How You Can Learn to Use a Wide-Angle Lens


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There are few couples as great as a wide-angle lens and a landscape.

After all, that’s why most landscape photographers have at least one wide-angle lens in their bag.

Actually, I’d say most landscape photographers have at least one wide-angle prime as well as a zoom lens that’s capable of a wide-angle perspective.

But the question for new photographers is, how do you use a wide-angle lens?

Thomas Heaton addresses that very question in the video above.

Watch and follow along as he discusses the types of lenses he’s used in the past, what he uses now, and how to get the most out of your very own wide-angle lens.

I’ve added a detailed play-by-play below, so read on for further details on this topic.

How Wide is Wide Enough?

Editor’s Tip: If you’re ready to get a different lens, why not sell your old one and use the proceeds to fund your next purchase? For details how to do that, click here.

As Thomas notes in the video, on multiple occasions, he’s expressed that 24mm is plenty wide for landscapes.

However, he’s recently found himself in various situations in which he wanted an even wider lens.

As a result, he picked up a 16-35mm f/4 lens to get a little extra real estate in the images he takes.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you also need a 16-35mm lens…

You might want something narrower, like the aforementioned 24mm lens, or you might want something even wider, like a 12mm lens.

The point is that the wider you go, the more of the scene you can get into the shot.

Another tip is this: the wider the lens, the more foreground you can incorporate into the shot.

And the more foreground that’s in the image, the better you can emphasize the colors and textures of the landscape, which helps create a more dramatic photo.

So, tip number one is this: no matter what the focal length of the lens you decide to buy, get it down low to the ground so you can highlight foreground interest!

Learn More:

  • 7 Tips and Tricks for Photographing Landscapes With a Wide-Angle Lens

Use Weather as Your Guide

All photographers – myself included – are guilty at one point or another of scrapping plans to go out and shoot when the weather is less than ideal.

But as Thomas notes in the video, when you shoot with a wide-angle lens (or any lens, really…) you need to tailor your images to the conditions the weather gives you.

In Thomas’ case, living on the northeastern coast of England, there’s a lot of gray, rainy days to contend with.

But armed with a wide-angle lens, Thomas can still get incredible shots if there’s some interesting foreground elements to highlight.

landscapeYouTube Screenshot/Thomas Heaton

As was noted earlier, the wider the lens, the more you can show off the foreground elements.

That means stretching them out and using them as a way to invite viewers to keep investigating the image, including moving their eyes from the foreground to the midground to the background of the shot.

In the screenshot above, you can see Thomas’ image adheres to this mantra.

Yes, it’s a gray day, but by using his 16-35mm wide-angle lens, he’s able to incorporate those beautiful rocks into the foreground to give the scene loads of texture.

What’s more, the dark, black color of the rocks provides a nice contrast to the light gray of the sky.

So, the second tip for using a wide-angle lens is this: if the weather isn’t ideal, look for texture, color, or even patterns, lines, or shapes in the landscape to provide some interest to your photos.

Learn More:

  • 5 Quick Landscape Photography Tips With Tons of Impact
  • The Top 4 Lenses Photographers Wish They Had

Take the Time to Compose the Shot

composetheshotYouTube Screenshot/Thomas Heaton

With all that foreground detail in a wide-angle shot, it’s imperative that you take the time to compose the image to maximize the impact of the elements within the frame.

This means getting down low to the ground to make foreground elements prominent in the shot, moving to the left and the right to see if there’s a better perspective from which to shoot, and keeping an eye on details in the midground and background to ensure they all work together to create a cohesive image.

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It’s also worth mentioning that you need to check the edges and corners of the image.

Look for distracting elements like twigs or tree branches entering the frame, the shadow of your camera or tripod appearing in the image, or other elements that will stick out like a sore thumb in the photo.

And there you have tip number three: slow things down, maneuver your camera and wide-angle lens around, and actually take a few moments to perfect the composition before pressing the shutter button.

Learn More:

  • Explore More Landscape Photography Tips

Get a Wide-Angle Filter Adapter

wideanglefilterYouTube Screenshot/Thomas Heaton

First of all, if you photograph landscapes, you should have a solid set of filters in your bag, including a polarizer at the very least, if not also a couple of ND grads and a solid ND.

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of what each filter does, so if you want more details, check this article.

What needs to be pointed out, though is that you can use a standard filter and filter holder on a wide-angle lens.

For example, if your lens fits 77mm filters, a 77mm filter will work just fine.

However, if you use it with a standard adapter, the chances that your images will have vignetting – darkened areas around the edges – is much greater.

Though that can be used as an artistic element in your shots, in this case, it’s prudent to grab a wide-angle filter adapter (like the one shown above), so the filter sits closer to the lens, thereby minimizing vignetting.

Learn More:

  • Quick Guide for Using Filters for Landscape Photography

Final Thoughts

landscapeYouTube Screenshot/Thomas Heaton

If you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll be in a good position to get improved landscape photos.

Of course, there are plenty of other elements to bear in mind as well, including the time of day you’re out shooting, the camera settings you use to get your shots, and how you might get the shot sharply in focus.

On that last note, Thomas offers a few insights into focus stacking to get a sharp photo from front to back.

I think you’ll agree that his efforts on that front are quite successful. Just look at that photo again – I mean, WOW, right?!





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