Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

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The drive to be creative is what focuses many people in photography. One variable you can alter to help you create photographs that really stand out is the lens. There are several different options for choosing creative lenses, depending on your taste.

In this article, you’ll see five very different kinds of lenses, and what they are capable of bringing to your photography. It’s always a good idea to have a lens that capable of something totally different, which will allow your photos to stand out from the crowd.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The fisheye lens is used in this photo has captured a wide scene. There is some distortion on the edge of the image, but with the lines all leading in, this works well.

1 – The fish-eye lens

This lens is always great fun to work with, it’s a versatile lens that can be used for both portraits and landscapes. A fish-eye lens has several great applications so let’s take a look at those:

  • Wide-angle lens – This can act as a super wide-angle lens, and if you decide not to carry a wide angle lens the fish-eye makes a decent alternative. The main constraint is the distortion, this means keeping the horizon line straight.
  • The Earth’s not flat! – You can prove the Earth is not flat with a fish-eye lens. Simply position the horizon line near the top or bottom of the frame, and let distortion do the rest.
  • Embrace the distortion – Using a fish-eye means working with the way lines get distorted. This has great application for portrait photos, as those lines lead up to your model.

The fish-eye is a great lens to play with, which is why it’s such a popular lens. It’s great for getting a lot of the scene in your frame, but is, therefore, challenging to use. Those who embrace the challenge of this lens will be reward with some amazing results, so go out and try one.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The fish-eye lens can be great for super wide landscape photos.

2 – The Lensbaby for something quirky

Lensbaby is a company that makes a range of lenses that are small, comparatively cheap, and not too heavy. The lenses they make have diversified over the years. The Lensbaby Composer was their original concept. The Composer lens allows the user to change the area in the frame that has the sharpest focus. It does this by allowing you to change the plane of focus using a swivel head.

  • Abstract bokeh – Shifting the angle of the composer lens will give you stretch bokeh. The best way to get this effect is to photograph some fairy lights, that are deliberately out of focus.
  • Portrait photos – Lensbaby lenses are excellent at drawing your eye to the model, by minimizing the background. Once again with the Composer, you can focus your sweet spot on the persons face, and surround them with bokeh!
  • Landscape photos – While not its strength, a Lensbaby can be used for interesting landscape photos. This works best when there is an out of focus area in the frame, which the Lensbaby Composer can further blur out into stretch bokeh. The effect is not dissimilar to a tilt-shift lens, and the subject of the photo should be sharp.

The Lensbaby Composer creates interesting bokeh around the subject.

3 – The 50mm f/1.2 is a creative lens

The nifty fifty is one of the first lenses that many photographers buy, with the less expensive f/1.8 version being a popular choice. There are a plethora of other prime lenses that can be used creatively like the 50mm f/1.2, though f/1.2 is at the extreme end of the large aperture scale. The comparison to make is a fish-eye lens to a wide angle, and here, an f/1.2 to an f/1.8 lens.

The 50mm f/1.2 is an excellent choice for those wanting to explore bokeh in their photographs. The depth of field is incredibly narrow, and getting sharp focus on your subject can be tricky. In the evening, positioning lights behind the subject, in the out of focus area will produce bokeh.

Want to get even more creative? Try creating different shaped bokeh, by placing a circular disk with a cut-out area in front of your lens.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

At f/1.2 the bokeh is very smooth in this image, and the plane of focus is very narrow.

4 – Up close it’s a different world! Use a macro lens.

The world can look very different with just a little bit of magnification, and macro lenses are a good place to start. This form of photography is a niche all of its own, and there are many pieces to it. Those who wish to really excel at macro photography will need to invest in the correct lighting gear and a good tripod. There is plenty you can achieve with a macro lens to start you on the path of macro photography.

  • Flower photography – A good macro lens is often the starting point for flower photography. Now, of course, you can take photos without doing macro photography, but getting in closer allows for more dramatic results.
  • Water droplets – Combined with the correct off-camera flash there is a lot of photography you can do with water droplets.
  • Detail photos – Macro lenses are very good for focusing on one area, and bringing out the detail. Close up photos of money is one example of how this can be applied.
Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

Food photography can be a good subject for your macro lens.

5 – Use a tilt-shift lens for more interesting landscapes

The tilt-shift lens has two main purposes, these are to correct the perspective of a photo, and to create a miniature world look. These lenses were originally designed with architectural photographers in mind, so that tall buildings didn’t bow inwards in the frame. The more creative use of these lenses is to create a miniature world. The lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by

A tilt-shift lens can selectively focus the middle area of the frame, with the top and bottom blurred out. The lens is on the expensive end, and as the effect can be produced by post-processing you will need to consider whether or not you want to invest in this kind of creative lens.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The tilt-shift effect miniaturizes objects in the frame. This effect can be achieved both in camera and by post-processing.

Which creative lens will you choose?

There are many lenses available, so which of these creative lenses would you choose if you were to buy one? Have you already have a lens like this, how has your experience with it been?

Is there a project you’d like to work on, where you’d need a lens like one of those listed above? Do you use another creative lens, not mentioned here? As always we look forward to your comments and feedback.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The macro lens is great for exploring nature, be it flowers or insects.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The Lensbaby can be used to create abstract bokeh.

Five Creative Lenses That Will Make Your Photos Pop

The 50mm f/1.2 lens can create shaped bokeh, this is done by covering the lens with a disc, and cutting the shape in the center of that disc.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Simon Bond is a National Geographic featured photographer from the UK. He’s an educator who shares his creative style of photos. Want to learn more about refraction? Do just that by getting Simon's refraction photography course.

  • David A.

    Thanks for this great article. I recently got a Petzval lens from Lensbaby (they call it Twist 60). The lens main feature is providing a very unique swirl blur around the subject. It also produces very particular color and vignette looks that give images a nostalgic mood. It is great for portraits and plants/flowers.

  • Simon Bond

    Thanks David. Lensbaby are a nice company for innovative products. Thanks for sharing your experience of the twist 60, any chance you can share some photos?

  • David A.
  • Great ideas for lenses!! The 50 1.8 is a great all-around lens. If you don’t know what to expect and want a prime lens, then this is a great go-to option to have available. I also like using zooms with a macro/micro option — Nikon has a great variable aperture zoom with excellent micro capabilities. Thanks for the post! Lj http://www.louisjosephphotography.com/about.html

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