Photo Tips: Lens Selection and Composition


The combination of how you hold the camera, where you place your subject and the lens you use can give you hundreds of different results. For instance, you can hold a camera vertically, horizontally or even tilted and the angle of aim can be from below or from above. In addition, there are many lenses or zoom settings to choose from that will each give a different perspective.

The basic lenses are as follows: Wide angle, typically in the 25-35 mm range, used when you are in confined spaces such as inside a barn and you want to fit everything in the picture. A normal to portrait lens 50-100 mm. At 50 mm, it is called a normal lens because what you see through the viewfinder is the same as what you see in front of you. At 90-100 mm it is considered a portrait lens because it brings your subject a bit closer while you stand at a comfortable distance away from them. A zoom lens is 100-300 mm or greater. This is used to photograph horses at a distance.

I use a 100-300 zoom as my primary lens because it gives me the most natural perspective. When I’m shooting horses in action, the 300mm allows me to get close without actually being close. When I’m shooting portraits I can zoom out to 100mm. To maintain a normal perspective of view, I keep my camera height approx equal with the height of the horses’ shoulder, which means I have to get much lower when shooting a mini horse compared to a draft or warmblood.

Point-and-shoot cameras often have a very wide zoom range going all the way from a wide angle of 25mm to a distant zoom of 300mm or more. A common error that beginner photographers make is to stand too close to the horse and zoom out to a wide angle setting. This results in an equine with an enormous head and tiny body. We often tell beginners this perspective is wrong, but photography is art and nothing is really wrong unless it is not what you were trying to create. If you don’t want that enormous head effect then stand farther away and use the zoom! There are many pro photographers that use a wide angle as their primary lens, they use the distortion of that type of lens to create a different experience for the viewer. Sometimes it’s a comedy shot other times an awe inspiring image taken from beneath a jump as a horse clears it. What lens you use and how you hold the camera depends upon your artistic style and preferences. There is no right or wrong.

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