Although my go-to travel lens is the 24-70mm F2.8, I sometimes switch to my ultra-wide 10-20mm to add a new perspective into the mix. Today was a perfect example when I did some walk-around stock shots in Cascais, Portugal shooting ultra-widely with some interesting results.
Going ultra-wide certainly has its benefits for travel photography, but must be approached with care. I’ll discuss both the pros and cons and include some examples.
What is wide angle?
Pretty much any lens/setting that goes under any focal length equivalent to 35mm or less on a full frame camera. The closest focal point to the human eye is 50mm, where verticals and horizontals are straight.
Interestingly, Science says that women have a wider peripheral vision and men generally have better long distance tunnel vision. That’s how evolution made us, I suppose.
What is the effect of going wide angle?
The main effect is to distort the image and enhance perspectives. Look at your side mirror in your car, what does it say? Probably that objects appear closer or bigger than they are. In other words, objects in the foreground will be blown out of proportion and objects in the background will look tiny. Also, anything on the edges of the frame become severely distorted, particularly as you head down towards the <18mm.
That’s why wide angle lenses are to be generally avoided when professionally shooting models, since it will distort the shape of the face (probably making the nose look huge). The best ranges for shooting models are close to 85mm on a full frame camera.
Highlighting elements in the foreground
Look at these examples from today and how I got really close to objects in the foreground to exaggerate their size. In the first image, I wanted to highlight the typical Portuguese cobblestones patterns, which interestingly are prominent in Brazil. In the second image, I wanted to emphasise the fishing cages in the foreground with the sea in the background. In the third kinda freaky image, I distorted the fish heads by getting really really close (close enough to really take a good sniff haha):
Stretch the corners
As mentioned earlier, the effect of ultra wide angle lenses is also to distort the edges of images. This can add interesting elements, such as in the following shot of a mermaid statue which I’ve placed in the corner of the frame thus giving it a longer illusion like she’s really stretching to see beyond the horizon:
Here, i put the beautiful purple tree in the corner thus exaggerating its size.
Get everything in the frame
Sometimes I just want to get everything into the frame, which can be difficult with a longer lens. An obvious example is when shooting in small spaces, particularly indoors. This is the trick of the interior photographer who wants to make an otherwise tiny apartment look huge to entice buyers.
Shouldn’t you correct distortions?
Not necessarily, in my opinion. Unless you’re shooting professionally as an interior/architectural photographer, going without lens correction can be an artistic choice, as long as you’re aware of it (assuming you know how to lens correct).
It’s a good habit to lens correct but let’s face it…it’s time consuming and in this business, time is money. Sometimes the amounts the agencies are paying me in return for my time and efforts means that I’ll have to sacrifice some quality for quantity. So be it.
Shooting wide angle architecture with distortion
A success story. A friend of mine and fellow microstocker based in Toronto, Elijah Lovkoff, tells me he has some success with wide angle distorted architecture, combined with the fake lens flare effect. You can see some of his portfolio on Shutterstock here. Great work!
On a side note, Elijah is a webmaster and has helped me with web-related stuff, including setting up this blog. I would highly recommend getting in touch if you need someone to help you design a professional website.
Lastly, a wide angle footage from today
By now, I’m getting quite comfortable with creating real time footage and timelapses. Today, I took the opportunity to shoot an ultra wide angle real time footage of the weekly market in Cascais, Portugal and of course a timelapse with my trusty 24-70mm.
As you can see, it’s all work and no rest for poor Alex! Busy busy day and tons of post-processing to get through when I have some time!
Check out the following tutorial for more tips, including what to avoid when shooting wide!
What’s next in the Brutally Honest Blog
I’m off on a roadtrip starting tomorrow for a week across Portugal, onto Spain and then eventually into Cote d’Azur, France. Plenty to see and capture in this journey, which you’ll be able to follow on my Instagram.
I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography
Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!