I have a very deep respect for lifestyle photography. And I adore wide angle photography. Luckily for me, I think these two loves of mine make for a very complementary equation.
For definition and clarity purposes, by “wide angle” photography I am specifically talking about a full frame camera utilizing a lens with a focal length of 35mm or less (so typically 35mm, 24mm, 20mm or fisheye).
Some of the reasons why I love wide angle lenses:
1. Wider lenses tend to magnify the distance between objects and allow greater depth of focus (in other words, not blurring as much of the background);
2. A wider lens allows a greater amount of the surrounding scene to be included in the frame;
3. And a wide angle lens typically has a much shorter minimum focusing distance than the longer lenses have.
David DuChemin, in A Deeper Frame, describes the difference between wide and telephoto lenses as wide angle lenses being “inclusive” lenses and longer/tighter lenses as being “isolation” lenses. He explains that the wider the lens/angle, the more the lines of your vision are pushed to the extremes of your periphery, and that the more the lens invades your personal space and pulls you in, the more you are given a greater sense of being there within the scene.
So, what does this mean, in practical terms, for me as a lifestyle photographer? Well, it means that even if I’m in super tight quarters indoors, I can be quite close (distance-wise) to those whom I’m photographing, and still be able to capture multiple people interacting with each other, as well as the surrounding environment, and provide the viewer with a real sense of what it felt like to be there right in their midst.
Exhibit One: observe my dudes as they together build a bookcase in a narrow hallway. I’m quite literally shooting these images mere inches from them. My focal length: 24mm.
See what I mean? Do you feel like you could be there? Drilling that hole? Smirking along with my sons as my husband heckles them? Seeing the final form of the bookcase as it takes shape? Doesn’t it have a delicious feel of intimacy? Close-up, wide-angle photography can lend that intimacy to a lifestyle moment.
Exhibit Two: Once again 24mm, two sons, both creating with Legos, but two very different examples of what wide angle can accomplish. In the first image, I am perhaps 12” from my son; wide angle in this image gives me the ability to grab focus from close quarters. It feels like I’m right there immediately in his space. In the second image below, I’m perhaps 6’ from my son. What I’m using wide-angle for in that image is to wrap the “landscape” of his very messy bedroom all around him and his quiet task. I want the viewer to have a sense of his space, his surroundings, his world, his history. Oh, and so you don’t get the totally wrong idea about my son, he would want me to make clear to you that all that mess behind him is his younger brother’s side of the room. Anywhoooo, in both images, 24mm lends a feeling of authenticity by allowing a wider perspective, more detail, and greater depth of focus.
Last exhibit: Let’s head outdoors. 24mm again. I LOVE a big landscape. Always have, always will. And I LOVE wrapping a big landscape around people. Here’s a glorious evening at the beach with my dudes. I’m going to just let the pictures speak for themselves, but do please observe a big-wide-landscape, dudes doing their thing, and a feeling as if you could be walking right into their Frisbee zone …
And that, my friends, is why there is nearly always a wide angle lens on my camera…