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Top Reasons to Choose a Wide Angle Lens

Are you looking to take your wide angle photography to the next level? 

You’ve come to the right place. 

Because in this article, I’m going to share 11 tips, tricks, and secrets for stunning wide angle photos. 

(You’ll leave knowing how to shoot wide-angle shots like a pro!)

Let’s get started.

1. Use Leading Lines to Draw the Viewer Into the Scene

Wide-angle lenses are uniquely powerful.

Why?

Because they give an expansive field of view. They make people feel like they’re in the scene.

And if you want to accentuate this effect further, you should use leading lines

Leading lines refer to lines that lead the viewer throughout the scene. They often start at the bottom of the frame, then lead the viewer toward the background. 

Like this:

Now, you can find leading lines pretty much everywhere you go. Common leading lines include roads, bridges, rivers, and fallen logs. 

And they’re a fantastic way of pulling your viewer straight into the shot. 

When combined with a wide-angle lens, they’re unstoppable!

2. Use a Near-Far Composition Technique for Stunning Landscapes

Photography is a two-dimensional medium. 

But the best photos are often those that can create depth. They make a scene feel three-dimensional, not two-dimensional.

Now, telephoto lenses are pretty bad at creating scenes with depth.

But wide-angle lenses let you create depth – if you know what to do.

And that’s where this tip comes in handy. 

See, near-far composition is a technique that landscape photographers use all the time to create depth in their photos.  

And it’s really, really simple.

Here’s how it works:

First, find a background that you like (such as a stunning sky, or a mountain, or a forest).

Then hunt around until you find a stunning (and complementary) foreground element, such as a rock, or some flowers, or some grass. 

By positioning the foreground element low in the frame and the background high in the frame, you’ll create a tremendous amount of depth. The foreground element will feel like you can touch it – and the background element will feel far in the distance. 

And the whole shot will look gorgeous!

Like this:

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3. Shoot a Panorama to Capture Everything

Wide angle photography often involves photographing vast, sweeping scenes. 

But sometimes…

Sometimes, even the widest lenses don’t offer quite enough space. 

That’s where panorama techniques come in handy. 

Simply put your camera on a tripod

(If possible, mount it vertically.)

Then take several shots as you gradually rotate your camera’s position. Make sure you maintain the same camera settings as you adjust your camera. And make sure you include a significant overlap between shots. 

Once you’re done, you can take your images and import them into a program such as Photoshop. 

And you can stitch them together for one stunning, ultra-wide shot!

4. Go Minimalist for a Beautifully Empty Shot

While wide-angle photography often involves packing everything in a single frame, sometimes it’s better to include as little as possible.

I’m talking about photographic minimalism, which is a compositional style that emphasizes nothingness. 

For instance, here’s a minimalist photo:

And here’s another:

As you can see, minimalist photography includes very little actual detail. The compositions are filled by emptiness (also known as negative space). 

Though by including all this negative space, the main subject – the positive space in the image – looks especially powerful. 

Now, you can create minimalist compositions with any type of lens. 

But a wide-angle lens can give you a very unique perspective, because it’ll minimize distant objects and make them seem further away. Plus, it’ll allow you to include plenty of negative space around nearby subjects (e.g., a tree against the sky). 

So you can point your lens at a single element on the horizon, keep plenty of sky in the shot, and fire away!

5. Juxtapose Foreground and Background Elements for Interesting Contrast

If you want to create complex photos that make the viewer really think, then I highly recommend you work on your juxtaposition – where you include at least one clear foreground element and one clear background element that play off one another, like this:

Juxtaposition is a powerful photographic technique, and you can contrast plenty of different subjects. For instance, you might contrast colors (blue and yellow), or tones (light and dark), or content (a person looking sad with a happy billboard in the background). 

These shots are tough to get without a wide-angle lens, because they require an ultra-broad field of view.

But with a decently-wide lens, you can shoot juxtaposition-type compositions all day. 

And note that you can use juxtaposition in all sorts of genres. For instance, you can juxtapose foreground structures with background buildings in architectural photography. You can juxtapose foreground dirt with background trees in landscape photography. And you can juxtapose people with buildings in street photography. 

Cool, right? 

6. Shoot Buildings From Below for a Classic City Shot

Here’s a quick wide-angle photography tip that you’ll love, especially if you frequently shoot in interesting cities. 

Find a few tall buildings that sit side by side. 

Zoom out your lens to its widest setting.

And shoot upward!

You’ll end up with a result like this one:

Where the buildings seem to fall inward, thanks to wide-angle perspective distortion.

Plus, you can use long exposures to create wispy, stretchy clouds above the buildings…

Or you can use the buildings to create an interesting frame around the sky.

Note that you will need relatively tall buildings for this tip, so you’ll want to shoot in a big city with genuine skyscrapers. 

Another piece of advice:

Try this tip in all sorts of weather. 

You see, you can get ultra-powerful photos in the rain, snow, or even fog (and shooting upward at the tops of foggy buildings is incredibly fun!).

7. Shoot in Cramped Surroundings to Create Volume

Wide-angle lenses let you portray an entire scene without any cropping. 

And this is a fact you can use for unique results. 

First, find a cramped area, such as the corner of a room.

And make sure the surroundings really open up – like a door frame opens into a vaulted church, or an overhang opens into a stunning landscape. 

Then incorporate the nearby surroundings into the frame, so you get a shot that leads out from the cramped area and into the space. 

This will create a very unique perspective, like this:

And as with the near-far composition technique, it’ll create plenty of depth.

Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate lots of foreground – as you now know, a foreground subject enhances depth and also adds interest, especially if it’s properly juxtaposed with the background. 

Note that you’ll often want to follow this next tip if you’re after a sharp photo:

8. Use a Narrow Aperture to Keep Everything in Focus

A lens’s aperture is a diaphragm that opens and closes. 

And by closing down the aperture – that is, by narrowing it – you can increase the amount of the scene that’s in focus (known as the depth of field).

With a narrow aperture, you can create a shot like this one, which is sharp from front to back:

And with a wide aperture, you’ll create a shot like this one, which is only sharp right around the main subject:

Now, wide-angle lenses generally offer a lot of depth of field. 

But if you want a shot that’s sharp from the nearest foreground element to the most distant background element, then you’ll want to pay close attention to your aperture settings. 

In general, if your scene has a near foreground element, you’ll want to use an aperture of at least f/11 to keep the entire shot sharp. 

And in some cases you’ll need to go further than this, narrowing the aperture to f/13 or even f/16. 

(In cases where f/16 isn’t enough, you can always use a focus-stacking technique to create several photos and blend them together later in post-processing.)

If you’re confused by all these aperture numbers, don’t worry; just know that higher numbers correspond to narrower apertures. 

So a number such as f/16 will give you an especially deep depth of field, whereas a number such as f/2.8 will give you a very shallow depth of field.

Make sense?

When you’re out shooting and you want your scene sharp throughout, I recommend shooting at f/8 or so, then previewing the shot on your camera’s LCD. Note the sharpness at the extreme ends – both in the foreground and in the background. How does the shot look? 

If the entire image is sharp, that’s great, and you’re done!

But if not, you can increase the aperture number to f/11, try again, and review that shot. 

After a few rounds of this, you’ll hopefully end up with an acceptably sharp shot!

9. Get Down Low for a Shocking Foreground

Wide-angle lenses make the foreground prominent and the background recede. 

So if you want to create a very cool look…

…then get down low. 

It’ll cause the foreground to loom large in your shot, like this:

Which will really hit the viewer hard. 

Plus, it offers a unique perspective!

Also nice about the low perspective is the way it makes the viewer feel like they’re looking up at something. You can make natural features (such as trees) seem huge. And even dogs can seem big when photographed from below with a wide-angle lens!

Really, I recommend trying out a low perspective whenever you get the chance. Assuming there’s an interesting foreground element, you’ll often come away with a unique shot, one that has the potential to make your viewers’ jaws drop. 

Do make sure your aperture is narrow enough, though – as I explained in the previous tip, if you don’t use a narrow aperture, you’ll struggle to keep the shot sharp. And with a low perspective and a prominent foreground element, keeping the aperture stopped down is critical.

10. Point Your Lens Down Long Corridors for a “Tunnel” Shot

This is another classic shot, and one that everyone should try for themselves. 

It’s dead easy, too.

You just have to find an area with long corridors. This could be a tunnel, or a row of shops, or a stretch of buildings, or a long hall.

Then stand at the start of the corridor, and point your camera down it.

If your lens is sufficiently wide, you’ll capture some stunning converging lines, as the corridor walls come to a point at the end of the scene, like this:

It’s another fantastic way to create depth. 

Also, if you can incorporate in some foreground elements, that’s a nice bonus! For instance, you could have a person walking through at the beginning of the corridor. Or you could get down low and use the floor as foreground interest. 

Just be creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

11. Layer Your Scenes for Intricate Compositions

I’m obsessed with layered compositions. 

And here’s why:

They have this level of intricacy and complexity that’s hard to find in photography. 

Now, layering doesn’t have to be especially complicated. But when done well, it can be jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly gorgeous.

I’ve already discussed certain layering techniques and principles throughout this article. 

For instance, you can layer with strong foreground elements. And you can layer with juxtaposition. 

But the basic idea is even simpler:

You just make sure your photo has a foreground, a middleground, and a background. 

Just those three areas. 

And your shot will look great.

The foreground will draw the viewer into the scene. The middleground will guide the viewer along. And the background will serve as a resting point, where the viewer’s eyes can land and really appreciate the entire composition. 

I’ll be the first to admit:

Finding layers can be tough, especially if your eye isn’t trained. 

But over time, you’ll get better at it. I’d recommend starting by searching for a strong background – and only then searching for a nice foreground and middleground. 

You can also try searching for interesting foreground elements, then considering possible middlegrounds and backgrounds.

Got it?

Wide Angle Photography: Conclusion

If you’re after some stunning photos…

…then a wide-angle lens is a great tool!

So grab your wide-angle lens. Remember the tips in this article.

And go shoot!

What is a wide-angle lens good for?

A wide-angle lens is great for photographing a lot of subjects, including architecture, landscapes, environmental portraits, and street scenes. Wide-angle lenses give you an expanded field of view so you can capture everything in a scene–for instance, interesting foreground elements, stunning backgrounds, leading lines, and much more. Then you can use the contrast or harmony between these elements to get a great final result.

Is a wide-angle lens good for landscape photography?

Yes! A wide-angle lens isn’t the only lens you can use for landscape photography, but it’s the most popular (by far). A wide-angle lens lets you capture an entire scene, plus it gives a very unique, in-your-face perspective – one that makes it seem like the viewer could just step into the photo.

Do I really need a wide-angle lens?

That depends on the photography you like to do. If you’re only interested in capturing tighter shots – portraits of birds, for instance, or headshots of people – then a wide-angle lens isn’t necessary. But if you want to create shots with that expansive, sometimes-distorted perspective, then you’ll need a wide-angle lens, yes.

Is 24mm a wide-angle lens?

Yes, 24mm is a wide-angle lens. In general, wide-angle lenses go from around 10mm to around 45mm (though once you move past the 35mm mark, you do lose a lot of that wide-angle effect).

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