Tips for Mastering the Fisheye Lens

The fisheye lens is an incredible tool — a wide-angle lens that adds a panoramic or hemispherical flare to your photos. It’s a quirky and cool lens to add to your collection for a bit of experimentation (and a whole lot of fun). 

In the end, mastering the fisheye primarily comes down to one thing: practice. Be willing to get out there, explore, and see what you can create. You’ll find with the fisheye that objects become exaggerated and take on an entirely new personality and dimension.

If you’re looking to branch into this world of distortion, here are a few tips from the Macphun team.

1. The Fisheye and Street Photography

The ways in which a fisheye lens creates distorted lines can turn somewhat ordinary street photography shots into intriguing masterpieces of architectural beauty. Try experimenting with curved light streaks from the traffic below a distorted row of buildings. Take the photo looking up and try to squeeze as many skyscrapers into the shot as possible. Have fun with a distorted busy intersection and drooping signal lights while trying to get high rises or the words of billboards in the background. Explore the geometry of modern buildings or classic landmarks. Just as with any other time you take your camera to the streets in an effort to be experimental, click away to find new perspective through the friendly fisheye. 

2. Play with Radial Blur 

You might be familiar with those fish eye shots done at wedding receptions or celebrations on the dance floor. Get in the middle of the action and to create that unique radial blur, slow down your shutter speed to about 1/25th of a second. Spin the camera 90 degrees counter clockwise by holding the lens in one hand while using another to pivot the camera body. It might take a few dozens times of practice to get that one fantastically fish-eye wedding shot. But trust us when we say, the end result is worth it.

3. Get Crazy With Patterns

One of the benefits of the fish eye lens resides in its ability to make patterns jump. The world rounds and distorts and patterns become exaggerated and more noticeable than before. Look for square, circle and triangle patterns that fill your frame, like stones or the frames of identical houses in a row. What about streetlamps? Or the pattern of passerby people holding coffee cups as you saunter through a downtown scene? Patterns exist all around us. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of training yourself to see things in a creatively interesting way.

4. Changing the Earth — With a Fisheye Photo

One of the wildly wonderful things that a fisheye lens does is that it changes the curvature of the Earth. The more you move your object or line to the edge of the frame, the more radically distorted it will become. If you place the horizon in the middle of your frame, it will rest straight across the image. To make this distortion become even more exaggerated, place your horizon extremely close to the top of the frame. 

5. The Power of Perspective

A fisheye is a prime lens, so you won’t be able to zoom in or out with it. Although, this doesn’t mean that it will stifle your shots or your creativity. Instead, view this barrier as a way to really experiment with your perspective. Get low. Go high. Get close to things. Then back away from them. See how these movements — these angles and lines — change your images. 

6. Tiny (But Useful) Up and Down Tips

If you want your horizon below the center of the frame, point your lens up. If you want your horizon above the center of the frame, tip your lens down. If you’d like the horizon to be level, keep it in the center of the frame.

From street snaps to wedding reception photos, keep all things crazy and cool with the fisheye lens. Like we said, don’t be afraid to practice and take wild shots. Be willing to experiment and see what you can come up with.

From all of us at the Macphun team, happy photo-taking!

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