Wide angle photography can be fun and challenging at the same time. On one hand, it’s great to pull in so much of a scene with a single shot. On the other hand, it can be difficult to produce a well composed photo at such a wide perspective. So I’ve pulled together a few photos and pieces of advice for shooting with wide angle lenses.


For the purpose of this article, we’ll consider anything at or below 30mm (full frame equiv) to be a wide angle.

1. GO VERTICAL

Shooting in a portrait orientation with a wide angle lens can produce wonderful images, even landscapes (which are more commonly shot using landscape orientation). Going vertical allows you to pack a lot of information into the frame, basically from your feet to way up in the sky.

Black's Beach Below, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

Just In Time, by Andreas Manessinger
Photo by Andreas Manessinger
[©]

2. GO HORIZONTAL

Though vertical shots are fun, horizontals will sometimes be better suited for the subject. Evaluate the scene and decide which elements you want to be prominent in the photo.

The Watchman, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

The Place to Be, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

3. EMPHASIZE THE FOREGROUND

Get low or point the camera down to make your foreground the main subject. Since objects in the foreground are much closer than the background, they will appear quite large in comparison. As you get closer to your subject, this emphasis becomes stronger.

Kelp Me, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

The Shell, by Garry
Photo by Garry
[CC by-nc-sa]

4. SHOOT FOR THE SKY

If you have some nice cloud formations, don’t forget to point that lens up at the sky. The wide angle can pull in a huge portion of the sky and make for a great scene.

Wide Open, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

The Barn and the Sky, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

5. PLAY WITH GEOMETRY

Capturing shapes and geometry with wide angles forces you to look at the world a bit differently. Look for large structures containing strong lines or curves, and move around until you find those shapes.

Bridge Over Still Water, by Andreas Manessinger
Photo by Andreas Manessinger
[©]

Hypnosis, by Thomas Hawk
Photo by Thomas Hawk
[CC by-nc]

6. TAKE A PORTRAIT

Wide angle lenses can be used to take portraits, if you’re mindful of the distortions caused by the lens. If you shoot around 30mm (or 20mm for 1.5x crop sensors) and keep your subject near center, the distortion will usually be minimal. On the other hand, you can use very wide angles and get up close to produce a distorted portrait on purpose.

On The Other Side of the Fence, by Brian Auer
Photo by Brian Auer
[CC by-nc-nd]

A cow, by Dave Wild
Photo by Dave Wild
[CC by-nc]

7. TRY A DIFFERENT ANGLE

Wide angle lenses allow you to capture a large scene at very close distances. This means that you can shoot from all sorts of different angles that wouldn’t be possible with normal or telephoto lenses.

Jump out of here! by Stefano Corso
Photo by Stefano Corso
[CC by-nc-nd]

Staircase snail, by Éole Wind
Photo by Éole Wind
[CC by-nc-sa]

8. WATCH THAT DISTORTION

Wide angle lenses are prone to various distortions at extreme focal lengths. You might encounter things like barrel or pincushion distortion, especially at the edges and corners of your frame. If you want to avoid them, keep things like people or buildings away from these areas. But don’t always try to avoid them — use them to your advantage if the subjects are suited for it.

Warp, by Cristian Paul
Photo by Cristian Paul
[CC by-nc-nd]

100: I Need More Sleep, by Josh Hunter
Photo by Josh Hunter
[CC by-nc-nd]

As always, feel free to leave your own tips and/or photos in the comments below. For those of you that shoot wide, what advice do you have for others?

22 responses


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Nice article, man. Not sure what to add… :)

May 9, 2009 9:36 am

I’ve got a wide angle lens coming in the post, so it was great to read this article.

May 10, 2009 2:33 am

Hi Brian, Very giid artcle and great images. Thanks, Kevin

May 11, 2009 7:01 am

hey, I landed here from Digital Pro Talk and these are some great tips. Reminds me that I need to play with my 17-40L more (on full-frame). Looks like a great site all-around also, I’ll be subscribing promptly!

May 11, 2009 11:49 am

I just got my UWA about 3 weeks ago, so all tips are greatly appreciated. I have already found though, that it is a lens that you have to really think about. It takes more effort to use it, but the results can be so different and unusual, that it is totally worth the effort.

May 12, 2009 11:27 am

Shooting wide angles is very hard because you need to check each detail before capturing the right moment. I can see that you really know what your talking about because this pictures are good.

May 14, 2009 1:24 am

Thanks for this. I have been trying the vertical thing alot and seems to be working for me. I think i’m having a hard time determining when it’s appropriate and will enhance an image versus just using it cause it’s cool. I guess either is fine. Your pics are great and the tips are helpful. Thanks!

May 14, 2009 1:41 pm


Those pictures are great, like the shell myself.

May 16, 2009 3:51 pm

Hi Brian.

Very very nice article. Easy to read – and understand. Its my first visit here, and havent read any of your other articles (yet!).

The way you “show the way” with your excelent photos makes it semi-amateur friendly.
As a journalist who also takes quite a lot of pictures I have often thought of using wide angle. But until know I have left it to the pros.. I’m gonna try it out for portrait (like the first photo in your nr. 6 – not the second :) )

Regarding photos like the last one by Josh: I just never understood when and for what these are the best illustration…

May 20, 2009 3:41 am

There are some beautiful images here. Superb examples of how to make the most of w-a lenses.

I notice you referred to a 30mm lens. I’d not have had that down as an ‘extremely wide angle’ lens which is the title of this article. Of course that doesn’t detract at all from the comment you made there.

I really like wide angle photography. It is a shame that because of having to accommodate mirror boxes in SLRs the lenses have to retro-focus making them big and heavy, especially in MF cameras. I prefer rangefinder cameras which allow for purer ‘true’ focal length lenses.

I’d love to get my hands on a Hasselblad SWC.

May 20, 2009 1:22 pm

Well… I had to pick a number for the sake of simplicity and understanding. I shoot a lot with my Sigma 10-20mm lens on my Sony a700, so I figured that what I get at 20mm (30mm equiv) is pretty wide compared to “normal” lenses. It’s definitely not “extremely” wide angle, but it’s still wide.

May 20, 2009 1:36 pm



Thanks Brian for sharing. Will go into my browserFruits tommorow.

May 23, 2009 2:50 am

Hi All

These images are fantastic I love shooting with wide angle and Panoramic styles.

Regards

Chris
Internet For communication
http://www.iforcom-group.com/Blog

May 27, 2009 8:25 am

Thanks for this. I have been trying the vertical thing alot and seems to be working for me. I think i’m having a hard time determining when it’s appropriate and will enhance an image versus just using it cause it’s cool. I guess either is fine. Your pics are great and the tips are helpful. Thanks!

May 28, 2009 4:03 pm

I LOVE shooting wide! I think the Canon 16-35mm is my fav lens. It does have some distortion alon the edges so that’s the only down-side. I used to prefer telephoto but wide angles tell so much more of the story!

September 4, 2009 12:18 pm



great reminders. all of these should be done when you find yourself in a rut. the very act of looking at things differently brings our the best in what you do.

Thx for the article!

February 14, 2011 12:49 pm

I’m getting a canon 17-40 f/4L and was looking around for tips to shoot with wide angle lenses. This blog is awesome. Got quite some useful tips i’m realy going to try and will always consider before going infor a wide shot. Great resource.. Thanks!

March 5, 2011 5:41 am

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