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How to Make Cinematic Shots With a Wide-Angle Lens


When you shoot with a short lens—also called a wide angle—it affects
the way all your video looks. Not only does this lens give you a wide
view of the scene, but it changes the speed that people and objects
appear to move within a scene. It can even change the way that camera
moves look and feel. You can enhance all your video work when you know
the strengths and benefits of the short lens.

A short lenses
is not always physically very small. You can even have short zooms: the
examples in this lesson were shot using a 10-to-22 millimetre zoom lens.
Whatever short lens you’re using, however, will give you a similar

Visual Effects

A Wide Field of View

You can see in the example below that shots from a short lens have a very wide angle of view, or field of view. 

theis image, the camera is about a foot away from the actor and the
lens is zoomed in to nearly a medium, or “normal,” lens. You can just
see the edge of the map on the wall and you can see some of the

short lens zoomed in
A somewhat short lens.

we zoom out to a shorter lens, the actor seems to have moved further
away from the camera but we also have a wider angle of view. We can see
wall on one side of the map now and we can see almost all of that
computer screen. 

short lens 2
A really short lens.

It’s really important to know that without moving physically we’ve increased the angle of view.

Deep Depth of Field

Short lenses tend to have a deeper depth of field than long lenses. 

short lens depth of field
Short lenses have a lot of depth of field.

the shot above, the background is a little bit blurred. Often, you’ll
find you can get absolutely everything in focus with a short lens. Of
course, this is all affected by light and aperture as well but in
general sharp lenses a sharper all the way through the image. 

Reasons to Use a Short Lens

To Show a Wide Landscape

short lens can be used for shots where you’re trying to show a wide
landscape. You can get both the subjects and the background all in
focus. In the shot below from my movie, the Sculptor’s Ritual, we can see the foreground actors and the man in the background all at once. 

Everythings in focus
Everything’s in focus.

To Make a Room Look Bigger

can use a short lens when you’re in a very tight space and you’re
trying to make the room look bigger or need to see more of the room. The
wide angle of view makes spaces look more expansive.

Expansive room
With a short lens, this room looks bigger than it is.

To Speed Up Motion

well as extending distance, a short lens also has the effect of making
motion seem faster. As a subject moves across the frame, they can go
from normal size, to tiny in just a few steps.

Equally, an object
that appears very close to camera and very far away from the actor is
only a few steps away and they can cross that distance in just a few

actor moving
The actor will cover this distance quickly.

is an effect that’s used all the time in film and television. It’s
particularly effective in scenes where you have someone moving down a
corridor because the walls on the side emphasise the effect. It’s one of
the best ways to make a slow jog look like a fast run.

car speeding
Car’s can be made to look like they’re speeding when they’re actually moving pretty slowly.

also works with other objects like cars. You can make a car that’s
moving at only 60 kilometres an hour look like it’s speeding past.

To Work Handheld

handheld shots, a short lens is a good way of hiding the handheld look.
Footage doesn’t look too wobbly like it would if you used a long lens.

To Let Actors Improvise

lenses also makes it very easy to follow somebody when they’re
improvising. This is almost impossible with a long lens or even a medium
lens. With a short lens, you are able to stay close to the subject,
keep your motions smooth, and keep everything in focus.

Learn More About Lens Choice

Short lenses are just one of the techniques you can use in your cinematography. To learn more about some other techniques, check out the learning guide.