Learn About Cinematography – How to Choose Camera Lenses

Posted on: by Michael Tringe

Have you ever wondered which lens to choose to make your scene work?  Welcome to Lesson Two: How to Choose Camera Lenses, from our cinematography course “How to Become a Cinematographer” by Andrew Russo, USC MFA.

CHAPTER 2: Camera

Lesson 2: Choosing Lenses

Click below to watch Andrew’s full course.

Watch Andrew’s Cinematography Course

  • Lens types: wide, normal, and long

You may have noticed when you’re watching a movie or web series (or you may not have) that your field of view (how much you can see in the frame) is sometimes bigger than other times. That’s because the director or cinematographer has chosen a lens that fits the story.

Wide Lens Characteristics

  • Wide lens: gives a wider view
  • Wide lens: creates depth
  • Wide lens: can create an intimate feeling close up
  • Wide lens: can highlight a power differences between characters

Wide lenses are great for making the world of your story feel big and deep.

Normal Lens Characteristics

  • Normal lens: gives a narrow view
  • Normal lens: feels real
  • Normal lens: allows subjects to feel more proportionally sized

Normal lenses work well for dramas or situations where you want the scenes to feel “real.”

Telephoto Lens Characteristics

  • Telephoto lens: gives a narrow view
  • Telephoto lens: creates compression
  • Telephoto lens: creates distance from subject
  • Telephoto lens: creates a benign feel to relationship between subjects

Telephoto lenses feel flatter and not as intimate.

All CreatorUp courses come with a handy dandy “To Do” item to get you one step closer to being good at something: in this case, cinematography. So whether you’re taking this course as a camera operator, director, actor, photographer, or just someone who wants to learn about this stuff – do the “To Do” item to get better.


Choose Lenses to Shoot a Scene or Video

If you missed last week’s free lesson on “Lens Language” you can still check it out:

Chapter 1, Lesson 1: Lens Langauge

If you enjoyed this chapter, click below to watch Andrew’s full course.

Watch Andrew’s Cinematography Course

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Written by Michael Tringe

Mike Tringe earned his MFA in Film Production from USC and has worked at Creative Artists Agency Film Sales (Paranormal Activity, Black Swan), Vuguru, Michael Eisner's multi-platform studio, (The Booth at the End (Hulu), Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Snag), Little Women Big Cars (AOL), and Blip Networks (300 million monthly views, Smosh, Annoying Orange, Nostalgia Critic).

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