6 Most Common Mistakes in Wide Angle Photography

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6 Most Common Mistakes in Wide Angle Photography

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I am the poster-child of a walking target in foreign countries.  I have to admit, I love a big 600mm lens and stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd. But that is just my shooting style. There was a long time that wide angle lenses were for mountain tops and studio work. My obsession with telephoto and super telephoto lenses was a crutch. I often went out of my way to frame something that could be tackled at a wider angle. I had to put down every lens over 50mm and relearn the art of shooting with a wide-angle lens.

During that time of rediscovery, I fell in love with my wide angles all over again. Now, I will never leave home without at least my 24-70mm. To prevent anyone else going through the same mistake, I made a list of six common mistakes photographers make shooting with wide and ultra-wide-angle lenses. Then, how to overcome these mistakes to make sure you leave your shoot madly in love with your results.

Leaving too much into the Picture

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Wide Angle Photography, lens Photos, shots, pictures

On a landscape shoot, I typically take a super-telephoto lens, an ultra-wide, a wide-medium, and a macro just in case I run into something fun. When I see that the scene is too busy and taking away from my focal point, I just whip out my telephoto lens and zoom in for a tighter shot.

This is definitely a solution that has served me well in the past, but where I failed was exploring further. Once I see the shot I want, I crouch down and take it. However, if all I had was a wide-angle lens in my bag, it would make me step away from that spot and explore a little further. I can’t tell you how many fantastic spots I have found when I focused on practicing with my wide-angle lenses. You are using a wide angle for a reason! You want grand scale, sky, foreground, and a beautiful focal point.

If your location is too busy when you look through the viewfinder, try walking around a bit. Exploring the shot before leaning on your telephoto lenses. Shooting from a wide angle is going to give you amazing details, color, bokeh if you choose, etc. If you can be satisfied with the telephoto, then great! But don’t let a cluttered frame stop you from utilizing what’s in your bag. Sometimes it’s as easy as moving your camera a little left or right to knock out something unappealing.

Lack of elements

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The opposite mistake is having your heart set on that one focal point and not considering your rules of composition. If you are wanting to stand out in the photography world, which is no easy feat, you can’t just take good pictures. How many pictures do you think there are of Mount Rushmore? Everyone and their brother have taken a picture from the visitors viewing area of this beautiful monument. They are all the same, focal point are the giant presidential heads, a little sky, a little rock underneath. But how many pictures of it have you seen shot through a ring of sparklers? How about directly underneath? How about a moonlight Washington?

All of these, good or bad, are going to get a second look by a viewer because they are unique and they incorporate interesting elements that make the photograph stand out from the crowd. Wide angle lenses are made to: shoot up close, or shoot back and incorporate more elements. So utilize the lens you have by composing an image instead of snapping an image. And if using sparklers, please do not start a forest fire!

Leave in landscape and not use portrait

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Who is guilty of this one? I will go ahead and raise my hand now. Unless you are shooting with a camera body that has a portrait orientation button, you probably have found it more convenient to shoot in landscape 90% of the time. Well you are not only limiting your Instagram real estate,  but also taking away 50% of the possibilities! So going back to #1 and #2, if you have too many elements or if you don’t have enough elements, flip that camera on its side! Shooting in portrait can reduce the side clutter but it also adds beautiful, colorful elements like sky, clouds, foreground and leading lines.

This is why I purchased a ball head tripod. On the side, there is a little notch that the ball head mount can slide into and place your camera in portrait orientation. We naturally see landscape because our eyes are binocular, so it’s the first image we see sweeping left and right. So, give portrait a try on each outing, you would be surprised how many beautiful frames you are missing!

Bland foreground, should either zoom or find something unique

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You always want to compose every image before you start clicking. By compose, I mean look at the scene, figure out the elements that you want to incorporate, then frame it up to capture the image just like you imagine it. I have too often ended up cropping out foreground because I just focused on my focal point and didn’t notice the blandness of my foreground.

If you are looking through the lens and the foreground is not adding anything to the image, zoom in a little (can also zoom with your feet…), change your angle to incorporate more sky, or move around the area to find more interesting foreground to incorporate. You may decide to focus in the distance and leave the foreground out of focus with heavy bokeh or you may decide to use a narrow aperture and keep everything sharp. There are plenty of options, we just often overlook our foreground in the excitement of capturing something beautiful and it ends up ruining what could have been a frameable picture.

Not getting close enough-expecting sweeping landscapes

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This is one of the biggest mistakes everyone makes. Many photographers believe that properly utilizing a wide angle lens means standing way back to get that sweeping landscape. We associate distance with grandeur. However, nothing can be grander sometimes than taking a picture of a mountain looking up from its base. Or shooting a redwood right up against the trunk.

Landscapes are not a lazy man’s game. It takes a lot of trekking, evaluating shots, and lugging equipment around to find the perfect frame. So, if you are looking through the viewfinder and are not blown away by the frame you see, try putting one foot in front of the other and get closer to your target. And don’t forget in these situations to try a couple in portrait!

Shooting into the sun for wide angle lens shots

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My 16-28mm f/2.8 was rarely used for the longest time. Because of how the lens is shaped, filters can be a bit expensive and a little wampee to work. To date, I still do not own any filters for this lens, but I regularly find scenes that only this lens could capture. But I had to learn that without a filter, there was absolutely no shooting into the sun.

Barely incorporating the sun with these lenses takes sun flare (lens flare) to a whole new extreme. At one point, my lake views look more like a prism then a sharp landscape. But when I turn my back on the sun, I get beautiful, well-lit scenes with sweeping views and no flare. Don’t get me wrong, I regularly incorporate a little flare in my life, but I like to control this effect. Once you get into the ultra-wide angle spectrum, lens flare is something to avoid.

 Conclusion to Wide Angle Photography

I hope these helpful tips can prevent a few mistakes and bring some new life into your wide angle lenses. At this point, if my home was on fire, it would probably be my 24-70mm I would grab first. It is that great of a lens, but I had to use it for what it’s designed for shooting. If you are new to photography and would like to experience a full course that takes you from beginner to experience in 10 free easy lessons, check out our beginner’s course! If you have some experience under your belt but want to keep those skills sharp, we have a blog just for you.

Until next time, God bless and happy shooting!

Need new equipment? Give KEH a try! But certified used equipment that is graded by experts. You can even sell or trade your old gear for new gear!

Written by Jon Frederick, Lead Photographer for Seven11

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