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Brian Tobey



Perspective is an form of distortion pertaining to scaling, or how object appear in size and distance. It affects how 3 dimensional objects are perceived in a 2 dimensional image space. Perspective is a function of focal length, zooming in or out, changes the perspective. Changing perspective varies the apparent size of near and distant objects. Wide angle lenses make objects that are close to the lens appear large and distant objects appear tiny. Long telephoto lenses make both nearby and distant objects appear similar in size. This is commonly referred to as compression because distance is hard to determine. Near and far objects appear equal.


A normal lens is one that portrays the same perspective of the human eye. Both nearby and distant objects appear as how we normally see it. For full frame, 35mm FX cameras, the 50mm focal length is considered the normal lens. For DX cameras, the 35mm focal length is considered normal. Nikon makes a 35mm DX lens for this reason. Typically normal lenses are easy to produce because of their simplicity. Some professionals swear by the standard normal lens. I find it boring most of the time.


The easiest way to demonstrate perspective is with a zoom lens. For this I will use a 24-70mm lens. First, take a picture at 24mm focal length (wide perspective) of an object 2 to 4 feet away. Now move back 20ft or so and take a picture at 70mm focal length (narrow perspective). Make sure that the apparent size of the object is the same for both pictures. Meaning if the object is half the height of the image size in the 24mm focal length, then it should be half the height in the 70mm focal length. If it is not, then move back or closer to the object, but maintain the 70mm focal length, until the objects are the same size. Comparing both image perspectives, you can see how the object is portrayed and how the background objects vary in size.


Portrait photography is a style that focuses on people, more specifically personality and intimacy. Long telephoto lenses are commonly used because it produces a more flattering perspective. The entire subject, from nose to ears, appears as the same size. While a wide angle perspective is awkward, distorting the subject, with the nose appearing much larger than the ears.

Common focal lengths in portrait photography are 105mm, 135mm and sometimes even 200mm. Nikon makes fixed lenses for each of these focal lengths for portrait photographers.


Wedding photography can be similar to portrait photography because most of the subjects are people. Hence, you want to use a longer focal length to photograph a couple or an individual. I commonly use an 85mm focal length. This gets me close to the subject with a nice perspective, but not so close that I miss a shot.

Ultimately, wedding photography varies greatly and many perspectives should be considered. Zoom lenses are common for this, not just to vary the perspective, but because too often a photographer is confined, in both time or space, and cannot afford to step forward or backward to make the shot.


In landscape photography, many perspectives are used. In this case, perspective preferences usually follow the photographer. Some landscape photographers walk around with a wide angle lens always attached to their camera, while others always use a long telephoto. With landscape photography, it’s all where you position yourself for a chosen perspective.


Photography Basics | Composition | Distortion