Zooming with your feet???

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by AlbertInFrance, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. AlbertInFrance

    AlbertInFrance FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 11, 2013
    Morbihan, France
    I often see 'Zooming with your feet' as a description of moving forwards or backwards to get the exact framing you want when using a prime. It often turns up in discussions of the X100, for example.

    I have an assortment of primes for my X-E1, and also a little P&S Canon with a 6:1 zoom lens.

    My standard approach when composing a photograph is to look at the scene, identify where I think I should be standing to get the shot I want, go to that position and move about a bit decide the exact sight-line and distance before putting the camera to my eye. At that point I decide the exact framing I want to use. With my little P&S it's easy -- I zoom to get the framing right. With my X-E1 I change lenses, if necessary, to the focal length that i need to include all my shot, quitre often with a bit of superfluous image round the edges because what I really want is a 43mm and I have a choice of a 35mm or a 50mm.

    In my way of thinking, if I then walk forward ('zoom with my feet') I am going to change the perspective (controlled by subject distance).

    Similarly, if instead I fit a 50mm (instead of my desired 43mm) I'll have to walk back a bit.

    I'm quite happy to live with this situation until I can afford to add a zoom to my armoury, but I can't see that 'zooming with your feet' is really an option assuming that you are not just recording a very 2-dimensional scene.

    Have i misunderstood something?

    By the way, this isn't intended to be a knock at fixed lens cameras like the X100.
  2. flysurfer

    flysurfer X-Pert

    Feb 1, 2013
    Rico Pfirstinger
    You are correct.

    If anybody is giving you the "zoom with your feet" speech, it is a clear sign that this person hasn't really understood photography. Most likely, he is just repeating things he has read or heard elsewhere.

    Quite obviously, the focal length is determining the field of view (FOV) of an exposure. This FOV can not be changed by any amount of walking, hiking, running or jumping around your subject. ;) So no matter how close you can get to your subject with your 35mm lens, you will never get the same (or a similar looking) shot that you could get with a 300mm lens.

    Not to mention that it's often impossible to walk closer to a subject. Try this when standing at the edge of a cliff, at the shore, on a ship, or right in front of the tiger compound in the zoo. ;)

    That said, one single focal length is often perfectly sufficient. Restraint boosts creativity. Trying to "see" the world with only one FOV can be liberating, as you can focus on what you have in your hand instead of thinking about all those other options. It can give you new ideas and (literally) new perspectives.
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  3. kevwilfoto

    kevwilfoto FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 10, 2013
    Frederick, CO
    flysurfer - well said. Perspective will change no matter whether you're using a zoom lens or zooming with your feet. That doesn't mean that getting very familiar with a prime lens is a bad thing. :)

    ... says a zoom lens aficionado.
  4. Pelao

    Pelao FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 1, 2013
    GTA, Ontario
    Stephen, or Steve, or 'hey you"
    Fair enough, although I think you are taking the term too literally. It is sometimes used as a response to those who query why a prime is attractive - because on the face of it a prime does not appear very versatile. The person asking is rarely, in my experience, doing so from a perspective of field of view. I do agree though that it is a phrase like many others, where the user has some notion of what it means and uses it as an easy (and often inaccurate) way of explaining what they mean.
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  5. Steve B.

    Steve B. FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 2, 2013
    Exactly. For example, take a 28mm lens and an 85mm lens. Walk forward enought until the coverage of the 28 is the same as the 85. They really are two very different things.
  6. Steve B.

    Steve B. FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 2, 2013
    That said...I zoom with my feet. I don't like zoom lenses. Optically they are frequently as good as prime lenses and sometimes better depending on how much you want to spend. But I find the limitations placed on you with a prime lens to be a good thing creatively. Also, if you like to shoot shallow depth of field photography, you can be limited by zooms. The best (and most expensive zooms) are usually F2.8 at the widest aperture, where as you can easily get F1.4 or F1.8 primes. That can be a big difference too.

    It really depends on the user to determine what works best for them. For example, I wouldn't want an 85mm equivalent that wasn't at least F1.8 because I know there are situations where I would want the F1.8.
  7. Nic

    Nic FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 5, 2013
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yes, "zoom with your feet" is indeed a horribly erroneous term. You simulate zooming by cropping; you change perspective with your feet.
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  8. Pelao

    Pelao FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 1, 2013
    GTA, Ontario
    Stephen, or Steve, or 'hey you"
    I'm in the same boat. Or at least the same FOV.
  9. AlbertInFrance

    AlbertInFrance FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 11, 2013
    Morbihan, France
    I frequently go out with a (semi-) randomly chosen prime on my X-E1. Anything from a 28mm to a 105. Sometimes I see shots I can't get with the 'plat du jour' and make a note to come back with something else another time.

    There is one shot quite near home that I can see but which will need a much longer lens than I have available to get without a ridiculous crop level.
  10. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    I think "compose with your feet" is nearer reality. I may take a step forward, or back, but I also bend, stretch and shift to left and right. The "perfect" composition is eldom the first you see when you raise your camera to your eye. That is the "basic" scene - what you arrive at by your movements isyour composition - your vision.

    Sent from another Galaxy
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  11. BigTam

    BigTam FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 5, 2013
    Dortmund, Germany
    Lightmancer, you hit the nail on the head. If you get lazy, you 'raise the camera to your eye'. Don't! Or at least, see what the scene looks like from ground-level, waist-level, overhead, two steps left, right, forward, back. Or even turn 180 degrees ...

    The one thing that primes do in this respect is that they often force you to move a little, so you start to explore moving a little more, a little less, up, down, etc.

    Of course, with a zoom no-one forces you to stand in one spot and just move the zoom ring at eye-level, but it is the easy thing to do. Result: boring photos.
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  12. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. FujiXspot Veteran

    Jan 31, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    It's true, and if you think about those things, working with a zoom can be very efficient. But I think the "zoom with your feet" advice comes from the fact that some people use the zoom capacity alone to frame their shots, and maybe, in fact, you don't really want that shot with the 300mm zoom that is going to foreshorten the background and probably throw it out of focus. If it IS what you want, staying put and using the zoom is great, but if you really just want to be closer to the object the 300 won't do it. It will magnify the object, but not get you closer, which are distinctly different, as your post realizes.

    I think the advice is given a little tongue and cheek at times to remind us that zooms can make us lazy, though of course they don't have to. If what I'm after is a shot that my 35mm lens will give me from 10 feet away, the 100mm lens, with the same framing, but from a distance, is not going to get it for me. That, I think, is what people are after, which of course, proves your point too.
  13. AlbertInFrance

    AlbertInFrance FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 11, 2013
    Morbihan, France

    I fully agree. I might move around to get the angle exactly right, horizontally or vertically -- my family still talk about the time i lay down in Red Sqare to get exactly the shot I wanted of St Basil's. However, what I don't do is change my subject distance just to avoid cropping in pp.

    For me, composition is a three dimensional thing. Here's a picture I 'm waiting to get a long enough lens to do properly. First the 35mm lens version


    Then (approximately) the crop I want.


    The camera will probably be a foot or so lower for the real shoot. Exposure needs sorting as well, but this is good enough as an aide memoire.

    The little stone tower is about half a mile beyond the edge of the wood. No way would 'zooming with my feet' give the result I want.
  14. garylh

    garylh FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 7, 2013
    There are times that a zoom is the only choice.... I don't have a problem w/ using a zoom or a fixed lens and crop the shot as needed so long as there is enough info to print at least 8x10. I am not one of those who advocate use the whole frame even back in the days of 35mm. I prefer primes for the speed (f1.4 or 2.0), the weight (usually lighter than any zoom) and resolving power so that I an crop as needed and still get a good picture.

    If I need a zoom, I have problem w/ that..

  15. EBC Wilson

    EBC Wilson FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 20, 2013
    Maybe this has already been said in a different way, but the real difference for me is perspective. My X10 goes to 28mm and the X-S1 to 24mm: While these wider angles do let me get closer, unless I'm careful, they can get that 'wide' look with that drawing perpsective pretty quick. If I deliberately set them at 35 or 50mm and move ME for the same framing, the apparent perspective is different for the same framing. Can be very obvious in the other direction with the XS cranked out to 600mm. Working with a fixed focal length makes me be a little more thoughtful about finding the right spot to be in, and for me is more simple as I remove the 'zoom' decision from the equation.
  16. Gary

    Gary FujiXspot Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    Generally speaking ... The primary point of zooming, be it with your feet or with a lens ... is to fill the frame with your subject. Generally, filling the frame is of more value than perspective (depending on the subject matter).
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  17. It'sGreg

    It'sGreg FujiXspot Rookie

    Feb 3, 2013
    The phrase isn't meant to be taken literally. It's a reminder that photography--even street photography--is often as much about forethought as it is about reaction. To my mind, 'zooming with your feet' includes putting yourself in the right spot, and that requires a photographer to think and plan. Often that 'planning' might only take a few seconds.

    It's not always enough to recognize the decisive moment (apologies to HCB) when it occurs; sometimes it's necessary to figure out where you need to be in order to increase the odds of that moment occurring.
  18. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia FujiXspot Regular

    Feb 19, 2013
    Los Angeles
    This is the biggest thing to learn if you want to go beyond snapshots (which are of course fine in their own right.) I like wide normal perspective (28 to 35) because you get more of a "you are there" feeling without too much perspective distortion. But different focal lengths are not better or worse, just different.