Watch: How to Capture Different Emotions with Different Lenses

There's no such thing as the "right" lens, just the "right" lens for your story.

Your job as a filmmaker is not just to capture images that are beautiful, but to capture images that tell stories. There are many ways to do this through composition, color, and camera movement, but what about lenses? What kinds of lenses should you use to evoke certain emotional responses?

In this video, Matti Haapoja of Travel Feels explains how different lenses inspire different emotions in audiences and how you can use them to tell better stories.

Before you ever choose which lenses you're going to use for a scene you're should always ask yourself this question first: "What mood and/or emotion am I trying to create?" Once you nail that down, it's just a matter of understanding how different lenses change the relationship between the subject and the background, as well as which lenses produce which feelings and tones.

Wide angle lenses are great for many different kinds of scenes. Not only do they make us feel "closer" to a subject, almost like we're there in the scene with them, but their natural distortion of the subject works well for scenes depicting drunkenness, madness, and fear.

Telephoto lenses tend to give a more withdrawn feeling from the subject because the subject feels further away in the frame, which means they're great for creating an observational perspective. You're not putting your audience right in the scene with the subject or putting them into a surveilling POV; you're putting them somewhere in the middle where they are simply spectators watching the events unfold.

More neutral lenses, like 24mm, 30mm, and 50mm work well if you want to keep your point of view objective and natural. (24mm is slightly wide-angle, so just keep that in mind.)

But it's not just about focal length. Your camera's distance from the subject, as well as foreground elements can change the way your audience responds emotionally to a shot pretty easily. An objective, observational shot with an 200mm lens can quickly become a creepy, voyeuristic POV just by simply putting a tree, a door, or a window between the camera and the subject or by capturing the scene from further away.

What kinds of lenses do you use for different scenes? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment


This subject always fascinates me. My favorite focal length, on super 35 or apsc, is 24mm. It just feels right for most everything. I say this as a master of cinematography...hahaha NOT! But seriously, I like 24.

June 17, 2017 at 4:15PM


If I understood correctly, I think this is also the focal length of an iPhone camera. Some cinematographer at cinesummet 2017 talked about shooting almost everything on 24mm, because most people experience a lot of their life through their smartphone. To them this focal length would seem more real. But I don't know if you he meant shooting on full frame or super 35, that wasn't clear to me.

June 19, 2017 at 6:51AM

Auke-Jan Weening

I think 24-26 was popular with great cinematographers long before smart phones. Also, I hate the look of small sensor smart phones. So I can say, personally, that is not the reason I like 24mm. Haha.

June 19, 2017 at 2:00PM


Cut the crap, I know you know which lens is the best. You know what I'm talking about.

June 22, 2017 at 8:59AM

Scott Youngblood
Sr. Multimedia Developer