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Why Zooming with Your Feet is NOT the Same as Zooming with a Lens

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You’ve probably heard it a million times: “zoom with your feet!” This advice comes up almost any time the prime vs zoom lens debate resurfaces, but as anyone with even basic lens knowledge will tell you, zooming with your feet is NOT the same as zooming with your lens.

“Zoom with your feet” has become photographer shorthand for “don’t be lazy,” implying that only lazy people buy a 24-105mm lens when you could just buy a shaper and faster prime lens and either get closer or further away—in other words: zoom with your feet. But as JP Morgan points out in the latest episode of The Slanted Lens, it’s just not the same.

Changing your position changes your perspective, which is why the exact same “frame” taken from up close at 70mm or farther away at 200mm looks VERY different.

This isn’t groundbreaking news—photographers love to talk about the background “compression” that longer portrait lenses like a good 135mm can offer—but a lot of beginners don’t understand this right away. You absolutely should zoom with your feet when you’re taking portraits, but only because you’re trying to change your perspective, not as a way to crop the frame.

JP sums it up simply enough when he says: “Move your feet, change your perspective; zoom in, change your crop.”

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