Digital photography provides a great variety of opportunities for many kinds of photographers. Many casual photographers are primarily interested in taking pictures for the same reason George Eastman introduced the first “everyman” camera, the Kodak, in 1888. Camera buyers, then as now, want to record their families and friends on informal occasions, such as parties, and formal occasions, such as weddings. As equipment became more sophisticated and a growing group of photographers wanted to explore the extremes of the art form, lens development followed suit, which led to wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses. Knowing how to use these lenses will take your photography from “normal” to highly creative, allowing you to record your world in a totally different way.
This two-part PhotographyTalk.com article explores the ultra-wide-angle lens, its concepts and the techniques you need to learn to take advantage of the odd nature of this lens. Read Part 1 for the initial information about the functioning of an ultra-wide-angle, and the conclusion below.
Camera Position In Relation to the Subject
As explained in Part 1, one of the secrets of using an ultra-wide-angle correctly is to move your camera very close to the subject, even closer than would seem to make sense. In doing so, the distance from the lens to the subject is so short that the slightest movement, repositioning or even a deep breath can greatly affect your composition. This takes a bit of practice since a tripod will be of no help. You simply can’t place it precisely enough to compensate for how close you will be to the subject.
Pay attention to people standing at the edges of the frame, as an ultra-wide-angle lens will make them look fat. The opposite happens if they are lying across the frame because the optics of the lens will pull the person toward the edges and the corners.
Be Aware of Lines
An ultra-wide-angle lens can emphasize or enhance any lines in your shot created by natural or human-made elements. A preferred composition is to position the camera and/or frame your shot, so lines enter the frame from a corner instead of the vertical or horizontal border.
Watch for Clutter
Since an ultra-wide-angle lens tends to show every subject or object within its extremely wide view, it’s important to take the time to review every image, so you can eliminate the many distractions and clutter that seem to “accumulate” at the edges of the frame. This often can be a more difficult task than expected, especially if you have little experience with wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle lenses. You almost have to force yourself to move yourself and your camera numerous times to find the best framing within that ultra -wide view.
The Perception of a Larger World
Many photographers are familiar with the concept of foreshortening that occurs with a telephoto lens. The distance between an object closer to and farther from the camera appears to be less than it actually is. Conversely, ultra-wide-angle lenses make the distance appear more than it is. The background tends to be shoved farther back and near objects tend to look much closer.
This principle of ultra-wide-angle lenses is why using such a lens will create an amazing photograph of an interior space, with the ceiling, floor and as many as three of the walls in the frame. Outside, it can cause a small section of lawn to look the size of a football field and a football field the equivalent of an aircraft carrier deck.
An ultra-wide will also clearly reveal whenever the sensor and subject planes are not parallel, but this can be an advantage if you know how to control it. For example, when you tilt the camera to frame an entire building, take the time to check how and where you angle the camera.
Using an ultra-wide-angle lens can add much to your photographic repertoire, but expect a substantial learning curve and plenty of trial-and-error before you master this extreme lens. You should also anticipate a hefty price tag if you want to create with an ultra-wide-angle lens. A popular Nikon model (14–24mm) costs almost $2,000 and the Canon 14mm L is a bit more than $2,000. For your first foray into ultra-wide-angle lenses, it may be better to rent one for a day or weekend.