6 Ways to Use Your Fisheye Lens

There’s a secret cult in the world of photography. We are a small number of photographers who worship the mighty fisheye lens.

using fisheye lens

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

There are many advantages to using the fisheye lens. Ultra wide-angle lenses – like the 15 mm fisheye lens – offer a larger depth of field, shorter focal distance, and faster f/stops; but they also introduce severe barrel shaped distortion. For this reason most people think of them as novelty lenses usually limited to special effects only.

Those of us in the Fisheye Cult believe it is possible to convert others to our side if we are only able to get them to try this magical device once. I will try to convert you now by providing 6 great reasons to try a fisheye lens and let you judge the results for yourself.

sunflower photography

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Get Up close

One of the great reasons to use a fisheye lens is that it allows you to focus at a much shorter distance than other lenses. That, combined with the fact that you get a much deeper depth of field across all f/stops makes it a great choice for shooting macros (or 1:1 magnification).

Macro photography extends the boundaries of our perceived world by making tiny things lifelike, so the added distortion around the image simply adds another level of surreality to an already surreal image.

surreal photography

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Go Super Wide

The world is a big place, and sometimes even a wide-angle lens isn’t big enough to capture it. In an effort to capture all of those sweeping landscapes, you are often required to shoot multiple panels and stitch them together in post processing into a panorama. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone made an Ultra Wide-Angle Lens (say in the 15mm arena) that would allow you to capture a wider horizontal and vertical plane… ?

Capture it all

Anyone who has tried to shoot soaring architecture features knows the problem with perspective distortion that using a normal or wide-angle lens will produce. The makers of our favorite digital post processing software recognized this problem and introduced the ability to correct distorted vertical and horizontal perspective into Adobe Lightroom. The problem is that to do so, much of the vertical and horizontal margins are cropped out to make the overall image appear balanced.

architecture photography

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

That’s where shooting with the fisheye comes in. Because the ultra wide lens captures so much more of the scene – both vertically and horizontally – there is more left over after the perspective fix. Meaning the result will only crop out superfluous areas of the scene leaving you with just the architecture you were looking for.

wide scape photography

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See the world as it is

The world is not flat. Christopher Columbus proved that to us back in 1492. So why do we want to portray it in flat, 2-dimensional photos. Astrophotography is one of my favorite subjects to shoot with my fisheye lens. Not only does it give the sweeping Milky Way the palette it deserves, but does so in a way that accentuates the natural curvature of the Earth and atmosphere for an outer worldly effect.

astro photography

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See nature as nature sees us

Do you know why the lens is called a Fisheye? Apparently it is how fish see the world (not exactly sure how they verified that one), so why not use a fisheye on a fish? Or a snake? Or a lizard? Take your fisheye to an aquarium or zoo and use the effect to creatively show how a fish would look to itself if it were looking in a mirror.

animal photography

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Embrace the Effect

Shooting ultra wide angles close up on a subject has the effect of exaggerating the area closest to the lens – often referred to as the dog nose effect, and results in almost giving personality to the animals or inanimate objects. The key to shooting with the fisheye lens is to embrace that exaggeration on creature and subjects great and small, and use it to express your own unique creativity.

So if you are ever given the chance to shoot with a fisheye lens, don’t be surprised if you find yourself joining this elite cult – and you’ll be all the happier for it.

Stock photos via Dreamstime.com

Karen Foley is a freelance photographer and writer who loves sharing her art with the world. See more of her work at karenfoleyphotography.com.