Perspective – One of Visual Design’s Key Elements

Summary – Perspective is a main element of visual design – along with shapes, lines and textures. Do you understand what this key element is? More importantly, do you know how to control it?


A belief held by many photographers is that

Long lenses compress perspective and

Wide lenses expand it

That belief is wrong


Shooting distance and NOT focal length

Determines Perspective

Illustrative Proof Follows


No Perspective At All

One of my better moon shots


8-27-2013 7-18-45 AM

From the Science & Art of Perspective

Click on the image to visit the site


Perspective noun

used to create an illusion of space and depth on a flat surface

In this post, perspective relates to

How large an object appears relative to nearer & farther objects and

How far apart near|far objects appear to be

Some photographers think that

Long lenses compress perspective

Wide lenses expand it

BUT that’s not correct

Two images taken from the same location, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with a long-focus lens, will show identical perspective, in that near and far objects appear the same relative size to each other. [From Wikipedia]

It’s shooting distance that controls perspective, not focal length

The zoom that matters is

The zoom you do with your feet

Walking closer to the subject (or farther)

Is how you change perspective!


Perspective Illustration

1. I set up my tripod in my driveway

2. I made an image with a lens at 155 mm

3. I changed focal length to 52 mm and made a 2nd image

I did not change my location in my driveway

THUS – One shooting location,

Two focal lengths,

Two images – BUT

Just ONE single perspective

As shown below

Here are the two images –

The bottom one includes a crop about to be made

Below we see the original 155 mm image again and

The crop made from the 52 mm image

The perspective (relative size & spacing) is IDENTICAL in both

Demonstrating that distance, not focal length, determines perspective

Surprised? I hope not.

An obvious conclusion to be drawn is

Zooming from a fixed location has no effect on perspective

It only changes magnification

But – we already knew that 😉

If you want to change the perspective

You must change your location

Move those feet


Future posts will consider

Shapes, lines & textures

Visual Design’s other key elements


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