I’ve been covering lens characteristics and the “usual” subjects for which they are used. This week, we arrive at the wide angle lenses. For SLRs, the wide angle focal length range is 35mm or smaller. Wide angle lenses are often used for landscapes, but they have many other uses. Their wide angle of view exaggerates both the relative size and distance when comparing near and far objects. By your position to the subject you can affect how much exaggeration occurs. With a little practice, you can anticipate how much of this effect you want in your photos and how to minimize it if you don’t want to see it.
With the wider fields of view (smaller focal length), you can get distortions within your photo – especially when you have lines near the edge of the frame. This distortion can cause unhappy results in photos with people, but can work nicely with buildings. The photo may not look like your eyes would see the scene, but the distortion may be fun to incorporate into your photo and can convey the feeling you got when you were there.
There are tools in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Aperture to help remove much of the distortion of these lenses. You decide how you want to proceed. This photo was corrected in Lightroom, using the organic lens profiles in the Develop module. In latest version of Photoshop, you would use the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter.
As I said earlier, if you learn how your lens impacts the photos, you can still get it right in the camera, even when shooting people. In this photo, I kept the subject away from the edges and kept enough distance that any distortions are not obvious to the viewer’s eye.
High quality wide angle lenses can be an expensive option; I always recommend renting the lens before you break open the piggy bank. I rented my 16-35mm twice before I finally bought it. I considered buying a prime lens, but I don’t use wide angle as much as telephoto, so I opted for the zoom. I’m still happy with my choice two years later.
Wide angles are a great addition to your kit. If you’re a landscape photographer, most would call them mandatory. Their interesting characteristics may be just the fun you’re looking for.
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