What You Need to Know About Wide Angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses are a key part of every landscape photographer’s kit; they can produce some amazing vistas and sweeping scenes, but learning to use them can be a bit tricky. In the video below, techie Linus Sebastian spells out as quickly as possible just what a wide angle lens is and how best to use them:

Wide angle lenses are defined by their focal length, which is generally less than 35mm. This short focal length allows the lens to bring everything that your camera sees into focus very quickly, providing a long depth of focus and wide, expansive views (which is what makes them a “must have” for landscape photography). They also make things that are close to you seem large, while making things far away look, well, much smaller and farther away. This difference in relative size is great for when you’re wanting to add emphasis and detail to foreground objects, while still capturing expansive backgrounds. On top of this, wide angle lenses are ideal when taking pictures of large things in small places and/or for making rooms look more spacious than they are:

Casino photo taken with a wide angle lens

But as Sebastian says, there are some challenges to working with wide angle lenses—particularly that of distortion. Shooting too close to a person can throw their nose, head, or other features greatly out of proportion. Wide angle lenses can also provide a fish-eye effect that, while often desired, is not always what the photographer is going for.

Key Tips for Shooting With Wide Angle Lenses

  1. If you’re trying to add emphasis to foreground objects while capturing an expansive background, get as close as possible to the nearest subject in the scene.
  2. In landscapes and architecture, make sure to point your camera at the horizon to avoid converging verticals (otherwise be super aware of how these will impact your overall image).
  3. Keeping your camera level is also important when shooting portraits, unless you’re really looking for a distorted outcome.
  4. Be careful when using polarized filters with your wide lenses. Because the wide angle lens is capturing so much of the scene, it can cause disparities in color and cast across a wide scene (particularly in the sky).
  5. It’s often helpful to include some foreground elements in your composition. Without this your shot might look overly busy and not draw the viewer’s eye into the photo.

Keeping these tips in mind, with any luck (and a lot of practice), your wide angle lens will add some breathtaking shots to your portfolio.

How wide angle lenses work

What other things have you used your wide angle lens for? Anything not listed here or in the video?

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