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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…
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.
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 ;-).
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.
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!
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!