A World of Imperfections

 

Positioning the evening sun just outside the edge of the frame lends a feeling of ‘being there’ in this photograph. Photograph/Mousam Pattanaik

Positioning the evening sun just outside the edge of the frame lends a feeling of ‘being there’ in this photograph. Photograph/Mousam Pattanaik

From wide angles to telephotos, every lens has a few optical properties and problems. Chandni Gajria sees if one can use these apparent shortcomings creatively.

Look around you. Now, lift the camera to your eye and look at the same scene through the viewfinder. Depending on the lens that is attached to the camera, the scene will look extremely different as compared to what it does in real life. That, probably, is the charm of photography. The characteristics, properties and even flaws of different lenses all come together to make every frame unique. Not only can these quirks enhance your frame, but they can also help you make strongly unique photographs.

Play with the Background
The perceived distance of the various elements in the frame depend on the focal length used and how far you are from the main subject. Telephoto lenses seem to squeeze everything into the same plane, while wide angle lenses tend to exaggerate the apparent distance within the photograph.

Circular flare and extreme distortion caused by a fisheye lens makes this otherwise plain scene look more interesting. Photograph/Prasanth Chandran

Circular flare and extreme distortion caused by a fisheye lens makes this otherwise plain scene look more interesting. Photograph/Prasanth Chandran

Create Interesting Illusions
You can also play with perspective. Using a wide-to-normal lens makes objects in the background appear smaller. So you can make a friend stretch out their hand and pretend to fit the Taj Mahal on their palm. You can stand on top of a staircase and shoot someone standing below. Their head will appear big while the feet would look tiny.

The subject has been placed away from the edge of the frame to avoid distorting his features. By keeping him closer to the lens, the lane seems longer than it actually is. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The subject has been placed away from the edge of the frame to avoid distorting his features. By keeping him closer to the lens, the lane seems longer than it actually is. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Blur Out Anything You Do Not Like
We usually assume that DOF only depends on the aperture setting. But, even if you keep the aperture constant, you will see that the DOF at 24mm differs from that at 100mm. Zooming in helps constrict the DOF. This is why, even if you do not have a fast lens, the best way to blur the background is to shoot at the telephoto end of the lens.

Occasionally, a vignette is a good way to bring attention to the subjects in the centre of a photograph. Photograph/Subrata Kar

Occasionally, a vignette is a good way to bring attention to the subjects in the centre of a photograph. Photograph/Subrata Kar

Get Everyone Sharp
Imagine a low light situation where you need to use the widest aperture, but also need sharpness. Here, you could shoot at the widest end of the zoom lens. The wider focal length will automatically increase the DOF.

The right kind of light goes a long way in exploring the characteristics of your lens. Photograph/Kalyan Dutta

The right kind of light goes a long way in exploring the characteristics of your lens. Photograph/Kalyan Dutta

Become an Architect
Wide-angle lenses usually show barrel distortion. This makes straight lines look curved, but can also be used to make even mundane structures look interesting. How something distorts depends on several factors—the focal length used, the position from which you shoot and most importantly, how far the subject is from the centre. Anything that is towards the edge of the frame sees more distortion, due to which you can make the same structure look dramatically different by simply changing your vantage point.

An illusion of space has been created by keeping the focal length at 18mm and slightly lowering the lens. Photograph/Smitha Jain

An illusion of space has been created by keeping the focal length at 18mm and slightly lowering the lens. Photograph/Smitha Jain

Tell The World Who Your Subject is
Most lenses exhibit light falloff or vignetting at certain focal lengths and apertures. Due to this, the corners of the image become darker than the central area. This may be problematic while shooting architecture or landscapes, where you are trying to use the entire frame to convey information. But this ‘flaw’ can be used creatively whenever you have a centrally placed subject, for example, while shooting portraits. The dark corners will ensure that the viewer’s eye directly falls on the main subject.
Do remember that all these properties are exhibited by compact cameras too. Now that you know these visual quirks, all you need to do is shoot pictures that tell the world that imperfection is not exactly a bad thing.

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Shooting Technique, Chandni Gajria, Depth of Field, illusions, frame, January 2012, Abberations, enhance, background, sharp