How do I determine a lens’s foreground to background relationship?

I have a Canon EF 55-250 lens.  It’s not great at getting details, but I like the way foreground objects are fairly small relative to  the background which allows me to capture interesting relationships between the foreground and background (at 55mm).  I want a lens that does better capturing details, but want it for the same sort of shots.  I tried renting a Sigma 50mm lens, which captured amazing details, but when I attempted the same sort of shot the foreground dominated the background.  I don’t have the technical knowledge to have terminology for this and want to figure out how a lens would be good for smaller foregrounds relative to the background.  Thanks!

6 Answers

  • John P
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    The longer the lens (above 50mm, especially above 150mm) the smaller foreground objects will appear compared with background objects. Conversely, using a lens at 20mm or similar exaggerates the foreground.

    The 50mm you rented had a max aperture around f1.8 or f1.4, so if you used it at that max aperture the background would have looked fizzy - called "bokeh" by some Americans. If you used it at f5.6 or f8 etc the effect would be just the same as using your kit lens at 50mm or 55mm.

    Might I suggest trying to find someone locally who knows a thing or two about using a DSLR and who is willing to spend an hour or two with you to show you how several factors affect what you can capture with different lens settings. It is hard to explain at long distance in a short answer to somebody without techy knowledge what all the bits mean, but a couple of hours practical explanation and actually "doing" will get you going.

    Good luck in making wonderful photos!

  • keerok
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    You can't make foreground smaller but AFAIK, you can make elements appear close to each other with a long telephoto lens and a small aperture size. It's like if you shoot a group photo with a wide angle lens, the people in front will have bigger heads than those at the back but if you use a short telephoto lens, you can avoid that have the heads almost the same size.

    As far as details are concerned, that's the trade off when shooting from afar. The lens can only do so much. If you are wanting in optical quality, get a more expensive lens, with a shorter zoom or none at all and with a longer focal length. The recommended ones are from the Canon L series. You also use a heavy tripod and a wireless shutter release remote control to avoid shake as much as possible and then shoot with lots of light.

  • 4 weeks ago

    That is called compression and is a property of longer lenses. Try some out at a camera store, I think you will find that you like longer lenses. Find the lens that is most appealing to you.

    I have a large collection of lenses because I once shot some images with a 135mm that I so loved. What you are describing is exactly what I loved about my 135mm lens.

  • qrk
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    The focal length (the 55-250 numbers) determine distance compression and perspective distortion. Apparently, you like distance compression (famously used in the movie "The Graduate" when Dustin Hoffman was running to the chapel). This is done using longer focal lengths, like at the 250 mm end of your zoom range. This causes a flattening of the image regarding depth perception.

    On the other end, people will use small focal lengths, below 18mm, to accentuate depth perception (also called perspective distortion). Think of those close-up pictures of dog snouts and how that accentuates the dogs snout. This is also why selfies make people look silly.

    50mm, on a crop sensor camera, is a good focal length for portraits where you want things to look natural. You will not get the distance compression you desire.

    There are programs that can read the EXIF data of your JPEG images (Opanda comes to mind) and show you what focal length you were using.

    The 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is an excellent lens and will give you the compression you desire. However, the price tag is high, around $2100.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Frank
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    First, take a look at the photos that you like that you took with your 55-250 and note the focal length of those images. I would venture to guess that those images were made using a longer focal length than just 50mm. At only 50mm, the compression of the perspective is about equal to that of the human eye. Actually, if I remember correctly, 43.9mm is almost exactly what the human eye sees at regarding the size of near/far objects. As the focal length decreases from that point, objects closer will appear larger and further away than objects in the background/further away. This is why there's a sticker on your car's side view mirror that reads "objects are closer than they appear."

    If you want a lens with better resolution than a 55-250, there are a lot of options. I would suggest going to to find lenses that are superior to the 55-250. Note - you can use any lens for the EOS system included EF lenses which are for full-frame camera bodies but will work just as well as any EF-S lens. Canon produces pro-quality lenses, but mostly in the EF line of their lenses and not their EF-S line which is regarded as their amateur line. Canon has specific lenses that are specifically designed for the pro. These are their "L" series lenses and are marked with a red line around the lens. An example would be their 70-200 f/4L which will simply blow the doors off your 55-250 lens in every possible way. If you want a major jump in resolution and other optical measurements, then consider the 70-200 f/4 which is a lot less expensive and lighter than it's big brother the 70-200 f/2.8L. The f/4 version is every bit as sharp as the f/2.8 even though it's less expensive. If you want/need the larger f/2.8 aperture but can't or don't want to spend $2,600, then go with a 3rd-party option such as a 70-200 f/2.8 from Tamron, Sigma or Tokina. These brands make lenses that significantly less expensive without sacrificing a lot of image quality. We're talking maybe around 10-15% less optical quality but at a saving of about 50%.

    Sigma has their Art series which are top-notch pro-quality lenses.

  • Bill
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    I think it's the focal length and the position of the camera that determine the size of foreground and background objects. A 55-250 zoom lens at 55 mm is slightly longer than a 50 mm lens.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.