Put simply, a wide-angle lens is any camera lens that has a short focal length with a wide field of view. Used to capture a greater angle of view on even the best digital cameras, it’s a popular choice among landscape photographers and others to get extremely close to their subject without losing too many scene elements. So, if you’re looking to expand your photographic skills by learning how to shoot a wide-angle lens with a digital camera, you’ve come to the right place.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • In photography, a wide-angle lens is any lens that has a short focal length with a wide field of view for a given field plane.
  • Use a wide-angle lens when you want to capture a lot of detail in a scene.
  • Wide-angle lenses are great for shooting a wide variety of subjects, including street and landscape photography.

Tips on How to Use Wide-Angle Lenses

Because wide-angle lenses produce an exaggerated view of your chosen scene, it’s easy to make mistakes when taking pictures with one. That said, if you just keep in mind a few photography basics below, you’ll soon realize that using your wide-angle lens is just as easy as learning how to stop motion blur on a digital camera.

Understand How to Use or Avoid Distortion

One of the first things you’ll notice is that, similar to a fisheye lens, a wide-angle lens creates distortion around the edges of the frame. Depending on how you hold the camera, there are two types of distortion you’ll find.

The first kind of lens distortion enhances perspective by making objects closer to the lens appear larger than they really are, while objects that are further away will appear smaller, even if they’re the exact same size. What this means is that you can choose which element to emphasize and by how much simply by moving it closer to or further away from the lens.

The second kind, known as barrel distortion, makes objects appear as if they’re leaning towards or away from the center of the image. If you angle the camera upwards, objects will lean towards the center, while angling the lens downwards will make them lean out from the center.

While distortion can be an artistic choice, if you simply want to include a lot of detail in your image without distortion, keep your camera leveled perpendicular to the horizon. Otherwise, if you tilt it at too far an angle either upward or downward, you’ll see the characteristic distortion around the edges of your photo. It’s also possible to correct barrel distortion in editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Choose a Clear Subject

Part of the beauty of a wide-angle lens is its ability to make a subject stand out in an image. Choosing a clear subject and getting in close and tight will add depth and interest to your photo. The wide-angle lens’s exaggerated sense of scale creates lines within the image that will lead the viewer’s eye through your composition. Otherwise, if everything in the frame is the same distance from the lens, the viewer won’t know what to look at.

If you know how to set aperture on your digital camera, you can also use this to your advantage. Using a wider aperture like f2.8 or f4 will further separate your subject from the background (which is incredibly useful if the background is rather boring), thus enhancing any desired stylistic effects of the distortion.

Use the Sky and Foreground to Your Advantage

The rule of thirds is incredibly useful when shooting with a wide-angle lens. If you have an interesting foreground and a beautiful sky, fill about a third of your frame with the sky to create an extraordinary sense of depth.

Shoot Low and Vertical

Don’t be afraid to get close to the ground and shoot low. Thanks to the wide-angle lenses’ extreme sense of width, including a lot of the foreground and allowing it to lead the viewer’s eye to the horizon can result in beautifully dramatic scenes. You can also get some stunning results by shooting vertically, either looking down from atop tall buildings or using a floor-to-sky perspective.

Insider Tip

When composing your image, make sure to pay close attention to the corners of the frame, as this is where the most distortion occurs with a wide-angle lens.

F.A.Q.

What is a Wide-Angle Lens?

A wide-angle lens is any lens that has a short focal length with a wide field of view. It allows a photographer to capture more of the scene than can be achieved with a standard lens. This makes it popular for landscape, street, or architectural photography.


What does a Wide-Angle Lens do?

A wide-angle lens distorts subjects and enhances the perspective. Objects that are closer to the lens will appear larger than those that are further away regardless of their actual size. By angling the camera up or down, you can also make objects either lean toward the center of the image or away from it, respectively.


How do you use wide-angle correctly?

To be successful in using a wide-angle lens, you just need to understand how and when to use its distortion properties to your advantage.


How do you use an ultra-wide-angle lens?

Ultra-wide angle lenses exaggerate the size of the objects in the foreground compared to the background. Therefore, users can get closer to the primary subject and enhance its appearance relative to its surroundings.


STAT: According to surveys, the U.S digital camera segment amounts to $1,251 million in 2021. The market is expected to increase annually by 4.63% between 2021 and 2025 (source)

Lawrence Bonk

Lawrence Bonk is a copywriter with a decade of experience in the tech space, with columns appearing in Engadget, Huffington Post and CBS, among others. He has a cat named Cinnamon.

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