Wide-angle lenses are great for capturing the expanse of a mountain view, or for giving one an appreciation of the entirety of an organism's habitat.  Used wisely, however, they can do much more.

Compared to telephotos, wide-angle lenses are very easy to use.  They have great depth of field, even at full aperture, and they can be handheld at much slower shutter speeds. One great attribute is to be able to get a group of organisms - or people - in the frame, even when there isn't room to back up.  In addition, they are lightweight and inexpensive, at least when compared to telephotos.  In general, we consider anything with a shorter focal length than 50mm to be wide-angle.

Although they are easy to use, there are a few tricks and techniques specific to wide-angles that will increase their usefulness:

 

  1. You can handhold a wide-angle lens down to the reciprocal of its focal length.  In other words, you can hand-hold a 28mm lens down to 1/30 of a second.
  2. Watch out for particularly bright or dark objects in the frame that may throw off the exposure.  With more things in the frame, this isn't as easy as it sounds.  Exposure can be tricky.
  3. Watch out for distracting subjects creeping into the corners of the frame. For instance, the jet contrails in the photo (above, left) are somewhat distracting.
  4. Stronger photos often result when you can put an element in the foreground, such as the flowers in the picture (above, left).
  5. Adding a thin extension tube (12mm) to a wide-angle lens will enable you to make unique macro shots.  See the macro section for details.
  6. Watch out for distortion (Blair Witch Effect) as things get close to the lens or as you use a wider lens.
  7. Watch out for your own feet or shadows in the viewfinder!