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Tips for Using a Wide Angle Lens in Your Photography

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Shawn S. Lealos•updated: 6/29/2011

Different types of lens lengths can really change both what the image will appear as and how you will be able to capture it. Here is a tutorial outlining how to work with a wide angle in your standard DSLR photography.

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    Angle Time

    DSLR photography finds part of its foundation in the use of a variety of lenses, which provide the perspective of the image in relation to the camera. Changing lenses will change the perspective of the image, how far you can be from the image, and what is necessary to get the image you want. Wide angle photography uses shorter lenses to create a specific aesthetic quality. Here is a look at this style, how to compose images through it, and how to deal with some of the problems that can occur.

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    Close Up The principle thing that has to be considered with wide angle photography is that it is going to distort the image, which is most obvious around the outside of the image. It will actually distort the entire image, yet it is only most obvious around the edges of the image. The shorter the lens is in millimeters the more distorted the image will end up being, so the smaller number is going to indicate the more dramatic the distortion will actually be.

    What you have to consider is first how much distortion is tolerable. If you want to get a very strait image you are going to have difficulty with a short wide angle lens, such as an 18 mm. If you want a traditional portrait, or representation of an image, you will need to avoid wide angle because the image will be stylized and will not come out as plainly as you may want it. The features of the subject will end up distorted and this will remain incredibly obvious because of people’s natural expectations of what a face should appear as.

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    Getting Close

    The second thing you want to consider about this distortion is that it should find a purpose rather than just be used as a style in and of itself. Since wide angle lenses are not used regularly, many people assume it has artistic merit on its own. This is untrue as it actually negatively affects traditional logic of framing, lighting, and image presentation. If you do intend to use a wide angle lens make sure that you consider the distortion as an intended element and find a practical use for it.

    Wide angle photography presents you with a lot of photographic benefits that more standard lenses will not allow. The primary element of this is so that you can physically get close to the subjects rather than staying far away and less involved. Photojournalism has utilized this method a great deal because it forces intimacy between the photographer and the subject and makes them become physically involved at some level. Like with any photography choices, this has a creative element to it and getting into the subject as close as you can is going to be one of the main inspirations for the use of the wide angle. When you are working with images, start by getting in close to them and see how the images come out. If you are forced further away from them, then you should consider going to a longer lens rather than forcing the wide angel through its distortion.

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    See the Light

    Light is always an issue on a DSLR camera, and you are always going to have to alter the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in an effort to get Wide Angle Beach Boardwalk the proper exposure. Wide angle does not affect shutter speed that dramatically except in that you are much closer to the image. This may make the ability for motion blur more of an issue; so going above 1/60 shutter speed is a good idea.

    What will affect this more is the adjustment of the aperture, as you want to have a somewhat smaller iris so that you have a better depth of field and you reduce the chance of having out of focus areas. This can actually present a problem since you want to raise your shutter speed, darkening the image, and lowering the aperture setting, which does this as well. In an effort to reconcile this you can raise your ISO, which will add a great deal of grain to the image, or you can actually use more on set light on your image. This is actually not that practical in most wide angle situations as you will be close to the image and it may be in an uncontrolled situation. This simply means that the best situations for wide angle photography, from a technical standpoint, are going to be in bright daylight situations.

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    Close Up

    Wide Angle Beach Boardwalk

    Source: Author's Own Experience