Wide-Angle Shots Taken with Standard Lenses - dummies

By Robert Correll

Wide-angle photography captures a greater angle of view than normal or telephoto focal lengths. Sometimes you perceive the photos as being very expansive. At other times, you hardly notice it. It all depends on the subject and how you frame the scene.

This figure shows a farmland scene that was taken using a Sony APS-C camera and a standard kit lens zoomed out to 18mm. The scene is clearly wide, but not in the extreme. When shooting wide-angle landscapes, you should zoom all the way out to capture as much of the scene as possible. That approach captures breadth, while the details in the scene, and where they are located, add depth.

In this case, the corn and the clouds take up most of the frame. They also provide color and interesting details that liven up the photo. The homestead sits in the distance, intriguing, and yet purposefully small. That’s exactly what wide-angle shots are good for. Notice the Rule of Thirds used in this shot. Typically, wide-angle landscape shots do not look as good when angled or out of balance.

Standard zoom lenses are very effective at capturing wide, expansive scenery.

Don’t think that you always need a super, over-the-top-ultra-mega wide-angle lens. If you like, you can take several shots with your kit lens set to the wider angles and create panoramas.

This photo shows a very different type of wide-angle shot. This is an interior scene photographed with a standard zoom lens and Canon APS-C camera. It’s a unique wide-angle perspective that almost hides that fact. The photographer zoomed all the way out to initially frame the elevator doors, then angled the camera a bit and zoomed in slightly to 20mm to take the shot.

Get close and zoom out to capture interior scenes in detail.

The angled camera adds some quirkiness to the photo. It’s not meant to be a serious shot of the machinery or architecture, but rather a fun look at the red doors. Because the photographer was using a standard zoom lens, he was able to zoom in and out as he photographed objects and scenes around the doors, even inside the elevator, without having to change lenses.

Not all wide-angle shots have to be landscapes or interiors. In this figure, the photographer was standing behind a protective fence, photographing a young boy running toward home plate. He was using the same APS-C camera and lens, and even focal length (18mm) that was used in the earlier photo of the field. He was much closer to the main subject, however, and composed the scene differently.

Zooming in would have cropped out many of the interesting elements of this scene.

This shot has a number of wonderful elements. Sam, the coaches, the other kids, the ball in the air, and the scenery all capture the essence of the action as it was happening. Although action shots look great when shot at zoomed-in telephoto focal lengths, some — such as this one — work as wide-angle photos.

Standard zoom lenses give you the ability to tell complete stories. You can take wide-angle supporting shots, zoom in and take normal shots of particular elements of the scene, and then zoom in further for close-ups of details.

Here are some tips to consider when shooting wide-angle shots with your standard zoom lens:

  • Try it. Most people like zooming in more than they appreciate zooming out. Don’t fall into the trap of not using the wide-angle range of your zoom lens. Zoom out, Luke.
  • Use smaller apertures. Combine a wide angle of view with a deep depth of field by using an aperture of f/8 or smaller. This makes more of the photo appear to be in focus.
  • Composition is more challenging. The more you put in the frame, the harder it is to get everything to work well together. Pay attention to the background and edges of the frame, how things are aligned, how they are balanced, and distractions like power poles and cables.