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Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Building, Tiny People

I dropped a little gem in my ramblings about last week's 52 weeks wrapup, and thought it deserved its own blog post. Often times (especially on vacation) we want to take a photo of people in front of a building or other landmark. The problem is one of scale - the landmark is typically much larger than the people you want to photograph. How do you compensate for this?

Pretty easily, actually. Use a moderately wide-angle lens, frame your photo so that the landmark/building fills the frame (or however you decide you want it), then have your subjects move toward the camera until you get the framing you want on them (full length, 3/4 shot, head and shoulders, or in the extreme example above just the face). Make sure the people aren't blocking too much of the background - adjust your framing and position of necessary. Stop down your lens to a relatively narrow aperture if possible (f/11-f/16) to ensure enough depth of field to keep the people and the landmark in focus (the wide angle helps with this, too). Setting your focus to the hyperfocal distance will max out your depth of field and make this process easier, but if you don't have that figured out (or don't have a distance scale on your lens) you can pick a focus point about 1/3 of the way into your scene, that should cover it. If you can't use a narrow aperture, focus on the people and let the background go a little soft.

Just for comparison's sake, here's a shot without my big mug in the foreground:

You can see how small the people get as they get closer to the arch. If I had stood right next to the thing, I would have been about 5 pixels high in the photo. Not very memorable.

I think that most people sort of figure this out when they're at big landmarks on vacation (if for no other reason than it's easier to get a non-crowded shot when you're farther away), but knowing why it works lets you apply the same technique to more every-day type shots, like the photo of my wife and me in front of our house. It's a good thing to have tucked away in your photographic bag of tricks.


[title of blog] on flickr

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