Example

OK, so Paul must be wrong about lens compression. I mean look at how that tree in the background of that GIF moves closer to the subject: right?

In the following video, Dieter Schneider does the steps (from above) to prove that lens compression does not exist.

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Multiple Shot Panoramas

(Originally posted on 2016-05-08)

We experience the world in ultra widescreen; that’s how our photos should look.

Can’t I use a wide angle lens, and crop the image to make a panorama?
You could, but you will loose a lot of
detail. Even a perfectly exposed and focused image will look grainy (or blurry), if you don’t have enough resolution.

I have a lot more to say about this, and I will mostly do so when I share my own panos. In the meantime, here’s Richard Harrington’s take, and some of my comments:

Handheld Technique
Do this instead of bracing the camera against your chest:
1) Look through the viewfinder.
2) Use the grid lines in your viewfinder to align your images. Also use them to make sure that you have at least 33% overlap between images. This is easy to do with the 3 x 3 grid.

On Tripod Technique
The distortion created by hanging your camera off the side is very difficult to deal with. If you don’t have an L bracket, then, yes, keep your camera in landscape orientation, and use a wider angle lens.

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How To Shoot Fireworks

(Originally posted on 2016-07-06)

This is why you should use a camera with a bulb setting. You open the shutter when you hear the first pop, and close it when the light dims to get something like this:

© 2013, Paul Danger Kile, All Rights Reserved

In this video Richard Harrington tells us how to shoot fireworks (for Macphun):

This infographic covers the same information (below):

By Richard Harrington, and Macphun.

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