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Storytime with Wilson

July 6, 2011

From the previous posts you know all about the rule of thirds and editing your shots, so now something on getting the shot you want. Wilson the tennis ball (distant relative of Wilson the volley ball) volunteered to be the example.

  • First, decide what type of shot you want. Do you want to capture your subject without regard to the surroundings? This may be the case if the background is ugly or unimportant, then you want an isolation shot. However if the surroundings are important then an environmental shot is in order. Lets isolate on Wilson.

M e e t   W i l s o n

   Wilson has a sweet headband, a Rasta hairdo, and is good at staying still. That makes him a perfect candidate for a portrait. One problem..his permanent frown, but that’s understandable because his job as dog toy means his head gets chewed on all day. For this shot (using a point and shoot) I was about 5 feet from Wilson. In order to get him this size in the frame I had to zoom in. Any time you zoom in (or use a telephoto lens on a DSLR) you will get compression. This means that the subject and background get compressed together and it becomes hard to tell exactly how far from the subject the background is.

  • Well that’s all fine and dandy, but now I’ve decided I want to show you more of Wilson in his surroundings, an environmental shot. So I’m gonna un-zoom (new word) and get a wider angle of view. Now I can see the surroundings, but Wilson is tiny. I want to keep him the same size because after all it’s still about Wilson. Oh crap, this means I have to get off my lawn chair and get in close. Let’s see what happens, the suspense..I can’t stand it!



   Crap! Well at least you can see Wilson is actually in our overgrown mess of a garden ( remember, I’ve been in the lawn chair not in the garden), but Wilson is out of focus, and it’s supposed to be about Wilson.

  • Something has to change. I need to tell the camera I want it to focus on what is close to me. So I’ll set it for close up photography (usually denoted by an icon of a flower). Since Wilson is green and he’s in a green surrounding I need to make him ‘pop’ so I will try to blur the background. My camera has a close up and  super close up settings. I will use super in hopes that the camera will care even less about what is behind and let it blur. Here we go..wait for it.



Bam! There we go. Wilson in the mess and it’s still about Wilson. To see what compression and angle of view is all about compare this shot to the first one in this post. Wilson is about the same size and in the same location in both shots, but they tell a different story. Notice that Wilson looks more 3D in the final shot. That’s why you usually want to stand back and zoom in (or use a short telephoto on DSLR’s) for portraits because the flattening effect is flattering for human subjects. All 3 shots Olympus FE-100 point and shoot

D i s c l a i m e r

Although I was 5 feet away and zooming I still used close up on the first shot for a little background blur.

T h i s   P o s t

   My intent in this post was to provide a simple intro about telephoto compression, isolation and environmental portraits. It is not comprehensive and these techniques will be explored in greater detail in later posts and with more relevance to DSLR’s.  I wanted to show here that creative options are possible even with a basic point and shoot that does not have a manual mode. Hopefully this will inspire people to grab their camera (whatever it is), run screaming from the house experimenting with settings and weeding my garden. After you’re done weeding take more shots, so that when you’re standing in front of the Taj Mahal on that ‘once in a lifetime’ trip or Brad Pitt goes running naked through your front yard you’ll be ready.





From → Technique

  1. Becky Stone permalink

    Will I always learn something every time I read your blog?

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