Getting Close When Shooting Wide-Angle Photography

Use your wide-angle lens to create a three-dimensional-like look!

by Kerry Drager

Desert Rock Frame
Desert Rock Frame
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

Getting Depth in Your Wide-Angle Photography is Easy

With a foreground-to-background approach, you can produce a dynamic three-dimensional effect that gives viewers a real sense of place.

Unfortunately, the wide-angle's wide-ranging perspective is also what makes this focal length such a challenge. The tendency is to back up to get more into the picture, which commonly leads to either a "busy" look or to vast empty spaces.

Sunset on California Coast
Sunset on California Coast
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

Move In Close to a Foreground Object

The keys to success? Think FOREGROUND and move CLOSER!

Zero in very tight on an eye-catching object so it fills a good chunk of the picture frame while still retaining background features.

How close should you get to your foreground object? The nearest point in my wide-angle scenics is often about an arm's length away or even closer.

Incidentally, your foreground border also can help clean up a composition: by hiding a blank sky or by concealing any distracting objects.

Great Depth of Field for Great Wide-Angle Photos

In most wide-angle scenic situations, you'll want everything sharp - from front to back - since a great Depth of Field leads to a great feeling of space. Thus, for maximum sharpness, go with a very small lens opening (high f/stop number).

For precise DOF, use the preview mode or program found on many SLRs, check the scale markings on the barrel of some lenses, or use a hyperfocal chart. No DOF modes, guides, or charts? Then set your focusing point just beyond the closest spot in the scene (while also setting the f/stop for a small aperture) or set your focus one-third up from the bottom of the picture frame.

Finally: When working in close, even a small camera shift can mean a big compositional difference. That's why I use the "accessory photographers love to hate": a tripod!

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website -

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.