6 Mistakes to Avoid with Wide Angle Lenses – Part 1

Landscape photographers love to shoot with wide angle lenses… and why not? The grand vistas that you see before you can be captured with a wide angle lens making the viewers feel that they are on the scene with you. However, wide angle lenses are not easy to use. The wide field of view that makes the lenses so attractive can lead to mistakes which can completely ruin your photos.

Here are some of the mistakes to avoid when shooting with your wide angle lenses…

Exposure Problems

With your wide angle lens, the wide field of view that is useful in capturing the grand vistas can also create wide variations in your photo. Variation of light can easily exceed the dynamic range of the camera and create problems with over or under exposure or both as seen in the following image.

  • Focal length 24mm – Over and under exposure problems, Redwood Forest National Park, California (CA), USA

  • Focal length 24mm – Manually-blended image, Redwood Forest National Park, California (CA), USA

One of the best ways to avoid over or under exposure is to preview your camera’s histogram after taking the photo and make necessary adjustments. If your camera settings are unable to accomplish this, you must either bracket the photo or use a GND filter to balance out the light. In the above shot from Redwood forest, I used bracketing to capture three different exposures and then blended them together in post-processing to create the image.

Not Getting Close to Your Subject

A wide angle lens allows you to get close to your subject, but it also creates a distortion that makes the far-away objects look small. If you are trying to capture that mountain range in the distance using a wide angle lens, you may find that it takes up a tiny portion of your frame compared to what you can see with your own eyes. Similarly, you lose details in the foreground if your subject is too far away from your lens as seen in the following image from Death Valley.

  • Badwater, Death Valley, California (CA), USA

    Focal length: 17mm, Closest object is more than 12 feet from the camera, Badwater, Death Valley, California (CA), USA

  • Focal length: 17mm, Closest object is more than three feet from the camera,, Badwater, Death Valley, California (CA), USA

You can avoid this problem by getting close to your subject or by zooming in. I used my wide angle lens and got close to the foreground to take the shot above.

Focusing Challenges

One of the biggest advantages of a wide angle lens is the fact that you can get incredibly close to your subject such as with the shot above of Death Valley. However, you must rely on hyperfocal distance principles to ensure that your photo is sharp throughout the frame. If these principles are not sufficient to provide acceptable sharpness, then you must rely on focus stacking techniques to create acceptably sharp images. This is exactly what I did when taking the following photo in Paria Canyon. I took two shots using different focusing points and then blended them together in Photoshop to create this image.

Paria River, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah (UT), USA

In the image above, you can see approximately where I focused to capture the two images that were later blended together. I highly recommend that you check your sharpness on the back of your camera after taking the photo.

This is exactly the kind of information available in our Wide Angle Lenses Course. This course demonstrates how to make the most out of your wide angle lens to capture stunning photos that makes you feel like you are looking out of a window.

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To be continued in 6 Mistakes to Avoid with Wide Angle Lenses – Part 2


About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams

  • FireBallXLV

    In the Parita River shot above (under Focusing Challenge), did you extend tripod to full length which will cause camera plane to tilt down or kept the tripod at a shorter height to be able to focus close to the camera?

    • Jay Patel

      If you mean was I close the ground when I took this photo the answer is yes I was close the ground and the camera was tilted down slightly. Not sure about the exact angle of tilt. Had I been higher up I may have been able to get away with one shot.

      • FireBallXLV

        Thanks Jay…