What is a Wide Angle Lens

January 01

10 min. to read

It can be hard for beginners to understand what is a wide angle lens. Check out more about it!

If you are a beginner at photography then you might be satisfied with the kit lens you get included in the package. The most common type of lens included with most cameras is one with an 18-55mm focal length, which is a nice focal range to start practicing photography. However, as photographers move forward with their art, they tend to start investing in better lenses. 

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The Various Kinds of Lenses 

There are different kinds of lenses that specialize in specific kinds of photography. Let’s take a brief look at the most popular types of lenses available: 

  • Standard Lenses 

A standard lens is essentially one that has a fixed focal length. What this means in simple terms is that with a prime lens you cannot zoom into a subject. While this may sound like a downside to beginners, rest assured that prime lenses are preferred by a number of photographers because of their incredible image quality and usually wider apertures when compared with ‘zoom’ lenses.

  • Telephoto Lenses 

This is the technically correct name for what are commonly known as ‘zoom lenses’. Telephoto lenses have a very long focal range which helps in reaching far off subjects very easily. Focal ranges like 55-200mm and 70-300mm are common, and can go as far as 5200mm.

  • Macro Lenses 

Macro lenses have very close minimum focus distances, and are used to take very detailed photos of small objects like insects and flowers. Macro lenses are not limited to taking macro photos and can also be used for other types of photography.

  • Wide Angle Lenses 

Wide angle lenses are the best when it comes to taking photos where you want to show a very wide field of view, like in landscape or architectural photography. Common focal lengths for wide angle lenses are 14mm, 20mm, 24mm, and 28mm. 

Out of all these lens types, a beginner photographer is most likely to underestimate the uses of a wide angle lens. Let’s see why wide angle lenses should not be looked down upon, and how to use them for various kinds of landscape as well as indoor shots.

Far More Than Just Landscapes 

When someone talks about a wide angle lens, the first thing that usually comes to everyone’s mind is an immense landscape photo. While a wide angle lens can take a natural landscape picture like no other lens out there, it can do a lot more than that. Wide angle lenses are great for indoor or architectural photos, where you need to capture more of the scene in front of you. Note that these lenses are usually designed to distort the image by making lines converge faster at the edges of a photo, hence allowing photographers to be more creative with their photos. 

The ultimate form of wide angle lenses is the fisheye lens. This lens is specially designed to show a spherical view of the world around you. They take in a lot of visual information, and present it in a highly distorted and spherical way. It’s very easy to see then why fisheye lenses have their importance when it comes to creative landscape or street photography. 

What To Remember When Using Wide Angle Lenses 

Now that you have read through the uses of a wide angle lens, it is time to take a look at what you need to be careful about while using one.

  • Close Focal Point

In order to use a wide angle lens for taking visually striking images, it is better to have something very close to your lens as the focal point. This makes the subject more prominent while creating interesting, distorted backgrounds.

  • Not for Portraits 

It is important to remember that wide angle lenses are not made for portrait photography. Because of their heavy distortion in images, these lenses make faces look unflattering at best.

  • Distortion 

Of course, the most obvious effect that is seen when using a wide angle lens is the distortion in the pictures. While this can be used for creative effects in your images, it can also become a problem if not handled properly.

How To Edit Wide Angle Photos 

If you are not happy with how your wide angle photos look because of the distortion and chromatic aberration that comes with using wide lenses, you can always edit them a little to get your desired effect. This may usually happen when you are taking landscape photos, where you want a wider field of view but don’t want your image to get distorted towards the edges.

  • Correcting Lens Distortion 

If you want your photos to not look distorted, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom both have you covered. Photoshop now comes with a simple to use Adaptive Wide Angle Filter that can detect which camera and lens combination you used for your image, and then fixes the perspective of your image accordingly. Alternatively, you can use the whole host of manual controls that this tool brings, allowing you to set constraint points along the lines that you want to straighten, in order to make your landscape photos look the way you want. 

Lightroom has a similar feature where it can fix images automatically after detecting what gear you used. It also has manual controls based on sliders that you can tweak around to fix your image.

  • Cropping or Straightening Horizon 

Another way to fix the distorted edges of your landscape or interior photos is to crop them. This can easily be done by using the straightforward Crop tool in Luminar by Skylum. This new software makes it very easy to crop images the way you want, allowing you to even straighten the horizon line of your images with simple click and drag actions. You can take help from the various kinds of grids at your disposal as well, ranging from the Golden Ratio and Rule of Thirds to the usual Widescreen and Square ones.

Whether it is a vast landscape or a tight interior that you want to capture in a single photo, using a wide angle lens is probably your best bet for getting great results. If you like photographing nature or architecture, it is vital to invest in a good wide angle lens. If you are worried that your images won’t look very good with the distortion, using the tips mentioned in this article will help a great deal in getting the kind of images you want.