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Choosing Lenses

Lesson 15 from: Mastering the Art of Photography

Chris Weston

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Lesson Info

15. Choosing Lenses

We all love to buy them but don’t always know how best to use them. Chris heads to the cinema to showcase how different lenses are used to define the visual narrative of a photograph.
Next Lesson: Perspective


Class Trailer

Class Introduction - Three Steps To Creative Photography


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 1: The Camera Points Both Ways


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 2: Letting Go Of Judgement


Firing The Creative Mind - Part 3: Detaching From Outcomes


Practicing Mindfulness In Photography


Finding The Visual Narrative


Behind-the-scenes: Naples


Seeing Beneath The Surface Of Things


Lesson Info

Choosing Lenses

of all the questions I get asked, most refer in some way to lenses next to the camera body. Lenders are the most important piece of kit you own, but their role in helping to create meaningful photographs is often misunderstood. So let's shed some light on the subject. The next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the different shot sizes and think about how a director uses shot size to both tell a story and elicit an emotional response from the audience. They use terms like establishing shot, long shot, cowboy shot and close up, and each one has a specific role to play in the way the story is told. And we can borrow from Hollywood when thinking about lens choice in photography here I've got six different images. The first one was shot on an extreme wide angle lens is my establishing shot, and it tells us where the action takes place and sets the mood. The next one is my long or wide shot. It was taken using a conventional wide angle lens, and it places the gorillas in their environ...

ment notice, though the guerrillas are quite small in the frame, so the emphasis here is on the habitat. The next one is my full shot. You still see the animal in relation to its habitat, but here the emphasis is on the gorilla. The lens is a standard lens, which gives an angle of U close to that of human vision. So what you're seeing here is pretty much exactly what I saw when I was there. Then we have the cowboy shot or medium shot. I'm getting closer in. Now I've switched to a short telephoto lens, and the story here is more about behavior, what the gorilla is doing rather than where it's doing it. In this next shot, I'm getting closer, still using a medium telephoto, and I've described this image as a wildlife portrait. The background isn't part of the story here, so I've hidden it by framing tightly on the gorilla's head. I'm emphasizing facial expression and the guerrillas emotional reaction to, in this case, the rain. And finally, there's my extreme close up. What I saw was a tiny raindrop running down. The Silverbacks knows nothing else is important, just that one dramatic detail, and I've used a super telephoto lens to zoom right in and draw your attention to it. One subject. Six completely different. Framing. Telling six different stories using six different lenses. Now that's the simplest way to think about the role of different lenses and focal lengths. There is, however, another factor to consider. For some of these shots, I could have used the same lens and simply moved closer or further away from the gorilla. If I had done that, the framing of each image wouldn't have changed much. But something else would have. And to show you what I'm going to move. Location From the montane forests of Africa to the rainforests of Indonesia, here are two more images. As you can see in both images, the size of the orangutan is roughly the same just about filling the frame. But look at the background in this image. I wanted the background to play an important part in the visual story. Up in the canopy is where the orangutans live. They rarely ventured down to the ground. This individual, though curious about me and what I was doing did. And that's the story I wanted to tell if I had used a short telephoto lens to fill the frame with the ape. This is the image I'd get. And as you can see, there is no sense of habitat, no sense of my story, but moving closer and switching to an extreme wide angle lens. In this case of fish, I I was able to capture the story. As I wanted to tell it. What has changed here is the relationship between foreground and background, and this is the other something you need to consider when choosing which lens to use for which particular shot, as well as defining the role of the subject, Lens choice affects how the subject interacts with its surroundings. As the image maker, you must consider both these aspects when composing your shot. Something I found helped me a lot when I was starting out is to head to a favorite location, preferably somewhere close to home, so you can get back several times and take just one lens with you. If you only have zooms. No worries. Just be disciplined in sticking to one focal length setting shoot all day with that one focal length move around the subject. Get closer, move further away, sometimes making small changes like a couple of places left or right or forward or back. Then, when you get home, look at the images you've taken and consider what effect the lens and your framing are playing in the stories your images are conveying. Good luck and see you in the next lesson.

Ratings and Reviews

Gary Hook

Wow, what a wonderful journey. I love the concept of telling a story with one's photos and as I go through past images, I'm seeing them in a much different perspective. That's the good news, The bad? The lost opportunities I never 'saw' before; however that is a good thing. There is so much to internalize with the material so that it can get out of the head and into the 'heart'. I also found the concept really helps me with composition, both in camera and post. Biggest take away, as Chris underscored in his closing, is to slooooow down, take the time and feel it. Don't be so quick to leave one scene as there remain other aspects, yet to be discovered. A great experience that I truly enjoyed Thank you


I loved this course - in particular the latter part of it in which he demonstrated how post processing lets you really tell the story of the image. Another fabulous course. Thanks Chris & thanks Creative Live.

Abdullah Alahmari

Thanks a lot to mr. Chris Weston This course is great and It is a 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 course for me. Beside the other course ( mastering photographic composition and visual storytelling) both courses are Complementing to each other and highly recommended.

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