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

Started 3 months ago | Discussions
Ed Rizk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,785
Re: Thanks and a summary

DMillier wrote:

As a wide angle fanatic, I always read threads like this to see if there are any new tips and tricks I can use.   I was originally just lurking in the Sigma forum to see what was up with the new L mount camera, disappointing.

I have trouble seeing great telephoto shots like yours, because I started serious photography with wide angle due to my real estate business.   It then bled over to my fun shots.

Your wide angle shots are not bad.   They would be improved by very small adjustments, like getting a little lower with your beach shot.

One comment you made earlier is that you see your telephoto shots instantly.   That doesn't happen with ultra wide.   You see a scene, but it looks so much different with the UWA that you have to move around and look at different perspectives, in terms of angles and distances.   It's a ponderous activity.   Take your time.

Very small movements that would not be noticed with another kind of lens make a big difference with UWA.

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

Framing

  • 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

The foreground is easily controlled by getting lower.   The key to the sky is shooting on a day with a spectacular sky.   There is nothing more boring in a UWA shot than a clear blue sky.

  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Be ponderous and notice them.

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background

Use this to create a busy picture but with a clear hierarchy of importance to the elements.

  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result

Yes.   Use that to focus the viewer's attention to the most important part of the image.

  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape

This is an unavoidable problem with no artistic value that I have been able to figure out.  Often I use vignette or edge blur to minimize it in post.   Cropping works too, if you don't have more issues at the new edge.

  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards

This one can be most interesting.   Perfectly parallel verticals can be good if the object (building) is not too close.   A little bit of this distortion, sometimes called keystoning, can actually look more natural.   A little more keystoning can look sloppy.

A lot of keystoning can look artistic if you pay attention to the angles in your composition.

Tips

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

A larger sensor can take a smaller aperture before hitting the diffraction limits, so the sensor size makes no difference.

  • 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

I've been debating whether to take up focus stacking, but more for macro than landscapes.

In your landscape/cityscape compositions, think foreground, middle ground (usually the main subject), background.   All three have to be there and have to be good, hence my love of partly cloudy days.   A good sky takes care of the background problem, particularly if you don't have any mountains like we don't on the Texas gulf coast.   If you don't have any mountains, and there are no clouds in the sky, leave the wide angle at home.   There is always something fun to put in the foreground, if you look hard enough.

Take your time, and be ponderous.

Last tip, think of all the things in your picture as elements in an abstract painting and arrange them by moving your camera around.   You clearly have a good sense of abstract composition as shown in your telephoto shots.

-- hide signature --

Ed Rizk

 Ed Rizk's gear list:Ed Rizk's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +3 more
xpatUSA
xpatUSA Forum Pro • Posts: 16,033
Re: Thanks and a summary

Ed Rizk wrote:

DMillier wrote:

As a wide angle fanatic, I always read threads like this to see if there are any new tips and tricks I can use. I was originally just lurking in the Sigma forum to see what was up with the new L mount camera, disappointing.

I have trouble seeing great telephoto shots like yours, because I started serious photography with wide angle due to my real estate business. It then bled over to my fun shots.

Your wide angle shots are not bad. They would be improved by very small adjustments, like getting a little lower with your beach shot.

One comment you made earlier is that you see your telephoto shots instantly. That doesn't happen with ultra wide. You see a scene, but it looks so much different with the UWA that you have to move around and look at different perspectives, in terms of angles and distances. It's a ponderous activity. Take your time.

Very small movements that would not be noticed with another kind of lens make a big difference with UWA.

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

Framing

  • 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

The foreground is easily controlled by getting lower. The key to the sky is shooting on a day with a spectacular sky. There is nothing more boring in a UWA shot than a clear blue sky.

  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Be ponderous and notice them.

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background

Use this to create a busy picture but with a clear hierarchy of importance to the elements.

  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result

Yes. Use that to focus the viewer's attention to the most important part of the image.

  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape

This is an unavoidable problem with no artistic value that I have been able to figure out. Often I use vignette or edge blur to minimize it in post. Cropping works too, if you don't have more issues at the new edge.

  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards

This one can be most interesting. Perfectly parallel verticals can be good if the object (building) is not too close. A little bit of this distortion, sometimes called keystoning, can actually look more natural. A little more keystoning can look sloppy.

A lot of keystoning can look artistic if you pay attention to the angles in your composition.

Tips

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

A larger sensor can take a smaller aperture before hitting the diffraction limits, so the sensor size makes no difference.

  • 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

I've been debating whether to take up focus stacking, but more for macro than landscapes.

In your landscape/cityscape compositions, think foreground, middle ground (usually the main subject), background. All three have to be there and have to be good, hence my love of partly cloudy days. A good sky takes care of the background problem, particularly if you don't have any mountains like we don't on the Texas gulf coast. If you don't have any mountains, and there are no clouds in the sky, leave the wide angle at home. There is always something fun to put in the foreground, if you look hard enough.

Take your time, and be ponderous.

Last tip, think of all the things in your picture as elements in an abstract painting and arrange them by moving your camera around. You clearly have a good sense of abstract composition as shown in your telephoto shots.

Thanks for stopping by!

I see that we're almost neighbors (by Texas standards) ...

-- hide signature --

Ted

 xpatUSA's gear list:xpatUSA's gear list
Sigma DP2 Sigma DP2 Merrill Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Sigma SD15 +17 more
MOD Kendall Helmstetter Gelner Forum Pro • Posts: 20,579
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

I think it's a matter of taste and mood, sometimes I feel lots more like shooting longer stuff, other times I really want to capture a wide subject.

I saw you collected a list of tips for dealing with wide angle images, here's a few more:

1) Keep your camera level if you want vertical lines to appear straight without further post processing work.

2) Nothing wrong with considering cropping a really wide angle image down to a pano!

3) More important the foreground stuff is sharp than background, so err on the side of closer focus if trying to use hyperlocal focus.

4) Since as your notes noted things on the edge get misshapen, you can use that re-shaping to producing a pleasing leading line effect towards the center of the image (works better for objects, re-shapen people might be considered more odd).

 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list:Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM +4 more
richard stone Veteran Member • Posts: 3,298
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner wrote:

I think it's a matter of taste and mood, sometimes I feel lots more like shooting longer stuff, other times I really want to capture a wide subject.

I saw you collected a list of tips for dealing with wide angle images, here's a few more:

1) Keep your camera level if you want vertical lines to appear straight without further post processing work.

2) Nothing wrong with considering cropping a really wide angle image down to a pano!

3) More important the foreground stuff is sharp than background, so err on the side of closer focus if trying to use hyperlocal focus.

4) Since as your notes noted things on the edge get misshapen, you can use that re-shaping to producing a pleasing leading line effect towards the center of the image (works better for objects, re-shapen people might be considered more odd).

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...

The reality is that we do not see things that are far away with anything like the clarity we can achieve with our Sigma cameras. Trying to keep everything in focus and sharp and detailed strikes me as about as misguided as "lifting" all the shadows in an image, the beginning of the road (paved with good intentions, of course), that leads (sadly) to HDR. Longer lenses can "solve" that problem.

Keeping the distant mountains (or buildings) "in focus" is, to me, something like a visual pun: What exactly is the viewer supposed to "focus"  on, in the image? With a WA lens it has to be in the foreground, and middle, distance wise, not the background. Yes, it's fun to peep at these images with everything sharp and in focus, and it can also be disturbing, another legitimate result. (If it is intentional...)

And in the end, if you are trying to take pictures like that you are fighting with reality and your lens choice. I would not say that resistance is futile... But we have to pick our battles.

-- hide signature --
 richard stone's gear list:richard stone's gear list
Sigma SD10 Sigma sd Quattro Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art
Ed Rizk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,785
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

richard stone wrote:

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner wrote:

I think it's a matter of taste and mood, sometimes I feel lots more like shooting longer stuff, other times I really want to capture a wide subject.

I saw you collected a list of tips for dealing with wide angle images, here's a few more:

1) Keep your camera level if you want vertical lines to appear straight without further post processing work.

2) Nothing wrong with considering cropping a really wide angle image down to a pano!

3) More important the foreground stuff is sharp than background, so err on the side of closer focus if trying to use hyperlocal focus.

4) Since as your notes noted things on the edge get misshapen, you can use that re-shaping to producing a pleasing leading line effect towards the center of the image (works better for objects, re-shapen people might be considered more odd).

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...

The reality is that we do not see things that are far away with anything like the clarity we can achieve with our Sigma cameras. Trying to keep everything in focus and sharp and detailed strikes me as about as misguided as "lifting" all the shadows in an image, the beginning of the road (paved with good intentions, of course), that leads (sadly) to HDR. Longer lenses can "solve" that problem.

Keeping the distant mountains (or buildings) "in focus" is, to me, something like a visual pun: What exactly is the viewer supposed to "focus" on, in the image? With a WA lens it has to be in the foreground, and middle, distance wise, not the background. Yes, it's fun to peep at these images with everything sharp and in focus, and it can also be disturbing, another legitimate result. (If it is intentional...)

And in the end, if you are trying to take pictures like that you are fighting with reality and your lens choice. I would not say that resistance is futile... But we have to pick our battles.

Reality is highly overrated.

A wide angle shot with a lot of detail should have an overall pleasing composition made up of the larger elements.   The viewer can then look closer and notice the details.

I guess you can use wide angle for environmental portraits where you would try to deemphasize the background detail by blueing it out or darkening it by using flash on the main subject.   But that’s not how a scenic shot works with wide angle.

-- hide signature --

Ed Rizk

 Ed Rizk's gear list:Ed Rizk's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +3 more
Ed Rizk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,785
Re: Thanks and a summary

xpatUSA wrote:

Ed Rizk wrote:

DMillier wrote:

As a wide angle fanatic, I always read threads like this to see if there are any new tips and tricks I can use. I was originally just lurking in the Sigma forum to see what was up with the new L mount camera, disappointing.

I have trouble seeing great telephoto shots like yours, because I started serious photography with wide angle due to my real estate business. It then bled over to my fun shots.

Your wide angle shots are not bad. They would be improved by very small adjustments, like getting a little lower with your beach shot.

One comment you made earlier is that you see your telephoto shots instantly. That doesn't happen with ultra wide. You see a scene, but it looks so much different with the UWA that you have to move around and look at different perspectives, in terms of angles and distances. It's a ponderous activity. Take your time.

Very small movements that would not be noticed with another kind of lens make a big difference with UWA.

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

Framing

  • 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

The foreground is easily controlled by getting lower. The key to the sky is shooting on a day with a spectacular sky. There is nothing more boring in a UWA shot than a clear blue sky.

  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Be ponderous and notice them.

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background

Use this to create a busy picture but with a clear hierarchy of importance to the elements.

  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result

Yes. Use that to focus the viewer's attention to the most important part of the image.

  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape

This is an unavoidable problem with no artistic value that I have been able to figure out. Often I use vignette or edge blur to minimize it in post. Cropping works too, if you don't have more issues at the new edge.

  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards

This one can be most interesting. Perfectly parallel verticals can be good if the object (building) is not too close. A little bit of this distortion, sometimes called keystoning, can actually look more natural. A little more keystoning can look sloppy.

A lot of keystoning can look artistic if you pay attention to the angles in your composition.

Tips

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

A larger sensor can take a smaller aperture before hitting the diffraction limits, so the sensor size makes no difference.

  • 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

I've been debating whether to take up focus stacking, but more for macro than landscapes.

In your landscape/cityscape compositions, think foreground, middle ground (usually the main subject), background. All three have to be there and have to be good, hence my love of partly cloudy days. A good sky takes care of the background problem, particularly if you don't have any mountains like we don't on the Texas gulf coast. If you don't have any mountains, and there are no clouds in the sky, leave the wide angle at home. There is always something fun to put in the foreground, if you look hard enough.

Take your time, and be ponderous.

Last tip, think of all the things in your picture as elements in an abstract painting and arrange them by moving your camera around. You clearly have a good sense of abstract composition as shown in your telephoto shots.

Thanks for stopping by!

I see that we're almost neighbors (by Texas standards) ...

Howdy neighbor.   I’m in Houston.   Where are you?

-- hide signature --

Ed Rizk

 Ed Rizk's gear list:Ed Rizk's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +3 more
xpatUSA
xpatUSA Forum Pro • Posts: 16,033
Re: Thanks and a summary

Ed Rizk wrote:

xpatUSA wrote:

Ed Rizk wrote:

DMillier wrote:

As a wide angle fanatic, I always read threads like this to see if there are any new tips and tricks I can use. I was originally just lurking in the Sigma forum to see what was up with the new L mount camera, disappointing.

I have trouble seeing great telephoto shots like yours, because I started serious photography with wide angle due to my real estate business. It then bled over to my fun shots.

Your wide angle shots are not bad. They would be improved by very small adjustments, like getting a little lower with your beach shot.

One comment you made earlier is that you see your telephoto shots instantly. That doesn't happen with ultra wide. You see a scene, but it looks so much different with the UWA that you have to move around and look at different perspectives, in terms of angles and distances. It's a ponderous activity. Take your time.

Very small movements that would not be noticed with another kind of lens make a big difference with UWA.

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

Framing

  • 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

The foreground is easily controlled by getting lower. The key to the sky is shooting on a day with a spectacular sky. There is nothing more boring in a UWA shot than a clear blue sky.

  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Be ponderous and notice them.

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background

Use this to create a busy picture but with a clear hierarchy of importance to the elements.

  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result

Yes. Use that to focus the viewer's attention to the most important part of the image.

  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape

This is an unavoidable problem with no artistic value that I have been able to figure out. Often I use vignette or edge blur to minimize it in post. Cropping works too, if you don't have more issues at the new edge.

  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards

This one can be most interesting. Perfectly parallel verticals can be good if the object (building) is not too close. A little bit of this distortion, sometimes called keystoning, can actually look more natural. A little more keystoning can look sloppy.

A lot of keystoning can look artistic if you pay attention to the angles in your composition.

Tips

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

A larger sensor can take a smaller aperture before hitting the diffraction limits, so the sensor size makes no difference.

  • 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

I've been debating whether to take up focus stacking, but more for macro than landscapes.

In your landscape/cityscape compositions, think foreground, middle ground (usually the main subject), background. All three have to be there and have to be good, hence my love of partly cloudy days. A good sky takes care of the background problem, particularly if you don't have any mountains like we don't on the Texas gulf coast. If you don't have any mountains, and there are no clouds in the sky, leave the wide angle at home. There is always something fun to put in the foreground, if you look hard enough.

Take your time, and be ponderous.

Last tip, think of all the things in your picture as elements in an abstract painting and arrange them by moving your camera around. You clearly have a good sense of abstract composition as shown in your telephoto shots.

Thanks for stopping by!

I see that we're almost neighbors (by Texas standards) ...

Howdy neighbor. I’m in Houston. Where are you?

8 miles down a dirt road out of Bellville.

Before that, Katy.

-- hide signature --

Ted

 xpatUSA's gear list:xpatUSA's gear list
Sigma DP2 Sigma DP2 Merrill Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Sigma SD15 +17 more
Ed Rizk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,785
Re: Thanks and a summary

xpatUSA wrote:

Ed Rizk wrote:

xpatUSA wrote:

Ed Rizk wrote:

DMillier wrote:

As a wide angle fanatic, I always read threads like this to see if there are any new tips and tricks I can use. I was originally just lurking in the Sigma forum to see what was up with the new L mount camera, disappointing.

I have trouble seeing great telephoto shots like yours, because I started serious photography with wide angle due to my real estate business. It then bled over to my fun shots.

Your wide angle shots are not bad. They would be improved by very small adjustments, like getting a little lower with your beach shot.

One comment you made earlier is that you see your telephoto shots instantly. That doesn't happen with ultra wide. You see a scene, but it looks so much different with the UWA that you have to move around and look at different perspectives, in terms of angles and distances. It's a ponderous activity. Take your time.

Very small movements that would not be noticed with another kind of lens make a big difference with UWA.

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

Framing

  • 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

The foreground is easily controlled by getting lower. The key to the sky is shooting on a day with a spectacular sky. There is nothing more boring in a UWA shot than a clear blue sky.

  • Even when there is a close main subject, it is easy for additional elements to pass unnoticed at edges of frame

Be ponderous and notice them.

Apparent distortion

  • Subjects close to lens exaggerated in size compared to midground and background

Use this to create a busy picture but with a clear hierarchy of importance to the elements.

  • Steep perspective to vanishing points as a result

Yes. Use that to focus the viewer's attention to the most important part of the image.

  • Objects near edges and corners pulled out of shape

This is an unavoidable problem with no artistic value that I have been able to figure out. Often I use vignette or edge blur to minimize it in post. Cropping works too, if you don't have more issues at the new edge.

  • If camera tilted up or down, verticals lean inwards or outwards

This one can be most interesting. Perfectly parallel verticals can be good if the object (building) is not too close. A little bit of this distortion, sometimes called keystoning, can actually look more natural. A little more keystoning can look sloppy.

A lot of keystoning can look artistic if you pay attention to the angles in your composition.

Tips

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

A larger sensor can take a smaller aperture before hitting the diffraction limits, so the sensor size makes no difference.

  • 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

I've been debating whether to take up focus stacking, but more for macro than landscapes.

In your landscape/cityscape compositions, think foreground, middle ground (usually the main subject), background. All three have to be there and have to be good, hence my love of partly cloudy days. A good sky takes care of the background problem, particularly if you don't have any mountains like we don't on the Texas gulf coast. If you don't have any mountains, and there are no clouds in the sky, leave the wide angle at home. There is always something fun to put in the foreground, if you look hard enough.

Take your time, and be ponderous.

Last tip, think of all the things in your picture as elements in an abstract painting and arrange them by moving your camera around. You clearly have a good sense of abstract composition as shown in your telephoto shots.

Thanks for stopping by!

I see that we're almost neighbors (by Texas standards) ...

Howdy neighbor. I’m in Houston. Where are you?

8 miles down a dirt road out of Bellville.

Before that, Katy.

We really are neighbors, then.   There are quite a few of us on DPR.

-- hide signature --

Ed Rizk

 Ed Rizk's gear list:Ed Rizk's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +3 more
Dark slide Contributing Member • Posts: 670
Re: Thanks and a summary

Each to his/her own. I looked over your list and wondered what is happening? To quote  David Bailey again in this forum (he is a very famous English photographer and now in his 70s at least), "The photographs are there. You just have to find them."

For myself I find the photo then determine which tool to use to make the image, a list is not a lot of help and even long-established art critics (in the painting sense) have been known to say, "Is this a good photograph?" But, each to their own.

richard stone Veteran Member • Posts: 3,298
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

Ed Rizk wrote:

richard stone wrote:

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner wrote:

I think it's a matter of taste and mood, sometimes I feel lots more like shooting longer stuff, other times I really want to capture a wide subject.

I saw you collected a list of tips for dealing with wide angle images, here's a few more:

1) Keep your camera level if you want vertical lines to appear straight without further post processing work.

2) Nothing wrong with considering cropping a really wide angle image down to a pano!

3) More important the foreground stuff is sharp than background, so err on the side of closer focus if trying to use hyperlocal focus.

4) Since as your notes noted things on the edge get misshapen, you can use that re-shaping to producing a pleasing leading line effect towards the center of the image (works better for objects, re-shapen people might be considered more odd).

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...

The reality is that we do not see things that are far away with anything like the clarity we can achieve with our Sigma cameras. Trying to keep everything in focus and sharp and detailed strikes me as about as misguided as "lifting" all the shadows in an image, the beginning of the road (paved with good intentions, of course), that leads (sadly) to HDR. Longer lenses can "solve" that problem.

Keeping the distant mountains (or buildings) "in focus" is, to me, something like a visual pun: What exactly is the viewer supposed to "focus" on, in the image? With a WA lens it has to be in the foreground, and middle, distance wise, not the background. Yes, it's fun to peep at these images with everything sharp and in focus, and it can also be disturbing, another legitimate result. (If it is intentional...)

And in the end, if you are trying to take pictures like that you are fighting with reality and your lens choice. I would not say that resistance is futile... But we have to pick our battles.

Reality is highly overrated.

A wide angle shot with a lot of detail should have an overall pleasing composition made up of the larger elements. The viewer can then look closer and notice the details.

I agree that reality is over-rated: My point was only that trying to make "everything" sharp in an WA image is fighting with the reality of distant things being blurry simply by being far away. I like wide angle shots.

I guess you can use wide angle for environmental portraits where you would try to deemphasize the background detail by blueing it out or darkening it by using flash on the main subject. But that’s not how a scenic shot works with wide angle.--

My small gallery: http://www.pbase.com/richard44/inbox

 richard stone's gear list:richard stone's gear list
Sigma SD10 Sigma sd Quattro Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art
threw the lens
threw the lens Senior Member • Posts: 1,803
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?

DMillier wrote:

I used to love wide angle lenses - I thought they produced very dramatic imagery.

Nowadays I shoot almost always with longer focal lengths, even for landscapes. I find that using wide angles almost always results in terrible compositions.

Question is, why? Ultra wide angles are very popular these days, everyone uses them, often with great success. But I can't shoot anything wider than 35mm equivalent without getting poor compositions.

Why do I find wider lenses so hard to compose with? There must be something about the characteristics of wide lenses that is hard to control...

Don't worry, this is not confined to you. You are one of the only people who realise or admit it.

I soon realised that the interesting bit of many landscapes was on the horizon and ultrawides exaggerated foreground clutter.

I did get an ultrawide but the bigger the landscape I'm shooting, the longer the lens I prefer to use now. My ultrawides are mainly for small spaces. I may use fisheyes for indoor spaces with a lot of people because it doesn't make them bigger at the edges.

The longer lens compression effect is helpful on some landscapes, making stacked rows of things.

OP DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,482
Re: Thanks and a summary

I was thinking mainly about the use of wide lenses for landscape photography. Perhaps that wasn't obvious from the thread. Landscapes are obviously a more limited palette than the totality of wide angle work and therefore seem more open to a workflow based approach.  Of course, the hope would be that with time, this all becomes instinctive.

-- hide signature --
marcodadofoto
marcodadofoto Senior Member • Posts: 2,847
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?
1

Interesting question.

I think it is because wide angles include SO MANY things in the picture, often TOO MANY things. So, after the first "wow" effect that this can give to the photographer (which can persist for a whole lifetime in some cases ) it can come to be a little boring, or at least less interesting.

Having the chance to try a lot of lenses, I'm finding much more intriguing, often, to shoot without a wide angle, or at least not with an extreme one.

Yet, I cant' wait to use my 12-24 Art on a full frame foveon sensor for an "effective" 12 mm shooting experience!

D Cox Forum Pro • Posts: 24,620
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?
2

richard stone wrote:

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...

The reality is that we do not see things that are far away with anything like the clarity we can achieve with our Sigma cameras. Trying to keep everything in focus and sharp and detailed strikes me as about as misguided as "lifting" all the shadows in an image, the beginning of the road (paved with good intentions, of course), that leads (sadly) to HDR. Longer lenses can "solve" that problem.

Keeping the distant mountains (or buildings) "in focus" is, to me, something like a visual pun: What exactly is the viewer supposed to "focus" on, in the image? With a WA lens it has to be in the foreground, and middle, distance wise, not the background. Yes, it's fun to peep at these images with everything sharp and in focus, and it can also be disturbing, another legitimate result. (If it is intentional...)

And in the end, if you are trying to take pictures like that you are fighting with reality and your lens choice. I would not say that resistance is futile... But we have to pick our battles.

If you look at a landscape by Breughel, you will see that everything is in focus. Nobody ever complained.

xpatUSA
xpatUSA Forum Pro • Posts: 16,033
withdrawn n/t
 xpatUSA's gear list:xpatUSA's gear list
Sigma DP2 Sigma DP2 Merrill Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Sigma SD15 +17 more
jande9
jande9 Senior Member • Posts: 1,425
Re: Thanks and a summary

DMillier wrote:

I was thinking mainly about the use of wide lenses for landscape photography. Perhaps that wasn't obvious from the thread. Landscapes are obviously a more limited palette than the totality of wide angle work and therefore seem more open to a workflow based approach. Of course, the hope would be that with time, this all becomes instinctive.

I think it is very difficult to get a satisfying landscape shot with a wide angle lens, unless you are shooting the Milky Way or you are very close to something very big.

WA lenses seem more suited to emphasizing the space between the foreground and the background and showing the relationship of the foreground to the background.

There are lots of examples of beautiful but cliched WA shots.  The lonely tree in the desert.  The rock in the surf.  The detail on the classic car.  Finding your own "voice" using a WA lens is hard but if you are able the results can be very dramatic.

Jan

 jande9's gear list:jande9's gear list
Canon PowerShot A650 IS Sigma DP1s Sigma DP2 Merrill Panasonic FZ1000 Sony Alpha NEX-7 +4 more
Smallpox
Smallpox Regular Member • Posts: 417
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?
2

This is very nice indeed.

Can you tell us which lens and camera you used, and where the scene is ?

Thanks. This is a tiny casio ZR850 with 25-900 lens in southern Croatia.

An example of how a good photographer can use any camera.

The everlasting discussion between FF luggers making snaps for facebook and people doing exhibitions with smartphone pictures... All I can say is that some of my smaller cameras get the shot much more reliable/consistently then my big equipment...

-- hide signature --

Only drummers can travel in time

 Smallpox's gear list:Smallpox's gear list
Fujifilm X-A5
Ed Rizk Veteran Member • Posts: 3,785
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?
1

Smallpox wrote:

This is very nice indeed.

Can you tell us which lens and camera you used, and where the scene is ?

Thanks. This is a tiny casio ZR850 with 25-900 lens in southern Croatia.

An example of how a good photographer can use any camera.

The everlasting discussion between FF luggers making snaps for facebook and people doing exhibitions with smartphone pictures... All I can say is that some of my smaller cameras get the shot much more reliable/consistently then my big equipment...

That’s the first thing I noticed when I became a FF lugger.  It is harder to get the shot with FF.

Perfect focus is much more important, because of the shallower DOG. Smaller sensors are more forgiving when it comes to focus.

-- hide signature --

Ed Rizk

 Ed Rizk's gear list:Ed Rizk's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Canon EF 24-70mm F4L IS USM +3 more
MOD Kendall Helmstetter Gelner Forum Pro • Posts: 20,579
Was going to reply with exactly that

D Cox wrote:

richard stone wrote:

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...<..>

If you look at a landscape by Breughel, you will see that everything is in focus. Nobody ever complained.<...>

I was going to respond with pretty much the abstract of that response - that in paintings there are a large number of images that are very wide, yet also hold compelling detail if you look close.

I really like wide angle images that can work that way, I think the effect works best with some strong foreground stuff, some pleasing background elements, then very little in the middle ground area so as to keep separation and let you enjoy the larger scene before moving on to details, a conscious step.

 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list:Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM +4 more
telefunk
telefunk Senior Member • Posts: 2,468
Re: Why I am I so bad composing with wide angle lenses?
1

D Cox wrote:

richard stone wrote:

I think what is perhaps going on here, for David, and I know this is an assumption, is that he may have the desire to have everything in the frame be (equally) sharp and in focus. To me this is also part of the disturbing allure of the Merrill cameras...

The reality is that we do not see things that are far away with anything like the clarity we can achieve with our Sigma cameras. Trying to keep everything in focus and sharp and detailed strikes me as about as misguided as "lifting" all the shadows in an image, the beginning of the road (paved with good intentions, of course), that leads (sadly) to HDR. Longer lenses can "solve" that problem.

Keeping the distant mountains (or buildings) "in focus" is, to me, something like a visual pun: What exactly is the viewer supposed to "focus" on, in the image? With a WA lens it has to be in the foreground, and middle, distance wise, not the background. Yes, it's fun to peep at these images with everything sharp and in focus, and it can also be disturbing, another legitimate result. (If it is intentional...)

And in the end, if you are trying to take pictures like that you are fighting with reality and your lens choice. I would not say that resistance is futile... But we have to pick our battles.

If you look at a landscape by Breughel, you will see that everything is in focus. Nobody ever complained.

You hit the nail on the head! Depth of field unsharpness is sooooooo unnatural

 telefunk's gear list:telefunk's gear list
Casio Exilim EX-ZR800 Casio EX-ZR5000 Fujifilm X-A5 +5 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads