How lenses and aperture can change shots

How lenses and aperture can change shots


How different lenses can affect people shots.

NB. All the shots in this article were taken on film.

One of the most important things with people shots, is choosing the lens that you need for the result you want.

I’m going to show a few shots mostly from children fashion jobs I’ve done in the past but the principle is the same.

Using a zoom lens in the correct manner, isn’t just a question of bring the subject nearer or further (or is it farther ?)   away, there’s much more too it than that.

Here’s a selection of shots showing the use of  zoom, prime or very long focal length lenses.

boy for me















Notice that the backgrounds are out of focus,  with people this can be a good thing as it makes them pop out  the image, because the attention is totally on them. Although this maybe not perfect for the holiday shots if you want to see a scene in the background, we’ll get on to that later.

This effect is called short depth of field , it requires a long focal length lens or a long zoom, what I mean by long, is anywhere between 200 and 400mm or even longer. The other thing to notice is the the background is reduced in view, everything is compressed , this is because the longer focal the lens , the narrower the angle of view, that means we see less background.

The camera settings are important as well , if you’re working on manual settings then just set the camera aperture to the most open setting f4 for example and the iso and shutter speed as you require.

What about the beginner who can’t set things manually, well, there are semi automatic settings, one of which is aperture priority, this is marked AV on a Canon and Ap on a Nikon

This will allow you to set the aperture, while everything else stays on automatic. Now you have two alternatives the first is to experiment, if that doesn’t work, is read the instruction book ! you only need one page , so look in the index for “aperture priority” This will explain it.




Now what about the case when we want the background sharper, well these shots show that result.

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These are done in exactly the same way except with a shorter lens both with a 35mm  at  f8 we can see a lot more detail in the background.


These shots of  Yehudi Menuhin,  taken only a month before he died in Berlin . The shooting was for the introduction of a calendar I shot for a charity “The children of Togo”

They Show the difference aperture or lenses can make, the one on the left taken with a wide open aperture , using a longer lens  and on the right a shorter lens with the same aperture. The backgrounds are very different, in focus and angle of view.



lord mehuin


The pictures following, taken while on location in Morocco, were just for fun but shows what lenses can do. The left one is with a wide angle lens probably a 24mm gives an enormous size difference between people a maximum of two meters apart, The other with the aperture closed   makes the land rover look like a toy be4x4cause the whole impression of size difference changes.stef

So think about relative size between subjects before choosing lenses, it can make a big difference.


This video might help you as well



Retired advertising photographer, now living in the Gers France and having a great time.

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