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Wide Angle Portraits; Use Optical Character As An Advantage
A word that is often associated with wide angle lenses is “distortion.” It is true that wide angles distort what we see, but that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, it can work to our advantage. Photographers who like to capture what they see—or as close to it as possible—shy away from wide angle lens particularly those that are extreme—say wider than 20mm. This is especially true for portraiture, where exaggerated and distorted faces and bodies may not go over very well with the subject. However, as an artist you should have all the tools and techniques at your disposal to create dynamic images, and I would like to suggest that if you have not explored the creative potential for shooting people with wide angle lenses, it’s time you try it.
Similarly, a member of the Mudmen tribe in Papua, New Guinea (#2), posed for me in his village and I moved in tight to within a couple of feet. The bizarre mask seemed appropriate for a technique that distorted it. Notice also in both this image and the one of the Samburu girl that the background is in focus. Wide angle lenses inherently have tremendous depth of field, and this is a great advantage when you want to take an environmental portrait in which the background becomes a significant part of the picture. It gives dimension to the image as well as establishes a sense of place.
The model in photo (#4) was taken at sunset in the hills above Los Angeles. Notice the complete depth of field. I never could have captured that kind of detail and definition in the background had I been using a telephoto lens. By blocking the sun with the model, I eliminated lens flare and produced a sensual silhouette.
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