For simplicity, we can refer to lenses with short focal lengths (less than 50mm) as wide-angle lenses. Lenses with longer focal lengths (more than 50mm) are called telephoto lenses. Zoom lenses offer a range of focal lengths in a single lens for convenience.
Lenses of different focal lengths can be used to create different perspectives. For example, you might want to use a wide angle lens to exaggerate several bouquets of flowers in front of a florist standing behind them. The florist would appear to be smaller than the bouquets, because objects closer to a wide angle lens appear larger than objects behind them.
Consequently, a telephoto lens can be used to make a small backdrop appear larger than the model in posing in front of it. This is because telephoto lens compresses the perspective and makes distant objects appear larger.
Typical Focal length: 28mm
Exaggerates perspective. Foreground objects look larger, background objects look smaller. Plenty of depth-of-field.
Angle of view is wide, the subject appears smaller.
Typical Focal length: 50mm
Natural perspective. Medium depth-of-field.
A 50mm lens simulates the viewing angle of the human eye.
Typical Focal length: 200mm
Flattens perspective. Background objects look larger. Shallow depth-of-field.
Angle of view is narrow, the subject fills the frame.
Need more guidance on basic photography skills?
My hands-on photography guide for beginners will answer most of your questions.
Found This Tip Useful?
Get back-stage access to valuable photography tips and techniques, right in your email inbox.
Many of these techniques will be shared only with my email subscribers, so don't miss out!