Using zoom to control the background

It’s obvious we can zoom in and out to make our subject bigger or smaller in the frame and to control the amount of background in the photo – but many people don’t realize that we can control those two factors individually by also using our legs.

For todays demonstration I’ve attached a teddy bear to a lightstand to get it to about human height (just one of the fun things you get to do when you write a photography blog) and placed it in front of a tree.

I zoomed all the way in and took this picture:

Not bad at all, the tree gives us a a nice dark green background for the entire frame, this is a very good setup if I wanted to take a portrait shot.

An interesting thing about this shot is that it could have been taken anywhere – the tree in the background is sort of a low cost replacements for a background stand with some textured fabric roll on it (and the weather cooperated by being all cloudy and giving me nice soft portrait lighting)

You can’t tell if the picture was taken in my back yard, in a forest or in a city in front of the only tree on the street – this is a good thing if you want to to a studio-style portrait but pretty bad if it’s a photo from your last trip and you want it to show where you were (or if you want to include some of the environment because it tells something about your subject).

I then zoomed all the way out and moved closer so the bear looks about the same in the frame, I didn’t move the bear (or the tree) at all, the only thing that moved is me, also, I moved in a strait line in the direction of the bear, I didn’t change my shooting angle – and I’ve got this:

Suddenly you see a whole lot of the environment, bad if you want to focus only on your model but very good for an environmental portrait or a vacation photos.

The effect is easy to understand if we use a diagram (and I just love diagrams):

There’s just one important detail to remember – people look bad when photographed from a very close distance, so don’t take this technique to the extreme at the close end.

Don't miss out on new photography tips and information, subscribe now and we will e-mail you when new tips are posted:

Click here to subscribe via e-mail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *