There’s just something about wide angle lens photography that lends itself to popping images that grab onto the imagination and drag the viewer deep into the emotion of the subject. If you have a large sprawling landscape that you want to capture, there are few better ways to do it than with a wide angle lens.
Because of its shape and focal length, it carries with it the ability to greatly exaggerate the foreground and bring it out in breath taking detail that can’t be achieved with any other method. Naturally there are downsides that come along with everything that you’re gaining, so let’s take a look and help you on your way to bringing your images to the next level.
Getting it all in
One of the most common uses for a wide angle lens is simply to capture as much as possible in a single image. If you go out in to the field with nothing but a 70-200mm lens, then chances are that you’re going to be missing out on a lot of the scenery simply because of its size and shape and that’s exactly where a wide angle comes in, but extreme care should still be taken when using one.
Since the foreground is going to be made bigger, the background will naturally lose some of its stature and focus. Take, for instance, an image of the countryside complete with a vivid sky. It’s a natural assumption that a wide angle lens would be perfect for getting everything in the scene, but chances are that you’re just going to end up with a whole lot of empty negative space and a pretty view of the ground.
When you decide to use your wide angle lens photography equipment, make sure that the image is going to lend itself well to the environment. This means waiting until there’s enough going on in front of you to trip the shutter.
You want just as much going on above you and below to come back with a balanced photograph that holds your attention and gives you a reason to look at it. While you might be able to get away with a simple blue sky and rolling hills with other lens types, that sort of thing is going to work against you here.
Save your wide angle lens for dawn or sunset when the sky ignites in shades of red, orange and yellow that bathes the clouds in color and you’ll be very happy with the results.
Get up close and personal
One of the biggest tips that can be offered to someone who’s just starting out with wide angle lens photography is simply to get as close to your subject as you possibly can. The lens has a way of blowing up whatever happens to be closest to it and that’s where it really shines.
Whether it’s a tree, a car or a person, if you’re right in front of them, you’ll enhance their importance in the image to the point where the background isn’t much more than a secondary point of interest.
This can be a great way to play around with negative space and learn how to make it work for you. With such an imposing subject, what behind it can be nothing more than an overcast sky and you’ll still have an amazing photograph in your hand.
It will take some practice to basically do something that you’ve been training yourself not to do since you first picked up camera, but once you know why you shouldn’t do it, you’ll be able figure out ways to manipulate your perspective and make it work for you.
Keep it level
Due to the very nature of the distortion effects of a wide angle lens, you should always keep it level with the subject until you’re comfortable enough to play around with it. The shape of the lens has a tendency to bend anything at its edges, especially if they happen to be straight lines.
This gives a sense of everything leaning into the frame in a fisheye effect that can be extremely distracting and take away from the overall composition that you worked so hard to find. The best way to avoid this is simply to keep the camera level to cut down on the effect.
Of course, all rules are made to be broken and angling your camera up can emphasize the sky, resulting in clouds that lean into the image and seem to encompass your subject. At the end of the day, it’s a great lens to experiment with and your wide angle lens photography skills can do nothing but improve over time.
Every mistake has the potential to uncover a gorgeous image that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen and that’s really what photography is all about.