Zoom with your feet

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kallisti, Jun 3, 2016.

  1. kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #1
    There are often discussions on photography forums about zoom lenses vs primes. Not going to get into the larger debate here. But one point that is frequently brought up by prime shooters is that you can "zoom with your feet," meaning move a little bit closer or a little bit further away to achieve the same composition as with a zoom lens.

    This advice is often offered to new photographers as a way to make one think about a scene and not stay rooted in one place. Taking the time to move about can force one to "see" the compositional possibilities of a scene, rather than just shooting from the first vantage point one happens to be in and flicking the zoom ring.

    It's good advice, don't get me wrong. But the flip side is that the composition *isn't* the same when you zoom with your feet. With focal lengths in the range of a "normal" lens it can be close, but zooming with your feet as opposed to changing focal lengths from the same shooting position are never really equal.

    Often it doesn't matter (which is why it is usually good advice), but sometimes it does.

    Wasn't feeling inspired to shoot anything interesting today, so instead shot these examples. All on a tripod with an exposure of 1/4 sec @ f/8 and ISO 200. 21mm vs 18mm vs 15mm focal length on a full frame body. Moved the tripod ~2 inches closer between lens switches, with an effort to keep the iPhone at the bottom of the frame and in the same position for each.

    [​IMG]
    21mm

    [​IMG]
    18mm. "Zoomed with my feet" ~2 inches forward.

    [​IMG]
    15mm. "Zoomed with my feet" ~2 more inches forward.

    Note the widening of the background scene with the shorter focal lengths taken closer. Also notice the changes in the reflection on the iPhone as the focal length and subject distance change.

    "Zooming with your feet" when shooting a prime is often a good idea, especially as a learning tool to force one to not stay rooted in one spot and just flick the ring on a zoom lens. But subject distance and focal length create a certain composition and relationship between foreground and background elements. "Zooming with your feet" changes that composition/relationship. Sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes it does.
     
  2. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #2
    Very interesting and well put article.
    Of course there are often times when zooming with your feet are just not practical as well. Like at a zoo or sporting event.
     
  3. admwright macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Location:
    Scotland
    #3
    "Zooming with your feet" is one of those terms that is widely used but is not actually accurate in what it is describing. You are actually "Composing with your feet", as you describe. The focal length (multiple primes, or zooming if you have a zoom lens) is for the framing. Always good to be reminded to keep moving around and look for the best composition.
     
  4. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000

    Cheese&Apple

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    Toronto
    #4
  5. aarond12 macrumors 65816

    aarond12

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    May 20, 2002
    Location:
    Dallas, TX USA
    #5
    I wish I could find a good video clip, but the perfect expression of lens compression might be horror movies. You know those scenes where the person in the foreground stays still and the rest of the background (usually a creepy forest) moves in? That's not some bizarre moving stage, it's lens compression (zooming in) used in conjunction with, and at the same speed as, dollying out (zooming with your feet).
     
  6. Raid macrumors 68020

    Raid

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    Feb 18, 2003
    Location:
    Toronto
    #6
    My great uncle (a professional photog since WWII I guess) always said to move about the subject, look at the subject and lighting then the background at that angle. Once you got the setup you'd like then frame the shot, take two steps in, get your depth, wait for the right light and get the image.

    He said taking the time at first is hard, but it develops your style and then when dynamic shots come up you go by the instinct developed... I'm still working on the instinct.
     
  7. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Location:
    Glasgow, UK
    #7

    I remember a conversation with a pro photog who said that if you go out shooting for the day and dont come back with dirty knees, you haven't been trying hard enough - i paraphrase but you get the gist. Move around, explore new angles, get in close. When you think you are close enough, take another step forward... - the old one for good luck technique... unless of course that last step dunks you in the river, off a cliff or bumping that scary bloke in the street ;-)
    --- Post Merged, Jun 8, 2016 ---
    Really?!? Genuinely that is something I wondered how they did. Thanks for that! Claiming that as todays lesson. That is some skill with a lens! Wow.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 8, 2016 ---
    I am still working on the first bit - take time look for the angle... still a bit too trigger happy... harder than it at first seems
     
  8. Raid macrumors 68020

    Raid

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2003
    Location:
    Toronto
    #8
    Oh me too, it takes epic patience sometimes to capture something as static as a landscape, sometimes the moment is just there but it takes too long to get it framed or the depth right and you lose that component of the composition. The good news is that we have cameras capable of taking thousands of photos that we can review instantly if we want. Back in my great uncles day he had to worry about carrying the canisters of film and the development process.

    Being trigger happy isn't really the problem with modern DSLRs it's remembering what the set-up was for the image that turned out the best! I'm often far too critical of my shots (I guess I grew up around a high standard), most of my photography is relegated to family events and the chaos that surrounds that doesn't make much room for taking the time to compose the best image (which explains why I lurk around here so much without posting) ;).
     
  9. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    Location:
    Glasgow, UK
    #9

    Great post. Please post images though. We all learn from each other...

    Dont be shy, we are all on our own journey.


    I can honestly say that without the support and encouragement from the guys on here, i would be evem worse than I am today!
     
  10. v3rlon macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2014
    Location:
    Earth (usually)
    #10
    "Zoom with your feet" is for photographers like me when I started. I was looking for the one zoom lens to cover everything. 18-300 and damn the aperture!

    I think a lot of people start that way because zoom is easy to see. Take a nifty fifty out and experiment and learn a lot more than with a 35-80 f3.5-5.6 kit lens.
     
  11. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #11
    Google "dolly zoom (Jaws)" to find the clip of Brody on the beach on youtube. That example is (IIRC) dolly in (closer), while zooming out to keep Brody the same size as the background (mainly) changes.
     
  12. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #12
    Nice to see someone bring back a lesson 101 that is offered up to students back when with film cameras.

    I am not being sarcastic here at all as I admire the OP's exercise and finding out how distance to subject alters the final image with respect to various focal lengths. All too often people shoot lazy and make a good image but not a great image because they just "zoom" rather than understand the impact of perspective.

    Hopefully, others will share their exercises and what they find of interest.
     
  13. AngerDanger macrumors 68030

    AngerDanger

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    #13
    Ah, the exact same thing came to mind when I read the original post. It was first used in Vertigo and termed the Vertigo effect, but it's also referred to as a dolly zoom. The effect is used at 0:32 and again at 0:49:

     
  14. jerwin macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2015
    #14
    From

    Cherry C, Leong K,Wallen R, Buttke D. Injuries Associated with Bison Encounters — Yellowstone National Park, 2015 MMWR 65:293-294 (March 25, 2016)

     
  15. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Location:
    US
    #15
    Yes, it's so easy to just bring the camera up and shoot instead of looking around and composing the scene in your mind's eye first.

    It was much easier to develop that skill back in the film days when it cost real money every time you pressed the shutter release. Or at least we had a more direct incentive to get it right the first time.
     

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