ABCs for M-W-A-Cs – Lesson 1: Zoomin’

WHAT, pray tell, is a “MWAC”?  Well, simply put, it’s an acronym that stands for “Mom With A Camera”.

In the photographer’s world, it’s kind of a dirty word, that is often used for a mom who buys a nice expensive DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex, or you know, the big fancy cameras that you can change out the lens), and starts a business without learning anything about photography first, and just points & clicks!

BUT, in reality, it is just simply that, what it means:  A MOM.  With.  A CAMERA!!  And that is what I happily call myself.  ;)

And let’s face it, what mom doesn’t have a camera, and doesn’t want to be able to take better pictures of their child?  Well, before you rush out and buy that new shiny DSLR, I’m hoping I can help out with some basics of photography that can help anyone trying to take better photos of their kids, with either their own point and shoot, or their DSLR, or even their camera phone!

My first lesson is just very basic, but a huge “aha” moment many of us photographers have had, and it’s about “distortion” and “compression”, and how the “focal length” (aka, the “zoom” on your camera) affects it.  To do this, you need to have a camera with a lens that zooms in & out, i.e. an “optical zoom“.  Unfortunately, this lesson won’t help you with your camera phone, or some basic cameras, that have a “digital zoom”, because when you “zoom”, all they really do is just crop down the image.

Wait, what?  I’ve lost you already.  Don’t worry, I’ll break it down further.

“Focal length” is just your lens, zooming in and out, and changing it’s length!  You zoom all the way out, the lens shortens, and you can all of a sudden fit all of your family, even your scowling teenage cousin, standing off to the side, all in one photo!  Woohoo!  Now, zooming IN, lens goes out long, and while you are standing in that same spot, you can get a close-up of Uncle Joe’s extra nipple.  Wait, what?  What kind of family photo ARE you taking??

However, there’s something that happens when you zoom in or out.  When you zoom “out”, for the whole family shot, to fit everything in the shot, it causes something called “distortion”.  Think of it like that fish eye effect of the viewer on your apartment door, remember those?  You look out & you can see all of a person’s face through this tiny glass hole, because it “distorts” it to make it all fit in the view.  NOW remember what that looks like?  NOT attractive!  No one looks good as a fish eye!

And THIS dear friends, is why you want to think about zooming IN, and backing UP, to take a portrait.  Case in point:

This is with a point & shoot camera, zoomed all the way “out”:

NOW, I have to BACK MYSELF UP!!  I’ve got to remember, I don’t have to just move the lens in & out, I can move MYSELF!  As Joey from Blossom would say…”Woah!”  So I back up, and zoom IN all the way, and take the same shot:

I hope you see an immediate difference.  See how big the Munchkin’s nose is in the first shot?  See how her one cheek is overly large compared to the other one?  That’s because it’s distorting her face, just like that viewhole in the door.

Now, if you step back & take a full body shot, distortion becomes a little less obvious, but it’s still there…Zoomed out:

Zoomed in:

I think again, her face looks so much more natural in the “zoomed in” second shot.  Now, this is not to say zooming out and playing with the distortion can’t be fun!  But if you are looking for more attractive portraits of your kids, try this little trick out and report back on what you think!

Now, I want you to go out & try this with your own kids, and remember the adage, “zoom with your feet!”  And of course, you might want to try this outside with good light.  It’s hard to get back far enough to zoom all the way in & still take the photo you want, so give yourself some room & try it out!

Next time, I’ll go further into the other end and talk about “Compression”.  I know.  You are just dying of anticipation.


   I’m a hobbyist photographer who knows her stuff.  I think.

3 thoughts on “ABCs for M-W-A-Cs – Lesson 1: Zoomin’

  1. Yea!!!! I love these photo posts of yours.

    Things I never knew but you better believe from now on I’m zooming in. Thank you!

  2. Pingback: Phonography (Not Pornography). Yet another section in photography. « Euphoric Euphoria by Wan Azhar

  3. Pingback: ABCs for M.W.A.C.s – Lesson 2: Compression « Next Mommy of the Year

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