Wide Angle Photography
Wide angles as the name suggests are angles that cover a wide breadth, large distance on the horizontal plane. This technique is largely used by photographers when they are shooting subjects that are wide or the composition of the frame is wide. The nature of the photographs produced and its characteristics also makes it ideal in few other scenarios where distances and depths need to be accentuated.
The primary prerequisite for wide angle photography is a wide angle lens. The focal lengths of the wide angle lenses vary. The accepted rule is that lenses that have a focal length of 35mm or less are classified as wide angle lenses. These are called the normal wide angle lenses, whereas lenses with focal lengths of 24mm or less are called ultra wide angle lenses or fisheye lenses. The generally accepted and manufactured focal lengths of wide angle lenses would read 35mm, 24mm, 21mm, 17mm, 16mm there are few manufacturers who are known to go to as low as 6mm. These are numbers in relations to a standard sensor 35mm sensor in the conventional camera. Progressively the newer digital cameras have smaller sensors. Smaller the sensor reduced is the wide angle effect, focal length multiplied by the crop factor. By using 35mm as the sensor and the above mentioned focal lengths, one can arrive at the wide angle focal lengths for their respective equipment.
The wide angled lenses are used while shooting landscapes, nature shots, or large wide buildings from relatively close to the subject. The wide angle lenses allow the photographer to capture the whole breadth of the building without having to move back. What this also does is to make the subject in the foreground seem a lot larger and the distant object in the background a lot smaller. Wide angle lenses exaggerate distances between objects and make objects farther away from each other then they really are. This phenomenon allows one to isolate the subject in the foreground from the background and its elements highlighting the subject in the frame. Ideal when one wants a largish backdrop seem to be in a distance, though this also means identifying objects in the background is not very easy.
Depth of Field: Given that distances seem exaggerated and accentuated, it has a similar effect on the depth. The Depth too is exaggerated, making it useful when shooting the subject with a background in the depths. Could be an animal grazing with the hills in the background or could be a portrait or a photograph of a bunch of people with the backdrop of the ocean and setting sun or of the rumbling hills. In all these cases, the wide angle lens provides the depth and sense of distance between the subject and the backdrop. Word of caution though is that one needs to be careful while composing the frame since the background cannot be blurred and retains itself with clarity and sharpness, which is what many a times one wants.
When shooting with wide angle lenses, it is very critical to compose the frame well. Take time to perfect the frame, one example for the need for care is when using wide angle lenses to accentuate depth and capture the backdrop with sharpness and clarity along with the highlighted subject in the foreground. Other times this becomes equally critical is with the play of lights, the lighting in the sky and ground are different and the wide angle lenses capture this well. One needs to be aware of this, it helps make amazing pictures as long as one has composed the frame with care and the subject is complemented by the light.
Slow shutter speeds: The wide angle lenses capture the breadth and lets in as much light as possible. So faster shutter speed narrows the light and is counter productive. Hence wide angle lenses go with slower shutter speeds where the shutters remain open longer and lets in more light. Around the midway marking on your camera’s shutter speed would be considered ideal as starting point. The slower shutter speeds and increased vibrations make it preferable if not essential to shoot the pictures with a tripod lending the stability and giving clearer sharper images. This leads to a challenge of lense flares.
Lense Flare: The wider lenses allow more light into the lenses and the longer slower shutter speed increase this further, which can lead to overexposure. An often observed misunderstanding is that lens hoods help reduce this, it does not. Lens hoods do not help the cause as they do not block light. Lens manufacturers are aware and the lenses are prepared to avoid this but no lens is perfect. So one needs to care while composing the frame.
Vignetting is another challenge where the corners of the image are darkened, very little one can do about this, but test the lenses before buying them.
Another option or alternate that some tend to use for wide angle lenses are the wide angle converters. The wide angle lenses are expensive and the convertors a lot cheaper. The convertors kind of converge a wide image into a narrower version on to the lens, more like the reverse of what a magnifying glass does. This is threaded into where the lens filter is threaded in. The quality of images are not very good and is very poor substitute to the wide angle lenses.
The various aspects that we saw needing care composing the frame, are as critical as they are. Rest assured even if you did not get everything right, very little that can not rectified post shoot with image editing and enhancements. With time and experience one would get better with aspect and shoot memorable photographs with the wide angle lenses.