Photography | The Art of Compression

I love photography. I love learning about photography. I’m definitely not what people would consider a professional, but I do know a little. I know more than some and also know less than the ‘professionals.’ But I’m always learning.

So when an a-ha moment comes my way, I get a little giddy. It’s these little nuggets that I like to share with you.

Today we’re talking about Compression.

And when I say ‘talking’ about it, I mean in the most basic and simplest of terms because first, that’s the best way to remember and second, that’s really all I know about it. ;) I like to describe compression as how the different ‘layers’ of your photo come together to create a proportional perspective.

Not too long ago I was admiring some ‘person on a road in front of a mountain’ photo. They looked so small and the mountain looked so big. I see a lot of those types of photos (thanks Instagram) and figured that a style of lens must be creating this sense of proportion to make it look so magnanimous.

Well, in a sense it is, but what’s really creating it is the zoom–whether it be via a lens or a crop of a photo–along with the distance between you, your subject, and the background.

After reading this article, the light finally went on!
(Read it now. It’ll help to understand this even more.)

After reading it, that basic principle of ‘compression’ finally became clear to me.

What really started my curiosity in regards to compression was last year when photos were taken on location when my son proposed to his (now) wife.



Kass took the photo on the left of the setup using her iPhone, which is more in the ‘wide angle’ arena. Now look at the photo on the right. Check out the size of the temple in the background! It looks like it’s right there. I mean, it is, but the difference between the two photos is astounding.

This all has to do with the distance between the photographer, the subject, and the background. Kass was using an iPhone, which is essentially a wide angle lens, plus she was close to the subject matter to create the shot. The photo on the right was taken with a 50mm lens, which means the photographer was standing farther back from his subject to encompass the scene. You would think that because Kass was standing ‘closer’ to the edge of the building and ‘closer’ to the temple, that it would have actually been closer in frame. But again it all has to do with the perspective and distances within the layers of the photo.

Here’s my own little ‘digital zoom’ example (read that article mentioned above) I took of the mountains right near my home–with snow on them in mid-June. Ya, went from a 90 degree high one day to 60 degrees the next. Say hello to the crazy weather of Utah.



I took this photo with my Fuji X-T10 and 35mm lens. We’re talking maybe a neighborhood block’s worth of cropped-in ‘zoom’ here. Notice how the two cropped-in photos are of significant difference. Notice the tree and the fire hydrant on the left in both photos. It’s not that much of a pull-in, but yet the mountain looks huge in the second photo! I mean, they really are huge, but the distance between me, the trees and the mountains, along with cropping in just makes an amazing perspective. You would have thought I moved a couple miles to get ‘closer’ to the mountain by the way the perspective looks in the right photo.

Naturally something will look larger when you zoom in, but it’s what’s in the foreground and the distances between layers that really affect the perspective.

When all is said and done–in the simplest of terms, much of the perspective comes from a zoom of sorts combined with your relationship between you, the subject, and the background, whether it’s done via a lens zoom or a cropped zoom on your computer.

Pretty cool, right?

Now I just need to practice some more and see if I can get it right each time. :)


2017-07-24T23:37:13+00:00 July 25th, 2017|photography|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. heidig July 25, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Very cool! I never really paid attention to this before now.

Leave A Comment