Photography Cheat Sheet: Angle of View and Focal Length Visual Guide

Confused about photography lens terms like angle of view and focal length? We have just the photography cheat sheet to serve as your quick visual guide.

We understand how it can be confusing and tedious to sift through all the photography terms and names of all the gears and tools you’ll need for your practice. Among the ones you’ll most likely encounter when you’re researching lenses are angle of view and focal length. What do they even mean? How do they affect your photos? How will these terms help you choose the right lenses for you? We found just the photography cheat sheet that will serve as your visual guide.

The cheat sheet below put together by Esmer Olvera effectively illustrates the relationship between the angle of view and focal length. According to Tech Radar, the angle of view measures how much of a scene or subject a lens can include in your photo. The focal length, meanwhile, is defined by Nikon as the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus.

As we can see above, the shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view, and more of the scene is captured in a single photo. Circular fisheye lenses with focal lengths of 8mm and 15mm have an angle of view of 180 degrees, while a telephoto lens with an angle of view of 800mm will give you an angle of view of 3.1 degrees. So, how does this relationship affect your photo? Basically, if you use a wide-angle lens, you’ll be able to capture more of the scene; a telephoto lens will do the opposite and narrow everything down and zoom in on your subject. In the case of zoom lenses, they indicate the minimum and maximum focal lengths.

As Tech Radar also mentioned, when photographers talk about the focal length of lenses, they’re actually concerned about the angle of view, as framing and composing a scene depends on it. Understanding this relationship and how they affect your photos should, therefore, be able to help you pick the right lenses for the kind of photography you want to do. For example, if you want to do mostly landscape photography, wide-angle lenses will be your best friend, as they allow you to capture the expanse of those stunning scenes. If you want to do mostly portraits, you’ll do great with lenses like 50mm, 85mm, and 105mm. If you want to do wildlife photography, you’ll need the extra reach provided by telephoto lenses like 400mm.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!