Are you using your zoom lens properly?

Or are you suffering from Zoomlazia?

Zoomlazia – adj; a condition that occurs in photography when using a zoom lens. Instead of composing with a new position, the photographer instead zooms in and out trying to frame the shot. A misuse of zoom lens that results in photographers being rooted to a specific spot.

All the photos in this post are shot with a zoom lens – but you can’t tell! Which is the whole point. If you can see that a photo is shot with a zoom – you’re doing it wrong.

THE CONDITION:

A portfolio from a photographer with Zoomlazia looks like this – lots and lots of photos that are incongruent, like there is something…..missing.

You may recognise this situation: you’re using a zoom, shooting a subject you’re really inspired by, but when you get back to your computer you find a bunch of badly composed images. If that’s happened to you then you are suffering from Zoomlazia!

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This is why it happens: you are taking a shot, you’re framing up your subject with your zoom but it’s not quite right. But instead of moving your position you make the error of zooming. No, no no. Moving is almost always the first thing you do.

Does this happen to you? If so, don’t worry. I am here to cure you of this pesky condition!

Photography is about manifesting your vision (or what many photographers call pre-visualisation). You see it in your head, have a clear image, then you create that image by taking the shot.

A zoom lens can make this harder to do if you misuse it. When you zoom that vision in your head gets erased and is almost always replaced by a lesser image and you find yourself staring at the mediocre photo and thinking: “I thought it was going to be better than that…”

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Over the years I’ve looked at a bunch of portfolios from many different photographers. Once in a while I see one where the TOG is suffering from Zoomlazia – so sad, but curable.

Earlier this year I received a portfolio from a workshop participant of about 15 images. Each image was lacking something; the subject was not obvious or framed well, like it was taken out of context. They all looked like pieces of different puzzles. ‘Random’ comes to mind.

Before I even looked at the kit list he was using I knew there was a very long – well used – zoom in that bag of stuff.  And sure enough, when I looked there it was. All 40-300mm of it. Ouch!

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Don’t get me wrong. I like a zoom lens. But if are going to use one you have to know how to use it properly. Most photographers don’t. Most people try to correct with a different focal length (zooming in and out) and this takes apart that vision in your head. And this is how you end up with a lesser image.

My recommendation to this person was to leave the zoom at home (he had a severe case of Zoomlazia!) and get a fixed focal length lens of about 50mm, which he did (35mm actually). The transformation was instant.

On my workshop he was then able to more accurately capture what he had envisioned by the simple act of moving around instead of zooming to frame. his images were more congruent, better framed and more intimate. He would come up to me to show me his latest shot then run off in sheer joy to make another. It was a great feeling for me to have helped this person by suggesting a minor change in their technique and seeing instant results for them.

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I’m not saying you should go out and buy a fixed lens, just be aware of Zoomlazia if you have zooms in your bag.

Now to….

THE CURE

What I want you to practice from now on is move your position when you have the picture in your head. Don’t use your zoom to bring your subject to you instead of you going to your subject!  When you have the vision formed KEEP IT AT THE SAME FOCAL LENGTH!

Move around. Don’t twist back and forth looking for the correct framing. It’s unlikely you will get you what you want. If it’s not working after moving, THEN change focal length, lock it, and try again. Always try to keep one focal length in mind at a time.

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I hope this helps you have a better understanding of how to properly use a zoom lens.

As always I’d love to know if this assisted you in your photography. Please comment on my blog below. I love hearing from you. And of course if you know people who love photography, I’d love you to share this with them.

(+ You can read more about getting into the perfect position for your shot on my post earlier this year about finding the perfect angle.)

Have an awesome week and happy photographing!

Anthony

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