Going Fishing! Fun With Fisheye Lenses

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On a recent outing to Yankee Stadium, the only lens I had on my 5D Mark III was the Canon 8-15mm fisheye zoom. I love a fisheye for a situation like this- great foreground, great sky, and an obvious subject.  Most fans go to the game hoping to zoom in on their favorite player. Knowing I would never be close enough, I went the other direction and wanted to get everything.

On a recent outing to Yankee Stadium, the only lens I had on my 5D Mark III was the Canon 8-15mm fisheye zoom. I love a fisheye for a situation like this- great foreground, great sky, and an obvious subject. Most fans go to the game hoping to zoom in on their favorite player. Knowing I would never be close enough, I went the other direction and wanted to get everything.

I used to think I’d never want to shoot with a fisheye lens.  My objections were the same as most others who’ve ever shot with one: “All the shots end up looking the same,” or “there’s too much distortion.”   Then I actually got to use one. And my first results were much as I expected- too much distortion, and a lot of shots that all looked the same.  But the more I started working with it, the more I fell in love with using the fisheye.  It’s a lot more versatile than I gave it credit for.

A fisheye lens has become a staple in my bag for shooting weddings. I've found it useful in the church for taking an overall scene, as well as on the dance floor for shots like this, of the bride and groom surrounded by their guests. Simply pop the flash at the same time and put them in the spotlight.

A fisheye lens has become a staple in my bag for shooting weddings. I’ve found it useful in the church for taking an overall scene, as well as on the dance floor for shots like this, of the bride and groom surrounded by their guests. Simply pop the flash at the same time and put them in the spotlight.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City is a prime place to shoot with a fisheye. It can get crowded, and the shooting area can be tight.  In addition, the architecture is incredible, so emphasizing those lines with the extreme wide angel makes a lot of sense. EOS 60D with EF 8-15mm Fisheye zoom.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is a prime place to shoot with a fisheye. It can get crowded, and the shooting area can be tight. In addition, the architecture is incredible, so emphasizing those lines with the extreme wide angel makes a lot of sense. EOS 60D with EF 8-15mm Fisheye zoom.

I’ve found fisheye lenses to be useful in many situations. The secret to using a fisheye is to know it’s limitations, as well as it’s strengths, which is true for all lenses.  You can use them for portraits, but you need to be aware of subject placement in the frame, as well as how close you plan to get. The closer you get, the more caricature like the image will be. Stand back a bit, and don’t put your subject too close to the edge, and you can use the surroundings to put your subjects as the main focus.  Add a pop of the flash with the head zoomed slightly, and it will create a spotlit effect. I’ve found a fisheye is a great way to get a group shot without simply lining the subjects up.

Another great use for fisheyes- a fairly obvious one- is tight spaces.  You don’t always have room to step back, and you might want to include most of the scene in front of you in one shot. In many cases, that’s not possible without a fisheye.   You need to be prepared to deal with the inherent distortion, but that can be used creatively to really draw the viewers eye. Use the lines of the image, try an extreme point of view by getting the camera higher or lower.

Fisheyes are great for landscapes as well.  They emphasize the foreground and make it possible to include both foreground and sky.  Distortion is less of an issue here, unless the horizon is prominent. In that case, it’s essential to either embrace the distortion, or be sure to place the horizon in the center to minimize the distortion. If the horizon can be obscured, this point becomes moot.  I love to use fisheyes as the “anti-macro”.  I get close up to a flower, or even underneath them, placing them prominently in the frame.

Finally, architecture is an excellent use for a fisheye lens.  While it’s traditionally not used for architecture due to the distortion, the way a fisheye can emphasize the lines of a beautifully designed building opens it up to a variety of uses, especially interiors of large cavernous buildings like cathedrals and churches, or sports arenas.

I’m still finding new ways to use my fisheye lens.  What are yours?

By getting close to this daisy, it is easily emphasized in the foreground, while the other daisies just behind it get pushed back. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 8-15mm Fisheye Zoom

By getting close to this daisy, it is easily emphasized in the foreground, while the other daisies just behind it get pushed back. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 8-15mm Fisheye Zoom

Fisheyes are great for portraits of kids. The extreme wide angle emphasizes the expressions and movements, creating a cartoon-like effect. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 8-15mm Fisheye zoom.

Fisheyes are great for portraits of kids. The extreme wide angle emphasizes the expressions and movements, creating a cartoon-like effect. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 8-15mm Fisheye zoom.

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Rick Berk

is a photographer based in Freeport, Maine, shooting a variety of subjects including landscapes, sports, weddings, and portraits. Rick leads photo tours for World Wide Photo Tours and his work can be seen at RickBerk.com and you can follow him on his Facebook page and on Instagram at @rickberkphoto.

  • A fisheye lens is far more than a one-trick-pony, as so many people seem to think…..here are some of my best examples of what can be achieved with it (ALL the pics in the album are taken using a fisheye!) https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.431178483605483.98861.118574151532586&type=3

  • Such beautiful pictures! Have to go and check out how much it costs!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Some people think fisheye is a “gimmick”, I love it indeed!
    Especially for architecture, it gives different views.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/anzanov/9289072017/

  • Some people think fisheye is a “gimmick”, I love it indeed!
    Especially for architecture, it gives different views.

    (trying image embedding, even if it works 1% of the time…)

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/anzanov/9289072017/’ title=’Genova palazzo Museo Accademia Ligustica 2013-05-13 131657′ url=’http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5329/9289072017_48e76eb903_c.jpg’]

  • Jonathan Mc

    Heres some cool shots I got with my fisheye

  • Ravi Jayasuriya

    OK, I ‘m convinced ! I am going to get myself a fisheye.

  • Great shots. I Never thought fisheye lenses render such lovely pictures.

  • BetterPhotography

    I’ve actually never really been interested in shooting with a fisheye, but these images are making me rethink that…

  • Barbara Brock

    I don’t understand how I can ever upload a photo here because of the 2 mb limit. Every photo I have is about 4+ mb. Unfortunately, I’m not savvy enough to know how to make the photo smaller…….bummer.

  • Scott Boylan

    8mm fisheye under the Arc de Triomphe

  • Antje

    Fisheye is my favourite lens ^^

  • Katy Evans

    Two of my favorite, just got my firs fisheye this year

  • Pavel

    Venues like this are great for fisheye!

Some Older Comments

  • Rhalmi July 31, 2013 12:49 am

    Great shots. I Never thought fisheye lenses render such lovely pictures.

  • Ravi Jayasuriya July 24, 2013 10:49 pm

    OK, I 'm convinced ! I am going to get myself a fisheye.

  • Jonathan Mc July 19, 2013 05:30 pm

    Heres some cool shots I got with my fisheye

  • AnZanov July 15, 2013 06:39 pm

    Some people think fisheye is a “gimmick”, I love it indeed!
    Especially for architecture, it gives different views.

    (trying image embedding, even if it works 1% of the time...)

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/anzanov/9289072017/' title='Genova palazzo Museo Accademia Ligustica 2013-05-13 131657' url='http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5329/9289072017_48e76eb903_c.jpg']

  • AnZanov July 15, 2013 06:39 pm

    Some people think fisheye is a "gimmick", I love it indeed!
    Especially for architecture, it gives different views.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/anzanov/9289072017/

  • Mridula July 13, 2013 11:47 pm

    Such beautiful pictures! Have to go and check out how much it costs!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Rob Clayton July 13, 2013 11:10 pm

    A fisheye lens is far more than a one-trick-pony, as so many people seem to think.....here are some of my best examples of what can be achieved with it (ALL the pics in the album are taken using a fisheye!) https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.431178483605483.98861.118574151532586&type=3

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