Whether you photograph landscapes, people, travel, macro or anything else, one way to take your image making to the next level is to attach a wide-angle lens to your camera. The world of wide angle to which I refer is 24mm and shorter based on a full-frame sensor. If you own a crop sensor SLR, reduce the focal length to 18mm. These lenses provide a wider-angle perspective. In this world of wide angle, there are many advantages and a few pitfalls. I share with you four that I call, “GET IT / ALERT / CAUTION / TIGHTEN UP.”
GET IT: Depth of Field - Inherent in a wide-angle lens is greater depth of field. This allows the photographer to get everything from the foreground to the farthest point in the background in focus. If you shoot in low light, even with wide apertures, these ultra wides provide enough depth of field to get close objects out to infinity all in focus. Given enough light to stop down to ƒ16, many will provide the ability to focus within a foot of the film plane out to infinity.
ALERT: In Your Face Foreground - When I teach a workshop and bring participants to a location where the beauty starts at our feet and runs as far as the eye can see, I have them get down low. This is the first step in producing what I call an “in your face foreground” shot. I want to create a photo where the foreground element is so close to the camera, it’s “in my face.” This creates a dominant foreground, which contributes to a great scenic. The next part of the equation is to have a strong midground. Finally, the composition needs to end with a strong background. As I stated above, wide-angle lenses provide a lot of depth of field. Include a strong foreground element, stop the lens down to ƒ22 and set the focus point to the hyper focal distance. Everything in the composition will be in focus.
CAUTION: Filter Vignetting - As its name implies, a wide-angle lens has a wide field of view. With this in mind, if you add more than one filter, it begins to “see” the filter ring and puts dark corners in your image, otherwise known as vignetting. The more you stop down the lens, the more vignetting. It’s important to limit the number of filters you attach to a wide angle. So much so, even a single filter with a thick ring can produce vignetting. Thin mount filters are available, but cost a bit more.
TIGHTEN UP: Close Quarters Shooting - Wide angle lenses are synonymous with shooting in cramped spaces. They allow you to include everything in the composition. The wider the lens, the greater the picture area. When I used to photograph weddings, most of my reception shots were made with a wide angle. As I had to work in and amongst crowds, in order to get close to my subjects and include a lot of picture area, the use of the wide angle was indispensable.