Shooting Fashion Wide

The challenges of using
wide angle lens

Genlux Fashion

Five years ago, I went to Samy’s Camera on Fairfax in Los Angeles and forked out a whopping $200 bucks for a used Nikkor 24mm 2.8 lens. It’s the least expensive lens I own, it’s the smallest and most unattractive lens I own, it’s used and a bit battered and it’s definitely not an AF lens. But it’s the lens I use most often! I love the effect that a wide angle gives my photographs. But it is tricky to get the shot without some distortion, so let’s talk about that for a minute. With a foreground-to-background approach, you can produce a dynamic three-dimensional effect that gives your photographs a real sense of enviroment. This is a huge reason I favor wide angle lens. They allow more information in the area being photographed so you can create a story within your photo. You can see more detail of where the model is standing or sitting, you see backgrounds, foregrounds, etc. This creates mood, thus creating a more dynamic shoot.

One of the challenges that photographers face is the wide-ranging perspective. 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. So you can’t back up too far or your model gets “lost” in the environment. And then what happens if you get too close? That’s right……you can get some unflattering distortion. The body part closest to the lens starts appearing very large. So if your model is reaching her hand out toward the camera and it’s closest to the lens, their hand is going to appear mammoth and surreal. Does it look cool? Well, that’s the thing: you can break the rules in fashion photography. That’s why I became one! I hate rules. And I hate tech talk. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was to give budding fashion photographers some breathing room from those tight ass tech freaks and teach you guys that if the shot looks killer, go with it! The judge should be your EYE! Okay. That’s enough ranting. Back to wide angle.

YES! Look at the shot, see if it works, if it doesn’t move back, have the model stop reaching toward the camera and choose a different approach. I like to get down on the ground and shoot up on a girl, with my 24mm lens. Is that technically “right”. Who cares! Does it look hot? And in shooting music, in other words, shooting bands and rocks stars, you can break the rules even more. Because music is a medium that makes you feel, you can distort and flare the lens and tell them to all jump up and scream and just have an amazing shot!

Here’s something to think about: if you look at a lot of fashion photography you will see that a large percentage of photographs are shot low and angled up on the model. This gives her height. While no photographer can really make their model taller, shooting low and aiming up on her gives the illusion of height. A good safe bet is just shoot below your models shoulders. I like to shoot lower, but that’s my personal preference. The reason why models are tall and thin is that clothes “hang” better on a tall thin figures. So an angle that helps boost the height is always a good “look”. When you shoot with a wide angle lens, it adds a nice dimension to the photograph, adding drama and impact.

Heavy Mojo Band

(shot using a wide angle lens and spherize distortion effect in photoshop) Band: Heavy Mojo

Personally, I wouldn’t shoot with anything wider than a 24mm lens. Otherwise you can really get into some weird distortion that looks “fish eye”. I actually wanted that effect in the shot above, so I distorted it even more in photoshop throwing a Filter > Distort > Spherize filter on it. Be aware of the background and foreground in your shots because you’re picking up detail there, so make sure it’s of interest to the photograph. And just experiment. Again, just look at your photographs. Do the shots look great? Let your eye be your judge.

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