Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Fill Your Frame With Story
Use the expansive perspective of wide-angle lenses to put your portrait in context
By backing up from your subject, a wide-angle lens allows you to fill the edges or foreground of your shot with inanimate objects and enables you to frame your subject to support the story or mood of your image. Photographing a mechanic in his garage and incorporating his workspace, tools or cars into the scene says a lot more about that mechanic's character than a head-and-shoulders shot.
I sometimes break the rules a bit when I use a wide-angle for portraits and put a subject smack-dab in the middle of the frame and have those objects lead into or frame them.
You don't necessarily have to back up from your subject when using a wide-angle lens, but you'll find that shooting close-ups with it will show distortion. You'll notice the edges of your frame stretching. You may like this effect. I've photographed many images this way; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
If you don't have a chance to photograph someone in their workplace environment, there are many other portrait concepts that call for using a wide-angle.
I've had a love of old cars for a long time. I know nothing about how they work nor can I tell you the specifics of cylinders, horsepower, make or model. I just appreciate their artistic aesthetic, and I love to use them in my pictures. I have many images in my portfolio in which I've utilized a wide-angle lens and an old car.
So what do you like? What would be of interest to you to incorporate into your wide-angle portrait? Maybe you like motorcycles or boats? Monuments, buildings and large sculptures can have compelling graphic lines to integrate into the form of your image. Even your own home could be rich with colors and interesting furniture.
Think of your area. In the Midwest, there are prairies and knee-high golden wheat fields as far as the eye can see that would be perfect in which to shoot a wide-angle portrait. The Southwest is visually rich, with its vast desert areas and red rocks. The expanse of a frozen lake in upstate New York can create a quiet feeling, and the wraparound porches of old Southern homes are beautiful, timeless backdrops for this work.
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