Thursday, November 8, 2007

Zoom-zoom: A Simple Concept Can Make a Big Difference

Zoom is Your Friend

One of the most fundamental principles of photography is the use of zoom. Zooming does not only make the subject bigger--it also makes the photo more dynamic. If the subject is too small, then people will feel distant from the subject. Below is an example:

Images (c) Jang Photography

These photos are both exactly the same except for the way they are cropped. The bottom one is more dynamic because the flower fills up more of the frame than the first one. Usually, you want to zoom in as close as possible to your subject, unless you purposely wish to show space or a panoramic view. I also like to zoom out a bit when shooting photos with the mood of melancholy/loneliness/depression. However, even in those cases, you cannot make your subject too small, or the photo will lose its impact.

Here is another example (photo of yours truly):

Which photo is more interesting?

(c) Grace Chai. Used with permission

The photo on the right is cropped a lot closer and is much more dynamic than the one on the left. A person viewing the image on the left will not be as drawn into the photo as a person viewing the image on the right. One thing to keep in mind when zooming in on a portrait is to make sure the head is not cut out. If you are going to crop some of the head, then make sure that the head is cropped out on two sides of the frame (like the photo on the right). Also, be careful not to crop a picture at the joints of a person--in other words, don't have the frame cropping out part of the person's arm at the elbow.
What To Keep in Mind When You're Shooting
You will want to crop a picture using the zoom on your camera rather than computer software because cropping with software will make you lose pixels and thus, information. Therefore, utilize the zoom function on your camera! This is an important principle to remember; when you're taking a photo, ask yourself, "Will this look better if it is cropped? If so, how much should I zoom in?" Experiment with the zoom to see which length is the best--or, if you're not sure, just take the same photo at differen lengths. You can always determine which one is the best when you download your pictures onto your camera. With digital photography, you can take as many photos of a scene as you want and then pick out the ones you like. This is one of the great advantages of digital photography.
Happy shooting!

1 comment:

ATL Staddon said...

"Fill the frame is the name of the game!" I've been told and have found to be an accurate principle. How a picture is cropped often makes the difference between a snapshot and a professional image.

When you look over your images and ask yourself why you didn't think to zoom in any closer, the problem is often because we are effected by mental zoom. We naturally block out distracting objects when we are focused on something with normal vision. But when your looking at a picture, you don't mentally zoom in as much. The secret is to keep an eye on all four sides of the viewfinder when you are actually taking the image.

Another good thing about zooming in, as illustrated in the first pictorial example of the flower, is a greater depth of field. This can be used to your advantage in making the background even softer thus making a more intimate picture. Yet it can also work to your disadvantage if the entire subject is not in focus. Too many times I've come back with photos which were of no good because the focal point of the subject was not in focus from too shallow a DOF. It's a profession of precision, photography is!