Through the Looking-Glass

Lenses. What would we do without them? They help up put things in focus, so we can see them more clearly.

However, if used incorrectly, lenses can lead to some fairly ugly shots. Choosing the correct lenses is crucial, so how do we do it?

Before I dive right into the purposes of each lens, I should point out that you do not need a set of prime lenses (fixed zoom lenses) to do this correctly. A simple zoom lens can achieve a similar result.

14mm: Ultra-Wide

The 14mm lens is ultra-wide, and provides a very wide view.

DO: Film far off with no close-up focus.

DON’T: Use this lens for a close-up, as it will create a major fish bowl effect.

It should be noted, however, that sometimes, a distorted effect is achieved on purpose (e.g.: Darkness). Be wary of doing this too often, as it should be used sparingly.

If you are using a zoom lens like I do, set the zoom around 14mm. Use a similar process for the other lens types.

24mm & 35mm: Wide

These lenses should be used for wide shots, such as masters.  They capture a large amount of space, but not as much as the ultra-wide lenses.

DO: Film a large portion of a room.

DON’T: Film a close-up, for the same reasons as the ultra-wide lens.

50mm: Standard

The 50mm lens is standard, and works well in mediums and two-shots.

DO: Use this lens as a general lens between wide and close.

DON’T: Attempt to use this lens to film a wide view.

85mm+: Close

The 85mm lens is used for close-ups, but not extreme close-ups.

DO: Film a subject from far away for a nice close-up.

DON’T: Use the 85mm for master shots or establishing the scene.

The 85mm results in a better close-up shot compared to the wide and ultra-wide lenses.

Macro: Extreme Close

Macro lenses are used for extreme close-ups.

DO: Use the macro lenses to film a small subject, like an eye or thumb.

DON’T: Try to film anything other than an extreme close-up, as that is all they are meant for.

LensBaby: Special Focus

The LensBaby is a special lens used for distorting the focus around the center.

DO: Convey emotion or anxiety through the distinctly directed focus (e.g.: Seven Taps).

DON’T: Overuse the LensBaby or use it for regular shots.

But Wait, There’s More…

These are a few examples of possible lenses. But even with the right lens, you still have to make sure you know how to use them. Here are some cool shots to play around with:

Rack Focus

This is my personal favorite shot! A rack focus is a change in focus from one subject to another. It is often done to tell the audience where to look. Or in some cool cases, a lack of focus is used to give the audience a sense of confusion or loss.

Dolly Zoom

Warning: This is a very difficult shot. In a dolly zoom, the camera is dollied backward or forward while moving the zoom the opposite way. This is one of the few shots that requires a zoom lens. This keeps the subject the same size while moving the background, and is often used in film to create a feeling of dizziness or movement, which makes sense considering the difference between 14mm close-ups and 85mm close-ups. However, be sure to use this shot very sparingly. We don’t want a dizzy audience!

Cut to black.

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4 thoughts on “Through the Looking-Glass

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