Lens Compression and What You Need to Know About It.

Let’s be honest for a second…

I know it’s hard, and among most people I am one of the least likely to talk about my feelings…but different photos make us feel things.

I wish experiencing photos for the first time was more scientific than emotional…but it is what it is and we cannot change the truth.  Certain photos make us feel things that others do not.

 I have recently noticed that one of the elements that make me feel things is due to ‘lens compression’.

In a culture where everything is immediately accessible but simultaneously a world apart…we long for proximity to the things we cherish or simply find beautiful.

Understanding Lens Compression can empower a photographer to create an experience of proximity to the viewer of an image by visually closing the gap between the subject  and their surroundings. 

 I have no doubt that you are probably already googling ‘lens compression’ in a new tab on your preferred internet browser by now but just in case your nature has instilled you with a little bit of patience let let me briefly explain ‘lens compression’ in Camera Camp terms:

 A wide angle lens (16-35mm) makes the background elements in your image look small and feel very far away from your subject.  If you use a long lens (85mm-300mm) your subject will appear and feel like they are closer to the elements in the background.

Let me explain even more with a few images.  The first image was capture with a 35mm lens and the second was captured with an 85mm lens.  Pay attention to the the way the images ‘feel’ and more importantly how small or large the and near or far the background appears to be from the subject.

This first image was taken with my Nikon D3s and a 35mm f/1.4 lens.  The photo got the job done and I’m sure the happy would be satisfied with the image. It captured the reality of what was happening.

This image was taken with the same camera body but I used the 85mm f/1.4.  Notice the difference of how the image feels.  In the first image I was fairly close to the couple, but in the photo below I had to walk to the other side of the dirt road and into a ditch to fit the couple and the car in my frame.  


I want you to pay specific attention to how different the background looks and feels in the two images.   Using a longer lens like the 85mm compresses the image and brings the background close to the subject.  If you don’t believe me just look at the difference in the photos.  

If you ever run into a situation where clients really want a skyline or object/structure in the background to be represented in their photos you can use a long lens to take advantage of lens compression.  If you use a wide angle lens the background elements will appear really far away and tiny.  If you use a long lens, like 85mm-300mm, you can make the background appear to be closer to the subject.