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What does the term “lens compression” mean in photography?

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Lens compression can be your best friend when photographing cityscapes. In this short video tutorial I would like to share with you some useful tips for using a lens that you probably already have, to create incredible compressed photos for maximum impact!

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The word “compression” in photography usually relates to a visual effect produced by long zoom and telephoto lenses, whereby objects in a scene appear to be stacked on top of each other. My name is Mark Hemmings, and in this quick tutorial I would like to explain what visual compression is, and also show you an example so you can maximize the compression effect for your own photos. Take a look at this photo of a classic neighborhood in my home town of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Even though these houses are at quite a distance from each other, from foreground to background, they appear to be stacked tightly together. This is a result of me using a 200mm zoom lens. And when you use a zoom or telephoto lens to photograph cityscapes such as this, you too will find that the compression effect really adds to your image. Now, if we tried the same shot much closer to the buildings, elevated, and with a wider lens, the stacked or “compressed” feeling would disappear. What you would end up with is a pretty normal city scape scene that one would expect to see. Ok, now I would like to give you a key tip to creating great compressed city-scape photos. Take a look at my photo, and do you see anything that could be changed to enhance the compression effect? Take a look at the far right . . . can you see the red car, the street light pole, the tree and the road? These are all visual elements that actual detract from the compression effect. If we crop them all out, the photo sort of “departs” from the world of documentary, and starts to become fine art, with a touch of abstraction. So now with the “realistic” elements removed, we are left with an enhanced compression effect where our eyes are not distracted by the normal elements of every day city life. The composition now enjoys a cleaner compressed view that is more about form that being documentary in nature. So to sum up . . . when you are photographing city scapes, get out your longest zoom or telephoto lens. The longer the lens, such as a 200mm or 300mm equivalent, the more prominent the compression effect will be. I hope that tip helps, and if you want to learn more photography with me within an international photo workshop environment, I now offer workshops in Japan, Mexico, Greece, the Caribbean, and the USA. Check out my website, www.markhemmings.com to get a full listing of fun and really informative photo workshops!

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