One of the important additions to every photographer or cinematographer’s kit is a good wide-angle lens. There’s nothing quite like going wide for those magnificent vistas, capitalizing on the depth of field or pushing the boundaries of perspective when working up close. In this article, we’ll offer some tips for getting the most out of your “short game”.
Opening Image: “The Three Kings”, ©Alberto Bouzón: Fotografías. Irix 15mm f/2.4, Irix Edge Reverse GND8 Filter
As the manufacturers of some of the most popular rectilinear short lenses on the market, we’re proud to say that we’ve got you covered in both the cinema and still photo arenas. Both our flagship 15mm lens and our ultrawide 11mm lens have garnered rave reviews in the stills market and their counterparts in the Cine line are doing the same with videographers everywhere.
1. Have a Reason to Shoot Wide
Just because you have a great wide angle lens doesn’t mean it’s the right one for every job. Choosing the appropriate focal length for a shoot, whether you’re shooting motion or stills, is always the first priority.
That said, some wide angle lenses are more versatile than others and you’ll find the Irix 15mm can stay on your camera for more situations than you might expect. With its rectilinear projection, there’s less worry about distortion when you need to get in close. Landscapes and portraits are both within the capabilities of this focal length, and because of its f/2.4 maximum aperture, low light is less of a problem.
In any case, think about the scene in front of you and what you want your viewers to see in it. Choose the appropriate focal length based on the answer to that question.
2. Always Have a Subject
This is closely related to the last point, but worth mentioning separately.
Whether you’re shooting video or stills, each frame needs a focal point. Without a subject, your scene won’t capture your viewers’ interest. In both cases, your framing and composition should lead your viewers’ eyes to the subject. This engages your viewers and makes your photo or scene more interesting.
Using a lens with a wide field of view means you’ll need to pay close attention to highlighting your subject, especially when you’re shooting at a distance. Be ready to pull out your bag of tricks and use them.
Although shooting with a wide angle lens will give you the opportunity to get more in the frame, one of the primary rules of composition still applies: Keep it simple.
Too much clutter in a scene detracts from the subject and leaves viewers’ eyes “wandering” within the frame, rather than pulling them into the scene. This leaves your audience feeling disconnected and disinterested.
Try to reduce the number of objects in the frame to keep your viewers engaged.
4. Try the Vertical Shot
Don’t forget that a wide field of view can be equally effective as a “tall” field of view. Take a look at the portrait orientation as well as landscape when you’re framing the shot.
Vertical wide-angle shots may work well for subjects like waterfalls, the Milky Way and paths or roads. When in doubt, shoot both!
5. Camera Angle Matters
Remember that shooting even slightly off of the level plane may cause vertical lines to converge quickly. This type of distortion is simply a matter of physics and normal at wide angles. It also isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a little creative thought, you can use the effect to your advantage.
Keep in mind that the same kind of distortion will happen to any people in the frame. This can create less-than-flattering portraits, especially when you’re shooting close. You’ll need a subject with a sense of humor if you plan to emphasize this in your photos!
Is that it?
Nope. For the most part, any tip that applies to digital photography or cinematography could be repeated here. Those we’ve listed above are particularly important when you’re working with a wide-angle lens, and this isn’t a complete course. Keeping the advice above in mind should help you improve your work (or play) with short focal lengths. Don’t forget, rectilinear wide angle lenses from Irix make the process easier, too! Check out the entire lineup of lenses at Irix USA!
Show us what you’ve got!
As always, we’d love to see what you create with Irix lenses! Get out there and shoot, then share your best with us:
Post them on Instagram or Twitter and tag @Irix USA.
Send them in a message to Irix USA on Facebook.
(Be sure to include your exposure data!)
See you next time!