Zooming in, using a longer focal length to make a picture, makes your subject look bigger and closer. But you should remember that when you zoom in on your subject, you zoom in on the whole world. That means that the background becomes closer, too. Your whole field of view becomes smaller. So what does that mean for your portraits?

Just yesterday I was making portraits in the park. The trouble was that just as I was about to make the portraits, a couple of kids wandered into the frame in the background. I had only a few minutes to make these pictures, so I couldn’t move my whole setup. I could have gone and asked the kids to move, but they’ve as much right to the park as I do. The simplest thing to do was just swap lenses.

Initially, I was using a 42.5mm lens, and you can see how much of the background is visible. I changed to a 75mm lens and the kids were no longer in my background. You can also see how much larger that tree is, how much thicker. Of course, I had to move my position back to get a similar frame on my subjects, but it was a simple and fast solution to a background problem.

When you zoom in, you zoom in on everything, which makes a bigger subject and a smaller view of the background. Use this to help eliminate background distractions when you’re making portraits.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.