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.
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?