How Big Is My Yard?

The wide angle view (15mm) a couple of feet from the tree.

That's my new tree.  It's been two years since it replaced a much older tree lost to a storm.  While I was taking a photo to record its growth I shot a few extras to demonstrate how focal length can effect perspective.

How big is the yard?  I can make it look spacious or cramped by choosing where I stand and how I set my zoom lens.

Most cameras come with zoom lenses.  For the most part, I think people zoom in or out to help with composition, or just to avoid moving.  The zoom lens doesn't just get you closer or farther from the subject, it also has an effect on perspective.

If you look carefully at the three photos in this post, you'll notice the tree is (almost) the same size in each.  But look at the difference in the photo backgrounds.  

The photo featured at the top of the article was taken with the lens zoomed out to it's widest setting. (15mm)  That's a very wide setting.  I was standing very close to the tree.  Close enough to reach out and touch it.  The wide angle lens exaggerates distances between objects making the yard look very large and including quite a bit of the neighborhood and sky in the background.

The mid-zoom view (about 50mm) from the middle of the street. 

In the second photo the lens was adjusted to the middle of the zoom range. (about 50mm)  I had to back up to keep the tree the same size in the frame.  I was standing in the middle of the street.  Luckily there isn't much traffic in the neighborhood.  You can see how the background moves forward, making the yard look smaller. 

The last photo was taken with the lens zoomed in to its telephoto setting. (About 100mm)  I had to stand on the sidewalk across the street for this photo.  Now we don't even see the whole house, and the yard looks even smaller.

The telephoto view (100mm) from across the street.

But the tree is the same size in each photo.  The camera doesn't lie, but the photos tell three very different stories.  Controlling the perspective in your photos lets you tell the story your way. 

Here's a link to an entertaining demonstration that shows how choosing your lens setting can dramatically effect the look of people in your photos. 

I encourage you to experiment with your zoom lens the next time you take photos.  You'll be surprised at how different your photos look when you pay attention to perspective.