View Full Version : Tips on using wide-angle lenses.

05-16-2007, 01:51 PM
I'm terrible with wide-angle lenses. When i am in a beautiful location I have a hard time relating that feeling onto film. I once asked a notable photographer for advice and he replied that i need to use a wider lens. Somehow i just didnt think that was the case. Can you guys offer any advice?

05-16-2007, 02:13 PM
Get low, and use a wide angle lens to present relationships.

Near/far compositions are easier with WA lenses due to the increased depth of field (shorter focal length, more DOF). You can also exaggerate elements in the photograph with a WA lens - again, near/far compositions. Having a near/far relationship will also introduce a sense of depth into your photographs.

Your best bet is to just play around with a WA lens - either borrow one, or purchase one. Then have at it!

05-16-2007, 02:22 PM
I never managed to make a good WA picture - until I started with large format. Somehow the large ground glass and the big film came together, so much that I now find myself using WA lenses about 80% of the time!

Steve Smith
05-16-2007, 02:22 PM
I am quite often disappointed with my pictures using wide angles. I think the more successful images have something in the foreground, middle and distance.

When looking through the viewfinder it is easy to concentrate on the middle and distance but the foreground gets forgotten.


Sirius Glass
05-16-2007, 02:31 PM
I find that it can be important to have an object near field to get a good/great wide angle shot. Examples:
the object [no, I do not know the name] that a ship ties up to, from just inches away, showing the lines leading to the bow

sage brush in the foreground for red rock in Arches National Park or Moab

see my avitar of Niagara falls to the left of this posting

General panoramas in 135 tend to show little detail and get boring real fast.

Try it! You will like it!


05-16-2007, 04:03 PM
It helps if you think of wide angle lenses as exaggerated perspective lenses.

I usually don't use them just to get everything in the photograph. You can often do that by just moving back with your standard lens.

Instead, use them to permit getting closer, while still getting the whole scene in.

Wherever possible, I try to use a lens for the purpose of choosing perspective (which is determined by camera to subject distance), rather than field of view.

Take a look at the "colour in winter" photograph in my APUG gallery for an example - that was shot on 35mm using a 24mm lens because it permitted me to get close to the bridge, and emphasize its depth.

Hope this helps.


05-16-2007, 04:15 PM
My most successful wide-angle pictures are ones where I have something both near and far. Wide angles exaggerate the perspective and apparently magnify the distance between the objects (or the object and the horizon; a strong horizon can be the far "object").

Don't be afraid to get close to the ground. Wides seem to work well when you shoot from a low perspective.

Mount a 28 and shoot an entire roll with it. Force yourself to use it. Experiment and see what you get!

05-17-2007, 06:29 AM
It would depend on how wide and what the subject is and your desired goal. Have you tried putting the lens on and using it exclusively for a short period instead of using it when you think you need it? I have a 55mm wide angle for my 645 and use it rarely. When I need it I know it, meaning it's the only coverage that will yield the image I need. Sometimes a "normal" lens just won't do. It's a tool in your kit that takes practice in its application.

Good Luck,

05-17-2007, 07:08 AM
I use WA's alot doing wet belly photography. get in close and down low.
When it goes wrong its mostly because of a cluttered background or opjects you didn't notice doing the shot. I also did some frog perspective flowershots lying on my back using a 20mm.

05-17-2007, 08:09 AM
One advantage wide angle lenses yield is bringing things into relation over a wide angle of view. For instance something real near and at the real edge of the picture and the rest of the image filled with the rest far away. (Not exactly the golden rule…)
Small angle lenses in contrast give you the chance to relate things to each other which are staggered behind each other (compression effect). But here there could arouse the problem of out-focus blurring of one of the objects. For this technique you should be far off to all of the objects.

Tom Stanworth
05-17-2007, 09:00 AM
Use them sparingly and when you want to either exagerate realtionships or fit in a wide angle of view. The wide angle is not a universal solution. Look thru the notes of many famous landscape photographers and it becomes obvious. It can be a bit of an easy route to achieving 'drama' and I for one am using them less than I used to. In 35mm terms, I use a 28 a lot a 35 quite a bit and the lenses up from that a little less when doing landscapes. I rarely need anything wide but occassionally do...sometimes a lot wider. A 28 however serves the majority of my wide angle needs with amoderate wide the 35 coming close behind. I suppose it depends on what you consider to be wide! I have some 21mm equiv lenses but have never really gone wider hn that.

Jim Jones
05-17-2007, 09:43 AM
A WA image seems to draw the viewer into the picture. NGS photographers make good use of this to get the reader involved in the story. A telephoto shot of the same subject framed much the same feels more aloof and analytical. Perhaps one's preference is based more on one's personality (extrovert or introvert) than on the intrinsic characteristics of the photo.

05-17-2007, 11:31 AM
This introvert vs. extrovert aspect on choosing angles of view is new to me. Intriguing.

05-17-2007, 11:44 AM
Well I'm off to the redwoods with my family tomorrow. I'll have to use the most of my 90mm and 65mm lenses (on 4x5).
Thanks for the advice i will do my best.

05-17-2007, 08:05 PM
HCB said that the 28mm was too "shrill."

Wrong as usual, it's exactly the right level of shrillness.

GW, American Legion. 28mm.

Here's the deal about wide-angle lenses -- they usually cover a larger area than you can see in a single direct gaze. That is, they simultaneously integrate a region of the visual field that you would need to move your eyes back and forth to see (or look through the finder).

My rules of thumb: 50mm: one eye open, straight ahead 35mm: two eyes open, straight ahead 28 and down: outside the scope of "natural" vision

I often find it useful, when shooting with the 28, to simply let go of specific attention and focus, to walk in a sort of wide-angle swoon. Especially through dense crowds.

Richard Mendales
05-17-2007, 08:52 PM
Moderate wide angles are extremely useful for grab shots--especially fast 35mm. lenses in the 35mm. format. As your angle of view gets wider, it becomes more difficult to take pictures of people, but the lenses become more helpful for specialized purposes such as architectural photography. I find it takes more time to visualize a picture using wider wide angles, so it pays to put the camera on a tripod and take more time with each shot. As your lenses get wider, the effect of any slight tilt will be exaggerated, so it helps to use a spirit level. I think that one of the reasons why larger formats are more helpful in taking wider angles is that they require you to slow down and take more effort in visualizing before you take the picture. Of course, the larger formats also let you crop more easily, which can save some shots that might otherwise be circular filed.

Tom Hoskinson
05-18-2007, 02:42 AM
With my 8x10, my favorite WA lens is the 150mm Schneider Super-Symmar XL.

For 4x5 it's the 55mm Apo Grandagon and the 47mm Super Angulon.

For 35mm it's the 21mm Zeiss Biogon.

For 6x6, the 38mm Zeiss Biogon.