When you think about manipulating photos, you probably think about programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop. But image manipulation starts much earlier. It starts with your choice of lens.
In general, wide angle lenses (with a focal length of 18mm to 24mm or so) offer more depth of field (area of focus) than telephoto lenses (let’s say 100mm or longer), plus they tend to distort otherwise straight lines that are close to the camera. Wide angle lenses also capture a larger portion of the scene, particularly useful when photographing in tight spaces.
By contrast, telephoto lenses offer a shallow depth of field and tend to compress the subject (they look closer together). They also cause much less distortion of lines, but often you have to move back to get the entire subject in the frame. You should therefore select a lens based on how you want to portray your subject (you will also have to consider any physical limitations such as being unable to back up enough to capture the entire subject with your lens of choice).
The examples here depict aspen trees in fall colors near Santa Fe, New Mexico. This first image was shot with a wide angle zoom at 17mm. I was standing right below the aspens and wanted to capture a large portion of the grove. Because I was using a short focal length and my camera was pointed up, I knew the trees would be distorted and the trunks would lean inwards. To me that made the trees look even bigger and would give the viewer the sense of being there.
Shot with a longer focal length (105mm), this second image is more of a semi-abstract composition, a collection of branches and leaves filling the frame, and little else. This shot is about color, texture and patterns and less literal than the first one. Because of the longer focal length, the trees appear to be all bunched together, while in reality they were more spread apart.
Either of these images could be used to illustrate a travel article about the beauty of aspen trees and fall colors. However, they do render the trees in a different way because of the different lenses used.
Pro Tip: Next time you are out photographing, make sure you take a variety of pictures of the same subject using a variety of focal lengths. This will maximize the chances of one of your images being selected by an editor.
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