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24mm Closeups: 3 Simple Exercises for Mastering Wide-Angle Perspective

Lenses are important tools in the art of photography. When you master how to use them, you will unlock new ways of expressing the same subjects and scenes.

In this article, we share three exercises you can do to familiarise yourself with using the wide angle perspective. All you need is some time to walk around and shoot, and a lens that can shoot at 24mm (full-frame equivalent). Why 24mm? Because it’s the most accessible ultra-wide-angle focal length. In fact, it is probably the widest end of your standard zoom kit lenses if you are using a full-frame camera. (Reported by: Masatsugu Kohrikawa, Digital Camera Magazine)

EOS 6D Mark II/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/9.5, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 400

 

Exercise 1: Learn to be aware of perspective exaggeration and distortion

You probably know that wide-angle lenses can capture more of a scene in the same frame. However, are you also aware that they are capable of exaggerating perspectives and distorting shapes?
The first step to mastering different lens techniques is to learn to recognise their effects. This gives you more control over their application. Examine some images shot on wide angle lenses—they can be your own or by other people.  Can you identify the effects of perspective and distortion?


Perspective exaggeration

Perspective” refers to the phenomenon where things that are nearer to the viewer appear bigger, whereas things that are further away appear smaller. It affects how we perceive the distance between objects. A wide-angle focal length distorts nearby objects in a way that makes them look bigger, resulting in the perspective exaggeration effect.

The crane section of this truck looks huge compared to the truck section, which looks smaller and further away. This is the perspective effect in action.


Distortion

Besides perspective exaggeration, a wide-angle lens also distorts a subject’s shape. This becomes even more prominent the closer the lens to the subject. In a way, they are interlinked because the distortion makes the nearby subject look bigger.

Notice how the body of the truck appears to bulge outward? This is the effect of distortion.

 

Exercise 2: Shoot images with vanishing lines

The scenes that we try to shoot with a wide-angle lens will often include three dimensional straight lines in the form of a road, a path, a corridor, or something similar. We can compose the shot so that these lines become leading lines that converge into a vanishing point. This not only helps to exaggerate perspective, but also enhances the sense of depth.

Using any lens you have that is capable of a focal length around 24mm full-frame equivalent (15mm on an APS-C lens), create your own images with vanishing points. Make sure that the vanishing point is visible!


No visible vanishing point

Here, the vanishing point formed by the road is blocked by the car. Our eyes stop at the car, so the image doesn’t have the sense of depth (perspective) that it could have had.


Visible vanishing point

By shifting my position slightly and making sure that there are no objects in the way, I created a vanishing point where the lines created by the road, overhead train tracks, and highway converged. This emphasises perspective and increases the sense of depth.

 

Exercise 3: Move closer to your foreground subject

Create vanishing points like you did in Exercise 2, but this time, move closer to the subject.  See how the image changes as you get closer?

Here’s one more “secret” to taking full advantage of wide-angle perspective: place your subject in the foreground and shoot as close to it as you can. Go closer than you usually would, and assuming you’re still within the closest focusing distance, your image automatically looks more impactful.


Not-so-good: Foreground subject is too far away

This image has a vanishing point, so there is depth and perspective. However, the effects are not that strong.


Good: Close to the subject, exaggerating perspective

Here, I have stepped closer to the fence on the right. The fence with the “GATE No. 1” sign looks bigger and closer, which makes the perspective effect stronger.


Good: So close that perspective is highly exaggerated

When I move right up to the fence to shoot, the rectangular shape of the “GATE No. 1” sign becomes visibly distorted. There are situations where we want to avoid such distortion, such as in product photography when we need the shapes of products to be captured faithfully. However, we can also use the distortion creatively to give an image more impact.

 

Pro tip: Make sure that the distortion isn’t too unnatural

The distortion effect may make subjects look more interesting, but it could also make them look unnatural and strange. There’s no hard and fast rule on how much distortion is too much: that depends on individual sense as well as the effect that you are trying to create. Look at your image critically. If the distortion makes the subject look too strange for your taste, move your lens back and shoot until the results are more acceptable.

Wide-angle distortion makes this bus look unnaturally long.

 

Level up exercises

Now that you are more familiar with using the wide-angle perspective, try these with your 24mm lens:


1. Do the opposite: Create images with no obvious perspective effect

You learned how to identify and enhance the perspective effect. Now, work backwards and see how you can use the same focal length to intentionally create good images without the effect. Such images will give a more natural perspective, but still have the unique wide-angle feel.

Shot at around eye level with all subjects rather far away, this image has a wide field of view with natural-looking perspective. As there are very few elements in frame, it could have been a boring image. It was saved by the two firefighters at the bottom left, who become accents that make the shot look more interesting.


2. Capture subjects on a slant to create some movement

Most subjects look more natural when captured straight and level. However, if you shoot them so that they are slightly diagonal instead of head-on with the lens, the image could look more dynamic.

I shot this steel tower so that it is at an angle from the camera, with its lines on a slant instead of perfectly horizontal. This adds some perspective, making it seem to reach higher into the sky.


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Learn more about using wide-angle lenses in:
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 1: Photo Effects of Wide-Angle Lenses
Exploring Wide Angle Lenses Part 2: Composition Techniques for Wide-Angle Lenses
Ultra Wide-angle Lens Technique: Light Trails from a New Perspective

Had fun exploring 24mm? You can get even stronger perspective if you go wider. Here are some ultra-wide-angle lenses to consider:

For the EOS R system:
RF16mm f/2.8 STM (budget prime)
RF14-35mm f/4L IS USM  (professional grade lightweight zoom)
RF15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM (professional grade wide-aperture zoom)

For full-frame DSLR cameras:
EF17-40mm f/4L USM (budget zoom)
EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM (professional grade lightweight zoom)
EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM (professional grade wide-aperture zoom)

For APS-C cameras:
EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM (has image stabilisation)
EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM (for EOS M mirrorless cameras)

 


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Masatsugu Koorikawa

Masatsugu Koorikawa

Born in Nara. Besides taking portrait and merchandise photos for camera and music magazines, Koorikawa also releases works with the waterfront of Tokyo Bay as the theme.