Wide-angle portraits

In Portrait by Jim Harmer

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


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..