When in doubt, zoom out

Johan van Zyl All Authors, Johan 6 Comments

One of the biggest challenges we face as Photographers and Photographic Guides helping people with their photography, is to get the confidence to zoom out or pull back.

When we start our photography, we almost always look for the biggest zoom lens because that will get us closer and closer is better right?

But as we continue our photographic journey and portfolio, all of a sudden our images start getting a bit monotonous.  We travel to different destinations but our images just look the same…  Sound familiar?

On most if not all our safaris, the scenery is so beautiful, by zooming in all the way and including just a portrait of your subject, are you really telling the whole story?

On our recent Safari to the Serengeti which included Moru Kopjes, Ndutu and Ngorongoro Crater, we encouraged our guests to put the big lenses away for a bit, and shoot wide.  This not only gives your images more of a natural feel, but it will also help you understand exposure compensation a lot better, as often you will be dealing with dark subjects against brighter skies.

This was one of the first images I took when we arrived at the sighting.  After the initial “banking shots” I stopped and looked at the scene, Is it really worth zooming in all the way?

In almost the same location, I used a 17-40mm lens to capture the entire rock and the Lions in their natural environment.

Another time when zooming out is a good option is when presented with an action scene whether it be Lions playing, a Leopard climbing down a tree, a kill etc.  When action happens in front of us we get so excited that we zoom in all the way, scared that we might miss that shot.  When returning to camp we realise we’ve chopped off a tail or missed the shot completely.  By zooming out or pulling back, you not only give yourself more room for error, but you also have the ability of cropping in afterwards if need be.

Again, arriving at the sighting of this beautiful Male Lion, I whipped out the 400mm.  As the sun started setting, some beautiful clouds are colours started forming behind him.  I decided to pull back to 100mm (below).  Which do you prefer?

These are mistakes that all of us have made at some stage, but I believe it is something that will make you a better photographer (if you learn from your mistakes).

So next time when you are out in the field, pause for a moment and ask yourself, is it really necessary to zoom in all the way?


About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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Comments 6

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      Johan van Zyl

      Thank you Rudy. Do give it a try, I believe it will not only give you more variety to your portfolio, but it will help you become a better photographer. Look forward to seeing the images.

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