When you hear someone talking about a fisheye lens, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps you think they’re useless to your style of shooting. Maybe you perceive them as being gimmicky or you can’t help but think of the severe distortion.
If you have any kind of dubious feelings about fisheye lenses, no one would blame you. These lenses do, in fact, have limited appeal and, yes, the distortion is extreme. Are fisheye lenses a gimmick? Not really, but anything in the wrong hands can be reduced to a gimmick, just as anything in the right hands can be awesome.
Before you dismiss them, consider these 5 ways that fisheye lenses can serve as incredible creative tools.
Go Wider Than Wide
A “true” fisheye lens is one with an angle of view of at least 180 degrees at the widest point, with a focal length of anywhere between 8-16mm. That’s wide.
Such a wide lens allows you to fit a whole lot into a single frame. Of course, you’ll need to be particularly judicious about your composition and where you place the horizon, but a fisheye lens opens up so many more possibilities for how you use visual real estate.
Love The Distortion
I suppose most photographers don’t love perspective distortion, otherwise, we wouldn’t take the time to correct it in post. And distortion is probably the characteristic most commonly associated with fisheye lenses.
Fisheye lens distortion doesn’t have to be a distraction, however. The distorted lines can be used to create visual depth and lead the viewer into the scene. Used correctly, fisheye distortion makes for images that possess a degree of drama not achievable with a traditional wide-angle lens.
Remove The Distortion
If you don’t love the distortion you can get rid of it. The first step is to center the horizon, as things located in the center of the frame of a fisheye lens are typically straight. Next, you’ll need to apply a “defishing” technique, using either a lens correction profile, special software or a bit of deft post-production work.
You can learn more about defishing a fisheye lens here.
Take A Selfie/Portrait
Fisheye lenses are hardly flattering to human subjects, but sometimes flattery isn’t the point.
Fisheye portraits are especially effective with babies and young children, as the enhancement of their youthful features (such as their big eyes) tends to be perceived as fun and adorable.
Similarly, fisheye lenses can work well with pets and other animals. Get up close to their nose to create some weird, comical distortion.
Yes, you can use a fisheye lens on anything and anyone you want — yourself included (due to the 180-degree field of view you can take unique selfies) — just be aware that normal feature proportions aren’t going to appear so normal.
While fisheye lenses are often relegated to occasional, whimsical uses they can be put to serious work.
From astrophotography to urban environments to interiors, fisheye lenses possess greater potential than most people give them credit for. Indeed, these lenses occupy a certain niche and are quirky compared to more traditional lenses but this in no way impacts their legitimacy as a creative tool.
In order to be truly effective with a fisheye lens, you’ll have to put forth the time and effort to understand all the ways in which it’s different from any other lens you use. You basically have to experiment with it in order to master it.
When it comes to fisheye lenses, some photographers love them, some hate them, others are indifferent about the whole topic. Some see fisheye lenses as toys, while others see them as a way to make a statement and stand out from the crowd.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a little fun with a fisheye lens, but hopefully, you’re now convinced of their creative potential.