Most digital cameras have zoom lenses. These effectively give you a wide angle and a telephoto lens, with all the variable sizes in between.
While the widest setting of these zooms captures a view that is more expansive than the ‘normal’ view of the human eye, they’re often not much wider!
The eye’s viewing angle is usually considered to be around 35mm in SLR terms but, when the overlapping view captured by two eyes is considered, it is more likely to be similar to a photo taken with a 20mm lens on a film SLR camera.
This explains why we never seem to have enough width when shooting with our compact digital cameras. Of course, the DSLRs guys and girls are in sweet street with access to an astounding range of lenses they can attach to their cameras.
However, even shooting wide angle with a limited view can deliver many benefits, especially if you’re making a biggish final print of the digital. And there are strategies you can employ to boost the impact of the picture.
Everyone has shot the ‘regulation’ wide angle shot, making the shot from way, way back — to “get it all in!” And the result is rarely satisfying.
A better approach is to involve the viewer in your wide angle picture by choosing a suitable camera angle that places the subject elements in such a way that they enhance the illusion of depth.
When shooting with a wide angle lens you get one big advantage, especially with the short focal lengths of digicam zooms: the depth of field is extensive, especially in bright light, so people and objects in the picture will be sharp from quite close right out to infinity.
Careful placement of foreground to background subject matter in the shot of Sydney’s Luna Park helps extend depth. The city skyline shot takes the eye from the foreground yacht way, way back to the far buildings.
The message: get in the picture to get the picture!
Tricks of the Trade
Try this next time: place your camera so that there is subject matter — buildings, trees, people — between you and the most distant point in the picture. This will give depth to the image. Turn the camera over to shoot wide shots in portrait format for extra depth.
Choose a ‘different’ camera position, maybe lower than head height or substantially higher.
Look into the use of wider angle extender lenses that attach to the front of your camera’s lens. But shoot a test before you lay down the cash or the plastic. There are some ‘dogs’ out there.
When making wide angle shots you get a free extra: because the lens is set to a wider and more forgiving focal length, you can use slower shutter speeds or work handheld.