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Quick Tip: Focal Length and Distortion

The other day I was out with some friends, and I also brought my Fuji X-T1 and 18-55mm lens along for the ride. I ordered a beer, and before having a sip I decided to photograph it. Because I was sitting close to the table, my first instinct was to photograph it with the lens zoomed in (in this case, it was set to 24mm):

The photo has some noticeable distortion, primarily at the top of the glass where it flares out and then narrows towards the bottom. I saw this and decided to re-shoot it, but instead I leaned back in my seat a bit, fully extended the zoom (55mm), and re-framed it the same way as the original shot:

This second photo, in my opinion, is a much more pleasing photograph and represents the glass much better than the original. Even the glass in the background is more upright and less distorted.

Summary:

  • Photographing a scene close-up with a wide-angle focal length will add distortion to your subject.
  • By moving yourself back (away from the subject) and using a longer focal length, you will reduce the distortion and end up with a more pleasing and natural representation of your subject.
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