Getting More From Your Wide Angle Lens

I remember when I got my first wide angle lens. It was a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, which I used on my Nikon D7000. This is one of the best third party lenses out there, and it’s largely thanks to the price point and quality of this lens that I was able to grow so much as a travel and landscape photographer. However, when I bought the Tokina, I had one thing in mind – epic landscape images like sunsets or cityscapes. I had no idea how versatile a wide angle lens could really be. So today, I’d like to share three things I’ve learned since I purchased that lens, along with some photos I’ve taken with this knowledge in mind. Whether you already own a wide angle lens yourself or are thinking of buying one soon, hopefully this will help you make the most of it.

Widest Isn’t Always Best

One of the temptations I think most people fall into with wide angle lenses, especially when they first get one, is to stay at the widest possible range. I spent a lot of time at the 11mm range of my 11-16mm Tokina. But the fact is, widest is not always best. True, the wider angle gets more in the image, but you don’t always need more in the image. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. Try exploring compositions above the longest range of your lens. It opens the door to more image possibilities than you might expect.

Nubble Lighthouse Maine16mm | f/11 | ISO 200  –  York, Maine, USA


Everything Doesn’t Have To Be Sharp

Another temptation I have found with wide angle lenses is the tendency to avoid background blur. That is to say, we assume everything should be sharp when we’re shooting with one. However, while these lenses aren’t typically known for their bokeh, that doesn’t mean they can’t produce any. I have several wide angle images that I love which were taken at a low f-stop, allowing for a sharp foreground and blurred background. Additionally, wide angle lenses usually have a smaller focusing distance, allowing you to get right on top of your subject. Use this to your advantage!

Autumn Leaf New Hampshire28mm | f/5 | ISO 250  –  White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA


Wide Angle Lenses Are The Ninjas Of Street Photography

With street photography, you may think you either want a long lens so you don’t have to be in your subject’s face, or a small lens that doesn’t seem threatening for when you are. Accordingly, a wide angle lens probably wouldn’t be your first choice in street photography, but it can actually be a great asset. The reason is simple: most people don’t realize they’re part of your photo when you’re using one! The wide angle of view can mean your lens is pointed away from people who are playing an important part in the image’s composition. Thus they act natural, ignore the camera, and allow you to take photos without anyone being bothered. This is great for photographers like me who like keeping things low key.

A matsuri float16mm | f/8 | ISO 100  –  Narita Gion Matsuri, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

Of course it’s true that a wide angle lens can help you create stunning, expansive images, but don’t get stuck there! Especially if you’ve purchased one of the brand name lenses, you’ve likely paid a hefty price. Even the Tokina isn’t cheap. So make the most of that investment and explore the built-in versatility of your lens. You won’t be disappointed.

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