Wide-angle portraits

wide angle lenses for portrait photography

Wide angle environmental portrait

Most people think of standard or telephoto lenses as being best suited for portrait photography, but never dare experiment with wide-angle lenses.  If your portrait photography is beginning to feel a bit stale, then try this new technique.

Wide-angle lenses distort distances.  What is close to the lens seems unusually large, and what is far away from the camera seems smaller and further away.  In short, wide angle lenses accentuate the feeling of distance.

Generally, wide angle lenses aren’t used for portraiture because it can make some body parts seem unnaturally large.  For example, if a portrait of a person’s face is taken with a wide angle lens up close, the nose will look huge because it is closer to the lens than the rest of the face.  Do not photograph your spouse this way or risk spending the next month on the couch.

So wide angles might not work for headshots, but they are fantastic for environmental portraits.  That’s just a fancy term for portraits that include the area around the subject in order to tell a story.

This is an easy technique to pull off as long as you have a true wide-angle lens.  If you have a kit lens that goes down to 18mm on your crop-frame DSLR, then this may only work marginally well.   You’ll probably need a true wide angle lens for best results.  If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out the post from last week on what you don’t know about wide angle lenses.

So this trick is done by using a wide angle lens (under 15mm for a crop-frame camera and under 22mm for a full-frame camera).  Get up close (usually about as close as your wide angle lens will focus) to part of the body or scenery which is closely connected to the person.  Then fire away!

Give wide angle portraits a whirl and then shoot me an email with your results!  I’d love to see what you’ve made.  You can reach my by sending me an email, which is jim AT improvephotography.com

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    I enjoyed this post. It is important to think outside the box and put away the 24-70 or 70-200 in the studio and get out a 10-20mm lens now and then. I’ll try it this weekend!

  2. Karma says

    I so agree with this. I’ve seen it said over and over by portrait photographers who are used to working in studios that you should never use a true wide angle for a portrait lens. But if you take lifestyles portraits, as our studio is becoming known for doing, the wide angle shots can be up to half of the shoot. There is no “portrait lens” because every portrait is different, there is only the right lens for whatever effect you want to achieve. This may well mean a long lens for a landscape or a wide angle for a storytelling portrait. Photographers should know the rules and then break them carefully, or risk their work becoming static and uninspiring!

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