Learn How to Use Lens Compression to Your Advantage in Small Spaces

If you work in tight spaces using narrow backgrounds, this video will show you how lens compression can help you get the shots you want.

If you work in a studio that is a little short on space and you need to find a way to make narrow backgrounds work, this tutorial from Daniel Norton is for you. After the break, we will share a video that shows why using a longer lens is the way to go, and how the wonderful effects of lens compression will solve a lot of the problems of working in a smaller space.

Have you ever been in a situation where the size of the backdrop is dictated by the size of the shooting location? Not everyone has the luxury of owning huge studios where we can control everything. So often, we have to think and work on the fly when an opportunity to shoot comes up. In an ideal world, we would be able to use a 9ft wide backdrop for every portrait or fashion session we hold, but sometimes we have to use narrower 53-inch (4.5ft) backdrops, and this can sometimes create problems.

lens compression

Challenges with narrower backdrops can arise if you are used to shooting portraits with a wider lens. If you’re going after a 3/4 length portrait using a 35mm lens, for example, the backdrop won’t fill in the frame behind your model. You’ll end up with a shot that shows everything on either side of the backdrop. This is the issue Daniel faced when shooting with the Fujifilm GF 45mm f2.8 (35mm equivalent) and the Fujifilm GFX 50R in a small space. So, how do you overcome this? Fortunately, Daniel Norton has a video on Adorama TV that explains how to solve this problem. 

Lens compression

By using a longer telephoto lens (85mm and above), you can simply back up from your subject and can get the same 3/4 length framing you need. The backdrop will completely fill the frame behind your subject thanks to lens compression. To be clear, it’s not the lens itself that causes the compression: it’s the distance from the lens to the subject that causes compression. You’ll also find that the compression from the lens will affect the image of your model too. Lens compression will often cause facial features to become much more flattering. (Let’s face it, everyone wants that to happen.) The 6-minute video is full of hints and tips that will help you overcome the problems that shooting in small spaces can create, and it’s well worth a watch.

Check out the video to catch Daniel Norton in action and to see the effects of lens compression. Just remember, the next time you’re in a situation where space is an issue, reach for a telephoto lens, back up a little from your subject, and let lens compression work its magic.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.