Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
OP DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,379
Thanks and a summary

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts on this.

I've compiled a list of hints and tips. Perhaps it will be useful to somebody. The trick, as always, is turning theory into effective images!

Wide angle lenses - dealing with compositional difficulties and exploiting characteristics


  • Subject elements not very close to the camera appear very small - clutters compositions with multiple competing minor interests and no obvious main subject
  • Tend to get a lot of unwanted foreground, sky, if not close enough to subject
  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background
  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result
  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape
  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards


Deal with unwanted distractions

  • Because subject elements further away are diminished in size, they can easily be overlooked, allowing unwanted elements in to clutter the composition. Examine edges and corners carefully in viewfinder and watch out for unwanted distractions. Look for branches, tripod legs, camera bags or other elements that aren’t a part of the image. This may be easier when chimping after capture

Make use of distortion for compositional impact

  • Choose a very strong foreground interest which will be the main compositional element even if it leads to a secondary background subject. This will dominate the lower frame
  • Get close to main subject to fill frame, exaggerate the size and shrink the background.
  • Shoot from nearer ground level, (while pointing up or down) to exaggerate line, patterns and textures in the foreground
  • Objects near the top and bottom of the frame tend to get stretched. Take advantage: With suitable landscape subjects, point down and lower shooting height to emphasise foreground lines and textures. At the same time, position a distant mountain at the top of the frame where it also gets stretched - this will make an otherwise diminished background element look bigger than expected
  • Use lead in lines from the edges/corners to the centre to pull people in

Minimise distortion

  • Keep camera level to avoid leaning subjects
  • Shift lens/adpator: Use rising front to include tall buildings while keeping verticals level
  • Shift lens/adaptor: Use drop front to include foreground without pointing camera down
  • Avoid placing objects at edges and corners that don’t benefit from stretching and distortion
  • Keep things that need to be undistorted in the centre of the frame

Corner to corner sharpness

When shooting from a low position with a foreground element close to the lens and a background which is equally important, getting sharp focus on both an object close and far away from the lens can be challenging. Possible solutions:

  • Use a small sensor camera for increased depth of field
  • Focus on the hyperfocal distance
  • Stop down to small aperture
  • Use forward tilt on tilt lens/adaptor to move plane of focus for flat subjects
  • Focus stack: capturing multiple images that focus on different places throughout the frame and blending them together in post-processing
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