Wide Angle Photography – Thoughts from a Heretic

135mm (my preferred focal length) gets you nice a close without getting people’s faces. Wide angle photography offers no such buffer zone. Most streety stylin’ photographers I know seem to preach a wide angle faith bordering on fanatical – so what have I been missing?

In order to explore wide angle a little more, I acquired a compact… A Ricoh GR digital with a 28mm F2.8 lens. I felt like chucking the camera straight back onto Ebay when I downloaded my first few sets of shots. Everything was too small. People, buildings, objects – all just little random bits and pieces. I needed to stop and reset.

I kept “seeing” and composing shots imagining a longer focal length lens was on the camera. And they kept coming out needing significant cropping to get them even close to being OK.

Back to the internet for some advice, I got two decent guardrails…

1. Get Close


2. Move further away

The first thing was to Get Closer. My natural inclination was to continue to keep a fair distance between the camera and the subject, ending up with “inbetween” nothing shots.

When you move in close with a wide angle, you get much more of the background story into frame, whereas with a long focal length, the background tends to “crop”. Hmmm, I need another analogy here… With the same proportional size of your subject, a wide angle lens has a broader “window” behind the subject that will be included in the shot. The longer the focal length, the less of the background will be in shot.

Moving Further Away gets more of a broad scene into shot. Tell a story with more parts.

So, some results I am happier with :

r00007121 r00007101 r00005251

I am still not convinced this is the best outcome – A few more trips out with the camera should help develop my ability to compose with the wide lens. Hopefully.

One thing I have already improved on is determining the focus point. You can see in a couple of the shots above I was still working out how to set the focus point. One of the very few minor issues with the Ricoh GR is the lack of touch screen focus. I love the function on a lot of cheaper point and shoots where you just tap the LCD screen to tell the camera where to focus, and potentially meter from. The Ricoh needs direction from a joystick button – but works very quickly once you get the hang of it.

I have stuck at it for while now, and seem to be developing a better eye for wide angle composition. At a recent exhibition, one of my most popular images was “Intersection”, shot in New York on the Ricoh GR Digital and converted to Black and White in Lightroom. It sold in the first hour of the show!



4 Responses to “Wide Angle Photography – Thoughts from a Heretic”

  1. “The Ricoh needs direction from a joystick button – but works very quickly once you get the hang of it.”

    If I may suggest, perhaps you can try using the focus-recompose method. Keep the focus point at center, and recompose once focus is locked. I think it works faster than changing the focus point with joystick button.

    Beside, with this 18mm lens, the depth of field is relatively larger — focus is not that ‘sensitive’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t be afraid of getting in people’s faces! A smile afterwards works wonders. People’s faces are (generally speaking) more interesting than their backs!

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Mr Xpan – Fotodudenz (Matthew Joseph) Interview | Inconspicuosity - March 14, 2015

    […] MSP – When I first tried it, I always thought wide angle was about getting further away and getting more into the scene. You can read more about my own wide angle journey here. […]


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