Lenses, Point of View, and Framing

Maybe it's just me but I'm content shooting with prime lenses. I'm even content confined within the boring old stodgy 35mm to 100mm range. The way I look at it there's a lifetime of possibilities and variations with just one let alone a few lenses in that range. While reviewing a few sets I shot with Mary last year there were many I stumbled across that I like but never bothered to look at until the last week or so. Bad habit – on the list of things to change for 2014. I shot every single set-up that day using an old Nikkor 85mm 1.8D. Cheap, sharp, fast, what else could you want?

Let's take a look at the three images contained in the screenshot at the top. They have a lot in common. All shot with the same 85mm lens from within twelve inches or so of camera to subject distance. They have virtually identical subject framing. Obviously the same perspective in terms of foreground/background size relationships; dictated by lens focal length and subject distance. So, what are the variables here contributing to substantially different pictures? Obviously Mary's differing expression, pose, and gesture are the most important along with my choice of when to hit the button. There is one other significant variable illustrated here – point of view.

The three images I selected illustrate a few specific things worthy of consideration. First – all three images taken as a whole – point of view changes don't have to be used primarily for a framing change. The framing here is all the same. If you change the point of view only to change your framing try turning that on it's head and doing it while retaining the same subject framing.

Next, take the two images on the left. The difference in point of view is what one might consider minor in terms of my camera position. Maybe six inches up or down. One below Mary's eye line and one at or possibly a hair above. See how when I describe it in inches it's nothing, a nit, but when I describe it in subject terms it seems more significant? Look at the extreme difference in those two shots though – night/day kind of variation with no major shift in point of view. Full disclosure – one is slightly closer as well which contributes to the difference. Far less than one step back or forward.

Take a look at the last image on the right. That is a gigantic change in camera point of view. Specifically shot from a much lower position relative to Mary. Somewhere below her waist level. Massive shift in background position relative to the other two images and also a massive difference in feel. The point here is twofold. Slight point of view changes make big differences and major shifts in point of view don't have to go hand in hand with completely different subject framing. Exploring your point of view with coarse as well as fine variations is worthwhile. It has significant impacts even with what could be considered a lens like a short tele that doesn't exaggerate point of view differences. If your not doing this – do it. If you like shooting on a tripod – don't – at least not until you explore the subject through your viewfinder a lot.

RB

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