5 Ways to Get Creative with a Fisheye Lens

5 Ways to Get Creative with a Fisheye Lens

Using a fisheye lense with your photography.

A fisheye lens is easily one of the best ways to get creative and have a blast with photography. As far as lenses go, a fisheye is relatively cheap (around $650) making them accessible to a wide group of photographers. It’s important to know what a fisheye lens is, where it came from, and where the uses of a fisheye lens begin and end.

Originally used for meteorology to study the sky and cloud formations, fisheye’s were originally called “whole-sky lenses.” These lenses quickly became popular in the general photography field because of their fun and unique uses, and of course their incredibly distorted lines. They can be used for many different purposes, both professional and for fun (but mostly for fun). Here are 5 creative ways to use a fisheye lens that you can implement immediately…

1. Radial Blur

Fisheye lense radial blur.

Shooting a wedding reception with a fisheye lens can be an absolute blast. These receptions are usually in low light and are a challenge to get great images out of. When I’m shooting a reception, I get right in the middle of the dance floor and just shoot away. To get this radial-blur effect, simply slow down your shutter speed to around 1/25th of a second. Next, you need to spin the camera 90 degrees counter clockwise. To do this, simply cradle the lens with your left hand while using your right hand to pivot the camera body around. Not every image is going to come out, but you can almost always walk away with a few keepers.

2. Exaggerate the Curvature of the Earth

One thing to note when using a fisheye lens is this: The further you move an object or line to the edge of the frame, the more distorted it becomes. If you place the horizon in the middle of the frame, it will be perfectly straight across the entire image. The exaggerate this distortion, place the horizon dangerously close to the top of the frame. Just be careful, you might get home and find your legs in the bottom of the frame ;-).

3. Shoot Super Wide Landscapes Without The Fisheye Look

Shooting wide angle landscapes without the fisheye look.

Sometimes, a fisheye can be used simply to capture everything you want in a scene. Sometimes, you don’t want distorted lines but still need that super wide angle. If you have a landscape without straight lines (buildings, trees, telephone poles, etc) you can sometimes position the lens in a way that it simply looks like a wide angle lens. Just make sure your horizon is towards the middle of the frame. Doing this will allow you to capture a nearly 180 degree view of a scene while avoiding the distorted, crazy look of a fisheye lens.

4. Capture Entire Ceilings

Capturing ceilings with a fisheye lens.

There’s no way you could capture this much of a ceiling with a normal lens. This was taken at the Gaylor Texan in Grapevine, Texas and this ceiling is absolutely massive. With symmetrical architecture like this, a lot of times there will be a clear marker on the ground to signify the exact middle of the room. When I looked up and saw this site, my fisheye was the only lens that crossed my mind!

5. Change Your Perspective and Embrace Those Lines!

Perspective photography with a fisheye lens.

The most important thing is to have fun Whether you’re shooting for fun, or for clients (as pictured above). A fisheye is a prime lens, meaning that you can’t zoom in or out with it. Therefore, it’s up to you to act as the zoom for the lens. Be sure to change perspectives and experiment with different angles and lines. Get down low to the ground, even if it means laying on your stomach in the gravel on a railroad track. Lean up against a wall and use the distortion of the lens to wrap the wall around the frame. Just have fun!

If you have examples of fisheye photography that you’d like to share, be sure and leave a link in the comments below!

Also – Check out these 15 Fun and Fabulous Fisheye Photos for a little more inspiration!

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James Brandon is a landscape photographer and educator residing in Dallas, Texas. Join 20,000+ photographers and get access to his free video tutorial library at his website. James also has an online store full of video courses, ebooks, presets and more. Use the coupon code "DPS25" for an exclusive discount!

Some Older Comments

  • Bryan June 29, 2013 10:35 am

    I personally think a great affordable fisheye lens would be the 8mm Rokinon fisheye. It's only manual focus but they gor for about 230 and take great pictures. The build quality is nice too, Has a metal mount (Personally is a huge plus), and a built in lens hood.

  • ArturoMM December 18, 2012 04:20 am


    Like you, I also have had trouble attaching pictures here.
    I wish Darren could tell us something about it.

  • Juja Kehl December 14, 2012 12:39 pm


  • MattB December 14, 2012 02:14 am

    I really like using a fisheye. I have an inexpensive Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 and it's a really fun lens to have in the bag. It was pretty inexpensive too I think mine was under $250. The same lens sells under several brand names so keep an eye out for Rokinon, Bower, Pro-Optic, and others all of which will be 8mm f/3.5.
    Here's one from the other night of an interesting cloud over my town at night.

  • paul webb December 14, 2012 12:41 am

    Some great tips there. I bought a fish-eye recently but as I do not have a full frame sensor the effect is not so extreme but I still like it. I have done wedding receptions and I also do some nightclub work. I knew that the twirling lights effect involved moving the camera but I wasn't sure exactly how. A great article.

  • Oliver Boston December 13, 2012 07:16 pm

    I didn't think I could justify the expense until I discovered Samyang whose micro four thirds fish eye, priced at kit lens level, is outstanding value for money. A downside for some may be that it is fully manual. This bridge shot is one of the first few shots I took with it and being a bendy bridge already coupled with HDR and the fish eye distortion effect the results are quite eye catching:

  • Steve December 13, 2012 01:57 pm

    There are cheap alternatives if you just want to have some fun, such as Bower lenses that attach to your regular lens like a filter.

  • Ben Chapman December 11, 2012 07:54 pm

    I've alway loved fish eye photos.

    I'd love one but I just havnt got the money

  • Jay December 9, 2012 12:21 pm

    Initially I took a "purist" stand and scorned fisheye lens images as artificially distorted. I then bought a set of fisheye lenses for my kids' iPhones ("Olloclip"). The pictures they made with these were amazing! I am now a fan and may invest in these for my DSLR if the prices are reasonable.

  • Joseph December 8, 2012 08:37 am

    I'm still not a huge fan of the fisheye. I suppose for specific applications, but I prefer long exposures to distorted exposures and an ultra wide angle lens to sometimes getting a wide angle. I can fix distortion. I like some of the images! I just like getting creative with what I have I guess. And I don't have $650 to spend on a lens I'm not going to use for work.

  • Yoan December 7, 2012 11:02 pm

    "A fisheye is a prime lens, meaning that you can’t zoom in or out with it"
    Wrong! Some fisheye lenses are zooms!

  • St Louis Photographer November 29, 2010 09:43 am

    We attended a class by David Ziser (digital pro talk blogger), and he's a big fan of wide angle lenses too. Most wedding photographers stick with a 70-200 most of the day, but not this guy. It does give his images a different feel than most other photographers. Right now the widest we can get is 24mm on our full frame sensor. It would definitely be nice to shoot just a little wider - maybe this next year. We'll see.

  • Simon November 29, 2010 09:24 am

    I have problem to attach pictures

  • Simon November 29, 2010 09:22 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/24781312@N03/5212773965/' title='Pizanskaya at kingsb tonemapped crop' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5083/5212773965_662ceffd59.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/24781312@N03/5212772865/' title='Ground for sculpture 092' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5243/5212772865_d739b4cf3a.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/24781312@N03/5213364980/' title='Police NYtonemapped' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5004/5213364980_3e9a41e29d.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/24781312@N03/5213357602/' title='Ringling museum tonemapped' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5166/5213357602_eb4a460af9.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/24781312@N03/5213350156/' title='Ca's mansion_tonemapped' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5210/5213350156_f4ecd3fa3c.jpg']

  • Simon November 28, 2010 11:54 am

    I love my Rokinon 8mm with Nikon D5000. Amazing sharpness and depth of color when you don't expect it.

  • Daniel November 27, 2010 01:03 am

    Great post, I couldn't agree more, Fisheye is (despite repeated opinions) not only a toy but a serious lens, and one which can greatly improve creativity.

    Low point of view landscapes
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigdani/4537410025/' title='Dunas de Maspalomas' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4051/4537410025_17df56f80f.jpg']


    Weird Portraits

    Ceilings or patterns

    As you pointed out, exaggerating curvature

    Getting close to things

    Capturing full interiors of places




    Aiming high

    I love fisheye!

    If you want to try one, there is one manual lens (both focus and aperture, not a problem with fisheye, with easy near hyperfocal) but with very good image quality, and with controlled chromatic aberrations and flare.
    It is an affordable one, around 200-300 $ named Samyang 8mm Fisheye. It fits both Canon and Nikon, and can be found under some other names (it's the same lens) such as Falcon, Bowen, Rokinon, Walimex etc, all of these as 8 mm Fisheye. Also Vivitar 7 mm Fisheye or Opteka 6,5 mm Fisheye. In all the cases it is the same lens, and it is truly a 8,7 mm focal length. All of my pictures were taken with the Vivitar version of it.

  • Ross November 26, 2010 09:05 pm

    As already mentioned, Fisheyes are fantastic for Architecture.


  • Diana Mikaels November 26, 2010 01:18 pm

    Office building - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5103871476/
    Office building, ceiling - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5103279053/
    Time Pendulum - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5103871102/
    "Take a seat, Alice" - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5115969242/
    Coca-Cola Iceland - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5115319459/

    Fake Tilt & Shift with fish-eye = City-Scape, Reykjavík - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5103251985/

    The northern lights didn't shot up then - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5115368401/

    Moon Halo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/44475334@N02/5108352073/

    I hope you like them. They were taken with a borrowed Pentax Fish-eye 10-17mm.
    Why does the article say that fish-eye are prime lenses...?

  • Michelle November 26, 2010 08:45 am

    Wanting to try fisheye and not wanting to pay a lot of money just incase I didn't like it led me to buy a russian fisheye lens off ebay. It isn't autofocus but isn't hard to focus maually and you stop the aperture down manually as well but for around $200 it was well worth it and I am happy with the clarity from the lens so thought I would mention it as an option if you don't want to pay out a lot of money to try something. Works just fine on both my canon Dslr's one is full frame.

  • Jana November 26, 2010 02:46 am

    Yippee! I rented a fish eye this week! Good timing for fun shooting! Great article!

  • Alex Suarez November 26, 2010 01:22 am

    Good post, James. Before I had used fisheye lenses, I thought that they were gimmicky and I would get bored with them quickly. Boy was I wrong. Fisheye lenses are so much fun to shoot with.

    Another great opportunity to use a fisheye lens is when you don't have much room to back up to get your entire subject. I recently was tasked with photographing the gilding of the lone star held by the Goddess of Liberty statue at the top of the Capitol of Texas. I was standing on a tiny scaffolding that didn't let me back up much. See the results for yourself:


  • Rae Merrill November 25, 2010 08:18 am

    I'm going straight out to buy one. Now circular or flat field?

  • James Brandon November 25, 2010 04:40 am

    Yes, shooting full frame. The beach scene was with a 5DMII and the roof was a 1DsMIII. I never use any lens correction in photoshop if it's a fisheye lens. Those filters are usually meant for making very minor tweaks to lines in the frame, and fisheye results are usually far past that. I may have cropped the beach scene slightly, and the roof scene just enough to make each side of the frame match up for symmetry.

  • Yucel November 25, 2010 04:20 am

    Love your shots.

    I do a lot of wide angle photography and have considered fisheyes, tho was reluctant to shell out without a try.

    I shoot crop sensor format, which costs me a bit in the wide department.

    The sample shot here: was shot with an 11-16mm Tokina Zoom at 11mm: http://glamourphotography.co/portfolio/what-draws-attention-in-a-glamour-photograph/

    The shot #1 looks like a fisheye with the dark area on the upper left, the other shots look full frame, which is the way I prefer to shoot my images.

    Are you using a "full frame fisheye"? or are you using some of the new photoshop s/w to straigten out edges? Or cropping?

    the landscape and ceilings are pheonominal.


  • James Brandon November 24, 2010 12:48 am

    Yes I did use flash for this shot. This one would be 1st curtain flash, ETTL. Really all you do is slow the shutter speed down, and pivot the camera body around the lens barrel. Oh, and you MUST keep the subject in the center of the frame.

  • Stefano November 23, 2010 07:53 pm

    Hello James,

    first of all thanks for sharing this.
    I would like to ask you a question about photo #1 (radial blur).
    Do you use a flash? If so, first or second curtain? Any other suggestion to reproduce this effect?

    Thanks again

  • Vincent Tassy November 23, 2010 06:14 pm

    And the missing link:
    A shot I took with my Peleng 8mm fisheye lens:
    Into the game

  • Adrian November 23, 2010 12:27 pm

    ohh and one more thing you prob never though of doing plant photography!!
    hope you enjoy =)

  • Adrian November 23, 2010 12:02 pm

    fisheye is the best lens ever made!!
    doing abstract stuff
    doing landscapes
    doing self portraits
    doing star trails
    or funny portraits

  • Valerie Jardin November 23, 2010 08:39 am

    Great post!
    I always find it fun to go out and limit yourself to one lens for a day or a week and have fun. Fisheye lens or Lensbaby composer or a wide angle lens make you think outside the box, break some rules and be creative.

  • Mike Bilsland November 23, 2010 08:34 am

    Awsome Photos!

    I have a 10.5 fisheye for the Nikon, Only trouble is I have a problem over exposing the image...Need to keep Practacing me thinks!


  • James Brandon November 23, 2010 07:52 am

    Kevin, there aren't too many of them to choose from. It just depends on your camera system. I use Canon and the 15mm fisheye they make is the one I use.

  • munhitsu November 23, 2010 06:26 am

    I guess the most important part is to have fun. It's nice to have some guidance how one can use this lens, but to be honest I'm far from saying I've found all applications for it. It's simply too much fun to stop experimenting.

    I love it's effect for architecture photography:

    And to my surprise.... fairy tale/hobbit world effect:

  • Lovelyn November 23, 2010 04:21 am

    I've never considered shooting with a fisheye lens before, but the pictures in this article really helped me see the possibilities.

  • James Brandon November 23, 2010 04:03 am

    Xadacka - no harm done, I don't think that was a rude comment. I'm aware there are zoom fisheye's out on the market, I was simply referring to mine which is a 15mm prime. Thanks for the comment

  • Alex Poulin November 23, 2010 04:01 am

    Fisheye lens are perfect for sport/action too! Look at my photos here:



  • Xadacka November 23, 2010 03:57 am

    I'm sorry, I hate to be 'that guy' that leaves the rude comments - But under point 5 when you said a fisheye is a prime lens isn't true at all. I shoot pentax and I have their fisheye and it's a 10-17 zoom. Full 180 degree fisheye at 10 and 100 degree only slightly distorted at 17. And I know canon have a 8-something fisheye coming out in the near future...

  • James Brandon November 23, 2010 03:08 am

    Scott, glad to make you second guess your opinion on them :-). I love my fisheye simply because it's fun to use. Sometimes I love how over the top they can be, but other times I try to conceal the fisheye look as shown in the beach sunset image.

    All of these images were shot with my Canon 15mm Fisheye.

    Nice image with the 10mm btw!

  • Kevin Wunder November 23, 2010 02:34 am

    Hey James,

    I've been looking to invest in a fisheye for a while now. I love the photos you shared above. Any recommendations on what I should invest in?


  • Scott November 23, 2010 01:54 am

    I always thought fisheye lenses were a little over the top, but some of the photos included in this article are making me think twice.

    I'd be curious to know what focal lenths were used in the included photos.

    No fisheye, but I like the distortion I get from my 10mm.


  • Vincent Tassy November 23, 2010 01:20 am

    Here's a shot I took with my Peleng 8mm fisheye lens :

  • Brad Chaffee November 23, 2010 12:24 am

    This is so wonderful! I had no idea that a fish-eye lens could be so much fun! All 5 photos above are awesome. Photography is one of the most addicting things I have ever done. Haha!

    When you said you saw this ceiling and immediately thought "fish-eye" made me laugh. It seems that everything I see around me, I see as a possible photograph. I have even given myself a hard time for leaving my camera at home.

    Thanks for the great information James!