Far and wide

When you purchased a DSLR camera, it usually comes with what’s know as a “kit” lens because it comes bundled as a part of a kit that probably includes things like a memory card, some filters, a spare battery and a camera bag. It tends to be a zoom lens that goes from a wide-angle to a mild telephoto. Most people think that a wide angle is only used for a overall scene and group shots and they don’t really realize how to use it to it’s full potential.

Often, people don’t think about including a foreground to their wide-angle shots. Adding an interesting foreground can turn a boring picture into something more compelling.

A prominent foreground can help lead the viewers into your photo by giving them a visual starting point, so to speak. It can be a splash of color or lines or patterns to draw their eyes in. You need to get close to what’s in the foreground to make it more eye-catching. You may have to bend over or kneel down to get close (I’ve even had to lie down on the ground at times) but the results can be worth it.

It helps to use as small an aperture as you can which will give you as much depth of field (what’s in focus from front to back) as possible. Using your camera in manual or aperture priority mode will allow you to choose the f/stop setting on the lens.

Using objects in the foreground to frame the scene is another way of using a wide-angle lens effectively. Placing a tree or a part of a tree in the foreground, not as the main subject of the picture, can help to center attention on what you want to showcase. The frame can be in or out of focus, elaborate or simple. It doesn’t matter because it’s not the main point of the photo. While you can also use this technique with almost any kind of lens, it tends to be most effective with a wide-angle.

There’s a common problem that people run into with a wide-angle lens. They want to photograph an overall scene but they also want to include a person in the picture. They have the person stand far into the scene to get them into the shot. They get the overall picture but it makes the person look tiny. What you need to do to is to stand where you need to get the wide shot but bring that person closer to the camera, say, around 5 to 6 feet away, which will make them more prominent in the photo. You can bring even closer. One doesn’t necessarily need to get your subjects’ feet in the photo, so you can get close enough to crop out their legs and feet and still get most of the background as well.

Many beginning photographers tend to think of telephoto lenses as being “powerful.” After all, they bring things that are faraway in close. But wide-angle lenses have a power all their own if you know how to use them to their best advantage.

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