Wide-angle shots are by far the most popular type in landscape photography, and it is for obvious reasons. One can get a lot of the landscape in a single frame and a lot more out of wide-angle lenses.
What is a wide-angle lens? It is a lens with a significantly smaller focal length than normal lenses, varying from around 10mm up to 28mm-ish. There are various ways of capturing landscape shots with a wide-angle lens. Ranging from beautiful rural areas to majestic mountains and scenic seas, wide-angle photography has been successful in all aspects of landscapes. It changes the whole perspective of looking into a photo.
Today, I am sharing some of my favorite tips for absolutely stunning wide-angle shots — those that can get stuck in your viewers’ minds.
1. Get Down Low on the Ground
Getting down as low as possible gives us a unique field of view and perspective and completely changes the way we can look into a frame. It brings us closer to the foreground and it helps in creating a very compelling image in the end. In this example from Kanyakumari, I had put my camera on a stone lying on the beach (since I was not carrying any tripod lol) and got this ground-level shot of the waves crashing at the shore.
2. Use the Foreground
When a wide-angle lens is used, one will always be able to capture a lot in the frame and at that point in time, a solid foreground will be very essential in that case. The foreground will be very close to the camera generally and we can use proper detailing of the same in order to create stunning images. In these examples from Tumling and Mukutmanipur, I have used the bushes and the rocks respectively as foreground elements and created attractive images.
3. Corners are Important
Look out for vignetting and aberrations in the corners. This is one not-so-good thing in a wide-angle lens that can almost never be attained in-camera. One always needs to take care of the wide-angle vignettes and chromatic aberrations at the corners of the images.
They can, however, be easily fixed in post-processing using the Lens Corrections panel where there is a single checkbox called ‘Remove Chromatic Aberrations’ and ‘Enable Profile Corrections’. Most of the time, just clicking the checkboxes help, and if they don’t, then one can easily use the manual sliders for Defringe and Vignettes to get them away with.
4. Fill the Frame
This is very common advice and it can be used for any kind of lenses, but it works stupendously well for wide-angle shots. One can fill most of the frame with the subject or the environment and create images that will tell stories!
In the first example from Rock Gardens in Darjeeling, I have used the whole waterfall to fill most of the frame and in the second photo from Tumling, I have used the hill and the clouds to fill the frame, and also stood there myself to get a subject!
5. Get Close to the Subject
Yes, trust me or not, I took these two images by having my camera very close to the subjects. Absolutely different points of view will be seen once we get closer to the subjects. In the first photo at Digha, I was standing just a few centimeters away from the shell below, and in the tree photo from Tonglu, I was very near the broken branches.
6. Keep an Eye for Everything in the Frame
In a frame when one looks through a wide-angle, one needs to count for every single thing in the frame. Even one single object cannot be given lesser importance. In this photo from Kanyakumari, each and every rock in the foreground and every cloud in the sky come together to tell the story of the statues!
7. Use Wide-Angle Distortion to your Advantage
Using a wide-angle lens will always cause something in photos called ‘wide-angle distortion’. This causes objects in the edges and corners to get stretched outwards. However, this can be used to advantage in certain cases like, in case of clouds in the sky, the distortion will look like the clouds are being pulled inwards and that will always give some different effects as we never know what to expect from nature!
In this photo I took from my home at Agarpara, the clouds seem to be stretched outwards in the corners and pulled inwards where the Sun is, causing a very different look and feel to the image.
8. Focus Stacking is your BFF
Focus stacking is a technique of shooting multiple shots of the same frame by having focus in different areas every time, and then blending the images in post-processing to get the focused areas of the images in one frame. This helps in keeping the whole frame in focus. It is advisable to not shoot at f/22 because after f/16, most lenses tend to lose their sharpness, so, it is almost always better to capture multiple images at around f/11 and focus-stack them later in post-processing.
In this photo from Haringhata, I had taken three shots, one focusing on the foreground, the second one focusing on the tree, and the third one focusing on the sky. Later, I blended them all to create this fully focused image!
9. Play with Perspectives
When there is a wide-angle lens in hand, we should never stop experimenting. Always looking through the camera and getting unique perspectives is too much fun!
In the first photo from Laupala, I got down to the ground and put the camera very close to the yellow flowers. In the second photo at Mukutmanipur, I used rear curtain sync and told my friend to move quickly through the frame and got this unique shot!
10. Use Various Filters, but Wisely
Filters are always special, they give very unique images. But, while using them on wide-angle lenses, we need to be extra careful about fringes and vignetting. Another piece of glass added means more vignetting, so we always need to take care of this fact, and once taken care of, the filters will render stunning images, every time.
This photo was taken with a 6-stop ND filter at Rishikhola. It resulted in quite some vignetting around the corners, I had to remove them manually in Photoshop later.
Those were my 10 tips for better wide-angle landscape photography that I’ve learned over the years of photographing with my ultra-wide Nikkor lens. I hope these points will help some people capture even better landscapes!
About the author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.