Wide-angles and portraits

While a telephoto is the lens of choice for portraits, you shouldn’t dismiss wide-angles. Understand how they work, and you can use them to capture striking portraits.

THE THOUGHT OF sticking an ultra wide-angle zoom on a camera for shooting portraits will be an alien concept to many. However, it’s a technique that is popular with millions of DSLR photographers the world over, in particular with lifestyle, fashion and wedding photographers. The main reason being to make the most of the key characteristics of this type of lens, including lens distortion, extreme depth-of-field, warped perspective and converging verticals.

Although it’s a type of lens aberration that most try to avoid, distortion is often used by creative photographers to add impact to their images. With ultra wide-angle lenses in particular, it’s possible to capture eye-grabbing portraits boasting heavy distortion and a skewed perspective that work together to create dramatic and unusual images. The technique works particularly well when the location features straight edges, such as buildings, as these distort and bend to create surreal and interesting backdrops.

A favourite technique is to place the subject in front of a tall building, such as an office block or castle, then get close to them so that the subject looks disproportionately large while the building looks skewed and relatively small in comparison. It might sound like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, but the effect has been used successfully by fashion photographers for years!

Wide-angles are especially useful when you’re shooting on location and want to include plenty of the backdrop in the frame.

Remember that the wide field-of-view makes objects appear relatively small in the frame, so ensure your subject is reasonably close as they may blend into the backdrop.

Wide-angles are also brilliant for light-hearted portraits that warp facial features and totally distort the body. Use the widest end of an ultra wide-angle zoom or, even better, a fisheye lens and get in tight for some incredibly distorted and eye-catching images that work at nothing more than being very fun portraits to show off.

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