Fisheye lenses are often considered a ‘no-no’ among professional land- and cityscape photographers. People see them as not much more than a gimmick. I often hear complaints about people not using fisheye lenses because of ‘that ugly distortion’. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical against fisheye lenses myself. However, after using the Samyang 12mm f2.8 Fisheye for a while I slowly began to love it. There are just so much possibilities with fisheye lenses. Most important of all, they are super fun to use! Put a fisheye in front of your sensor and keep looking through the viewfinder. You will find so much interesting shapes and compositions that you would normally completely miss. It just offers so much creativity. And that’s not all. A fisheye can also be super useful in getting shots that would normally require lots of trouble and are sometimes nearly impossible to make with a normal extreme wide angle lens. Think of crazy vertigos from rooftops or images in which distorted lines actually give meaning to an image. My fisheye lens became a tool for so much interesting shots as it’s now one of my favorite lenses.
Having said all of this, here’s a bunch of reasons why you should consider getting a fisheye lens, or if you already have: how to get the most out of it!
A lot of times, distortion can be annoying. But it doesn’t have to be. Use fisheye distortion to your advantage. Find scenes in which the fisheye effect actually adds something to the scene. When used right, fisheye distortion can be pleasing to the eye and can be preferred to a normal wide-angle lens. Try to use the distorted lines and curves as a way to lead the viewer into an image.
In this classic shot of Hong Kong, the slightly distorted buildings work well in combination with the curved shapes of the roads below
2. 'Defishing' is possible!
Sometimes fisheye lenses can be used as extreme wide angles. By putting the horizon in the middle the horizon line is generally almost straight. With certain tools the curved lines can be straightened to get a super wide angle images. See my tutorial on my website for more details on this subject.
3. Using it with round shapes creates great compositions.
A fisheye generally curves straight lines. So if you photograph round shapes with it the curving gets less noticeable. Try it out on tubes, round stairways, intersections, etc.
This vertigo is shot down a curved building where the fisheye works very well. The curved horizon completes this image by making a full circle.
4. Point it up:
You can get some crazy line play when pointing a fisheye lens upwards or partly upwards (with the ground still in the frame).
The fisheye lens was used here to get a super wide view pointing upwards. The curved building on the right helps here, making you not even notice that this was shot with a fisheye.
5. A Fisheye is great for BTS (Behind-the-scenes) shots.
6. You can use them on portraits:
Try to make extreme wide angle selfies or portraits. Don’t place your subject too close to the edge or you will get too much distortion.
A fisheye lens in the right hands can create some imagery that wouldn’t have been possible with normal lenses. Try to keep your fisheye lens on your camera for a longer period of time and point it everywhere. You will be amazed on how much interesting things you can see on the screen of your camera compared to what you see with your own eyes.
This is a tube apartment complex shot from the middle floor, then flipped 90 degrees in post to get a crazy perspective.
Most importantly: using a fish eye is just so much fun!
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments :)