Generally speaking, most photographers like to use a short telephotographic or “normal” lens for shooting portraits. But, if you expand your creativity you will be able to create some very interesting and unique images with a wide angle lens too. Using a wide angle, unlike a short lens, lets you capture the subject in an environment. With a wide angle shot you are telling a story with each photograph. Here are a few tips for using wide angle lenses for portraiture that you may find helpful.
Shooting with a wide angle lens will maximize your depth of field increasing your range of focus. The background and the subject both remain sharp and clear while using a wide angle lens. A lot of times when using a telephoto lens for portraiture the background becomes blurred and distorted. A wide angle lens allows you to capture the subject against an environment and makes him or her part of the environment. It’s like watching a scene in a play; all you have to do is watch the action and when you feel the moment is right release the shutter.
The exaggerated foreground that appears when shooting with a wide angle lens provides a unique perspective to portraiture, and not a lot of artists have captured this technique. It’s more of an art than a science that helps you create high impact photos. When using the right angles and gestures you can create something pretty wild but it’s really more of an artistic know-how. But don’t fret – all you have to remember is that horizontal and vertical lines are not very appealing. Instead, look for jagged edges and diagonals, or low lying shadows that make lines to create a sense of drama.
If you use a smaller lens the background will remain tack and sharp but this also requires that your subject remains as motionless as possible. If you are shooting the subject with a smaller lens, the background may ultimately be very detailed, but if the subject moves he/she will be blurred. If you don’t use a tripod you also risk the chance for blurred photos but the possibility can be lessened by using a longer shutter speed.
To avoid distortion don’t put the lens too close to the subjects face. When you are too close the wide angle lens will make the picture overly distorted. Wide angle lenses are not meant to go in close, but to catch a scene up close. Place the horizon line in the center of the frame and work outward from there to eliminate curving and blurring of lines.
When using a wide angle lens you will be working much closer to your subject than with a short lens. The working distance is reduced from about 10-15 feet or more down to 12-20 inches when working in close. Generally most photographers stay in the 3-10 foot range. Since you are working so close to the subject you must make sure they are comfortable, especially if you are working with children or natives of foreign lands – remember some of these people may have never even seen a camera before. To make your subject even more relaxed, give them something to do in front of the camera and tell them to forget about you.
Next time you are out in the field try remembering and practicing these tips. Within a short amount of time you should see a great improvement in all of your photography, not just portraiture.