11 common lens errors and how you can avoid them

11 common lens errors and how you can avoid them

Common Lens Error No. 4: Distorted portraits

Wide angle portraits: how to use your wide-angle lens to caricature your friends

Wideangle lenses are very useful when you want to capture a sweeping vista or you’re shooting in a cramped interior, but they’re not usually the best choice for portraits.

The problem is that objects close to the lens tend to look much bigger than those just a little further away and with a portrait this can often result in a huge nose in front of a tiny pair of eyes in a small head. It’s not usually the most flattering look.

For the best results switch to an effective focal length of around 70-100mm, 85mm lenses are a particular favourite with full-frame portrait photographers.

Meanwhile photographers with APS-C format cameras will find that the telephoto end of their kit lens, which is typically an 18-55mm zoom works well.

On a Nikon DSLR the 55mm end is equivalent to around 82.5mm while on a Canon SLR it’s about 88mm.

A longer lens also allows you to step further away from your subject so they feel less crowded and are likely to relax a little more.

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Common Lens Error No. 5: Converging verticals

Camera tips: how to fix converging verticals in-camera

Our original image – look at those tilting walls!

Converging verticals or keystoning are the terms used to describe the effect of perspective that results in the base of a building looking wider than its top.

This can produce some very dramatic results, especially if you go in close to the building and shoot upwards with a wideangle lens to emphasise the perspective.

However, when you step back to include more of the surroundings the building may still have converging verticals and it may even look like it’s about to topple over.

The way to avoid this is to keep the sensor in the camera parallel to the front face of the building as it’s the act of tipping the camera up that introduces the unwanted perspective.

If you can, stand far back enough to allow you to get the whole of the building in without tipping the camera up at all and fit a longer lens to get the composition you want, or crop the shot post-capture.

Alternatively, or if there isn’t enough room to move back, many image editing software packages like Adobe Photoshop and Elements have controls that enable you to stretch an image into the correct form.

The key to success when shooting buildings is to either to use the effect of converging verticals or avoid it completely, slight keystoning looks accidental.

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