Ultra wide lenses are unusual in the fact that they are probably mostly overlooked during your first few lens purchases. Usually after a kit lens you either go for a fast prime or a little more reach with telephoto, depending on what you shoot. Of course for this will differ for everyone but an ultra wide angle (UWA) is a specialised piece of glass. It was only recently that I started shooting with a Tamron 10-24mm and I can say it’s a lot of fun, once you work out how to use it properly.
Whats an Ultra Wide Angle Lens used for?
In most cases it’s more of a landscape type lens. There are a few people that shoot portraits with them and get varied results but as a general rule, landscapes/architecture is the main use. Don’t confuse Ultra Wide Angles and fish eye lenses.
The problems with Ultra Wide Angle lenses
The main problem with UWA’s is that they are just too damn wide. Your going to say “but that’s what you want”, and it’s true you buy an ultra wide angle to be able to fit lots in the frame however special consideration needs to be taken into account when composing the shot. Just because you can fit a lot in doesn’t mean you should, it doesn’t take long for a photo to become cluttered with extra elements that aren’t needed.
Distortion, the Tamron 10-24mm actually does quite well with distortion, for me I find it acceptable and in most cases I can fix any lines that aren’t straight in post. However some lenses are better then others in this area. The distortion of some lines actually add to an image in some cases.
Misalignment, is exaggerated! Think about standing in the middle of a jetty and shooting down the length of it. An ultra wide angle manages to exaggerate it if you are not in the dead center. So again a little bit of care is needed.
How to shoot with an ultra wide angle lens
Somethings to consider when shooting wide is that anything in the center of your frame will be smaller, anything around the edges will be larger. This is the biggest tip I can give anyone just starting out with an ultra wide angle.
You need to start looking at a scene more then a subject. If you want to shoot a subject, like for instance a landmark or building, get up close and make sure that it’s the only thing in the frame apart from some leading lines etc…
Just because you can zoom out to 16mm doesn’t mean you have to, but let’s face it you’ll probably want to so make sure you move yourself around a little so you still capture the scene and not everything else that is boring.
Again remember the distortion. You will need to learn how to fix vertical distortion in your chosen image editor. In most cases a bent vertical pillar of a building doesn’t look too crash hot. Some image editors provide lens correction presets, these sometimes work and sometimes don’t so work out the manual way and you’ll be much happier.
Long lenses or telephoto lenses compress an image, so that far away objects look closer. Ultra Wide Angles do the opposite.
If your aim is to shoot from the middle of a jetty, bridge, road or whatever make sure your in the middle, an Ultra Wide Angle will pick up your misalignment and it won’t look artistic.
Shooting with a wide angle is fun, it’s a lot of fun but it does require a bit of planning and practice to get it right. Check out the Tamron 10-24mm the reason I say this is because it’s a good priced lens and takes great photos. Also most ultra wide angles are 10-20mm I find the extra 4mm useful when walking around a city on holidays. Want to have even more fun, grab yourself some filters I use Cokin’s and really enjoy the results.