Snap wide-aspect shots of subjects and surroundings.
As anamorphic lenses became more widely adopted by the movie industry, they eventually crossed over into traditional film photography. And now you can use anamorphic lenses with a DSLR or mirrorless camera and even with a camera on an iPhone or other mobile device.
Due to their oval shape, anamorphic lenses capture more than circular or spherical lenses. The wider, more oblong shape naturally gives you more blurred bokeh around your subject. “When you do it in anamorphic, it’s oval bokeh,” Kurniawan says. “It gives the out-of-focus element this unique look.” This wide field of view (which directly correlates to the oval shape of the lens) helps you capture more of the space around your subject, so be selective about where and when you shoot anamorphic.
Certain types of photography — like a stunning portrait — work well in this format. You can use the shallow depth of field in the center of the frame to capture your subject, while getting a wide, dazzling view of their city or street to capture the character of the place they call home.
How anamorphic lenses can add drama to your shots.
If you want to pull off your best J. J. Abrams impression, shoot in anamorphic. Not only do you get a wide field of view that can feel like your shots belong on the big screen, but you can also capture a horizontal lens flare effect — a staple of Abrams’s work.
Lens flare occurs when light rays from bright sources reflect off the front of the camera lens. It can have two effects: Either the light becomes a haze that changes the contrast of your photo for a more washed-out look, or it’s seen as a starburst or line, the size and shape of which are determined by your camera’s aperture and lens.
Lens flares can add a sense of authenticity to photos by making the audience aware that what they are viewing was shot through a lens. The oblong shape of the lens can give your images a classic, cinematic look. “It works the edges a little bit. It gives a little distortion on the sides, which is a vintage-type look,” Kurniawan says.
Focus shifts (a focus error that can blur parts of images) also take on a flair for the dramatic with anamorphic photography. Due to the field of view being so much bigger than average, they become far more noticeable than usual, which can make for fabulous perspective photos.