Super wide angle lenses can be loads of fun. They help exaggerate the relationship of near to far itens and give depth and layers to photos that you don’t see with lenses having a more traditional or “normal” field of view.
I like shooting wide because it forces me to move and look at things in new ways. It’s rather obvious, but one big benefit of a wide angle lens is the ability to include more information in a scene. This is tricky since it takes a seasoned eye sometimes to know what to include in a photo. It can be easy to include TOO much information. That’s where your feet come in. I like to get very close to my subjects when using wide angle lenses. This changes the perspective and field of view without cluttering the background.
Another benefit of wide angle lenses is that they are easier to focus. When you are shooting wide, more of your scene will naturally be in focus than when you’re shooting with a medium or long focal length lens. Remember back to the days when you used your first instant camera? Those cameras all have rather wide angle lenses since they are fixed focal lengths.
Wide angle lenses also emphasize the foreground – or the object closest to the camera. While this would be a disadvantage if you were shooting a tight portrait of a person’s face (Does anyone remember Mr. Ed?) – it’s an advantage if you’re shooting landscapes or architechture. Another way of saying this is that with a wide angle lens, the foreground object gets bigger in the frame.
Lastly, depending on how you view it, wide angle lenses tend to introduce some distortion. This can be a super cool effect as seen in fisheye lenses. It can be a problem in serious architecture where all the straight lines need to be – well – straight. There are rectilinear lenses that correct for this distortion but they cost a great deal of money. Some post processing programs like Photoshop will help you correct distortion too.
Shooting wide can be lots of fun. I like to take new photographers on field trips using only a super wide lens. It’s amazing how much it changes the way they see the world. If you haven’t already, try it. Rent, borrow or buy a super wide lens today and give it a shot. Post your images in our Photofocus Flickr group.