Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques for Wide-Angle Lenses

While wide-angle lenses are able to capture a wider range than standard lenses, they have the rather unique characteristic of perspective exaggeration that appears due to the special effect of convergence. In Part 1, I explained the different photographic effects of wide-angle lenses. Here in Part 2, I will help you get a better grasp of the characteristics of wide-angle lenses by showing you various photos that were taken in wide angle. (Edited by studio9)


Have fun with strong perspective exaggeration

To enjoy the characteristics of wide-angle lenses to the fullest, try approaching your subject from the diagonal. By composing the subject such that it protrudes into the frame as you approach, it will appear to come from the edge of the image, creating a strongly exaggerated perspective.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/16/ 20sec/ ISO 800
A nightscape of a factory in Kawasaki city.  With my wide-angle lens (FL: 23mm), I got right up close to the fence, which would normally be an irritating obstruction. The distance between my lens and the fence was almost zero in this photo. When up close like this, the intense perspective exaggeration of the fence has a strong impact, which might even be overpowering for the viewer. On the other hand, the factory in the distance, near the centre of the image, does not evoke as strong a sense of perspective exaggeration.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/2.8, 1/15sec/ ISO 1600
I took a shot of a plate of oysters at an oyster bar (FL: 16mm). Here too, I got right up close until my lens was just about touching the shells in the foreground. The exaggerated perspective is stretched across the plate from the foreground into the background.


Suggest expanse with exaggerated perspectives

Creating perspective exaggeration with a wide-angle lens evokes a sense of expansiveness in your photos. When you use a wide-angle lens in a scene of plants growing en masse, such as when taking photos of flowers, the resulting photos will evoke a greater sense of expansiveness than that which you can see with your own eyes.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L USM/ f/5.6/ 1/1250sec/ ISO 200
In this example, the photo somehow gives the impression that it was taken in an entire field of flowers, yet it was actually a cluster of small planters with a depth of around 30 to 40cm inside a park. I took this shot right up close to the flowers with a focal length of 24mm .

Next, I also took this close-up shot of flowers using a wide-angle lens (FL: 16mm). The perspective is thoroughly exaggerated from the foreground towards the background, giving the impression of an expansive garden of flowers.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/13/ 1/80sec/ ISO 640
Incidentally, the image below is of the same location seen from further back.

I actually took this shot using the same focal length of 16mm while standing up. However, the photo looks completely different . While the photo shows the overall appearance of the park, it is not clear what the subject of the shot is.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/5.0/ 1/100sec/ ISO 100
I used the same lens for both photos. The only difference was how up close I took the photos.

Japan's famous cherry blossoms are in full bloom around April, which is a good time to try getting right up close to the flowers with a wide-angle lens (FL: 24mm). You will be able to take photos brimming with cherry blossoms.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L USM/ f/5.6/ 1/5000sec/ ISO 400


Capture an expansive sky

When you take photos of a cloudy sky with a wide-angle lens, the sky will appear big and expansive. This is because of exaggerated perspective caused by the downward stretching that occurs from the top edge of the image. On a clear day the exaggerated perspective is not as apparent due to the lack of contrast in the sky, whereas, it is more pronounced when beautiful clouds are present. Therefore, you might want to actively place the sky in view when composing your shots.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/9.0/ 1/60sec/ ISO 500
This shot is of the Minato Mirai area in Yokohama, taken from a boat at sunset (FL: 24mm).
If the clouds look appealing, try taking in as much of the sky as you can using a wide angle . You need not worry about placing the horizon on the line dividing the lower third of the photo from the upper two thirds.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/10/ 1/800sec/ ISO 250
Landscape in New Mexico, United States (FL: 16mm). An extremely vast sky is captured.


Try using a low shooting position

It is interesting to use a low shooting position with wide-angle lenses that create strong exaggerated perspectives of subjects in the foreground. Taking shots from a low position means that you inevitably have to get close to the ground, and therefore can have fun with the expansiveness of the ground.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L USM/ f/8.0/ 1/250sec/ ISO 200
Incidentally, low shooting angle and low shooting position are two very different things. Low angle refers to shots that are taken at an angle looking upward (as opposed to high angle), whereas low position simply refers to the camera being in a position lower than eye level.
In the photo above, the camera is not only in a low position, but it is also pointing down towards the ground, making it a low-position, high-angle shot.


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM/ f/4.0/ 1/40sec/ ISO 800
I took this shot with the camera placed on the ground (FL: 16mm). This gives the floor an expansive appearance.

However, when shooting in a low position, take careful note of your surroundings beforehand so as not to have your intentions misunderstood. Particularly for low position, low angle shooting around town, a good idea would be to make sure that no one is nearby.


Make legs look longer and better show off a subject’s figure

You can make the most of the extreme perspective exaggeration of wide-angle lenses to make people's legs appear longer.

For example, here is a low-angle shot looking up at a standing boy, with an exaggerated perspective in the upward direction from the feet at the bottom edge of the image. This makes his face appear smaller, thereby making the legs appear larger than they actually are.

EOS 5D Mark III/ f/4.0/ 1/160sec/ ISO 1250
In such cases, you should be careful not to place the face in the outer periphery of the image, as the face might become unnecessarily distorted. This is because perspective exaggeration is not as strong in the centre of the image.
This technique is used to better show off a subject’s figure and sense of style in portraits.

So, in this article, I introduced several characteristic photos taken using a wide-angle lens. I’m sure that once you have mastered perspective exaggeration, you’ll have fun shooting with wide-angle lenses.


EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM


Click here for more details



If you are using an APS-C camera, I would recommend choosing an EF-S lens. The actual angle of view of APS-C cameras is equivalent to 1.6 times the angle of view of the focal length described on the lens. So, for a wide-angle end with a focal length of 10mm, the actual angle of view will be equivalent to 16mm.


EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM


Click here for more details





A photography website established in Japan in 2011. With the slogan “Bringing photography closer to you”, the site provides content that is useful for everyone who enjoys photography. Besides web content, studio9 also conducts seminars and workshops.