Getting Creative with the Fisheye Lens

From Wikipedia:
In photography, a fisheye lens is a wide-angled lens that takes in an extremely wide, hemispherical image. Originally developed for use in meteorology to study cloud formation and called “whole-sky lenses”.

My first experience with a fisheye lens was when I borrowed one from a friend several years ago. I fell in love with the creative abilities that the lens allowed. I showed some of the images to my daughter and she thought that they were cool. She and her husband bought me a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens for Christmas that year. I ran out and created literally hundreds of images. I had only scratched the surface.

Once you see the world through a fisheye lens you may never be the same. In 2010 the 15mm lens was discontinued and replaced by the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Lens. I never upgraded because my daughter bought me the lens and I cherish her acknowledgement of my love for photography and because I was not a fan of the larger size of the lens. It is not a lens I use often and lugging it around would be an issue for me if it were larger. The 15mm lens is the size of a teleconvertor and packs easily into my fanny pack or pocket.

The 8-15mm is an f/4 and cost approximately $1,200.00, the weight on that is 1.19 lb. compared to the 11.6 oz weight of the 15mm. Also when you use the 15mm on a full frame sensor you get the fisheye look; if you hold it straight with the horizon level you have an ultra-wide angle view. The 8-15mm fisheye is supposed to be a much better piece of glass. I have borrowed it a few times and I do agree that the image quality is very good. I’m still not a huge fan of the circle look, but I do think that at times it can be a very fun thing to play around with.

A couple of things to consider when photographing with a fisheye lens. When composing you will need to make sure that your image is level especially if you are working tight (unless you are using 8mm, then you can simply rotate the image). If the sun is out there is a very good chance that your shadow will be in the image. I like to use my fisheye on cloudy days. The lens is not well protected against water or rain and sometimes you will get so close to your subject that you will hit the front of the lens!

Just because I am using a fisheye lens doesn’t mean that I won’t be creative with in-camera effects, including: multiple exposures, slow shutter speed blurs, camera movement blurs, HDR , etc… I also like to add some special effects in post-processing that include: textures, borders, filters and plug-ins.

For the above image I used Topaz B&W Effects for the desaturation and border, I used a texture that I downloaded from Shadowhouse Creations and Nik Color Efex 4 to adjust the lighting and colors a bit. I wanted a moody look for the image. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE A LARGER, SHARPER VIEW.

If you don’t have a fisheye lens consider purchasing a used 15mm or the new 8-15mm-either way you will have tons of fun and I am sure you will be creating many interesting effects with it!

To learn more about adding post processing effects check out my newest filter guide “A Guide to Creative Filters &Effects II”.

I will be returning to Greece in 2017 for my second workshop with the amazing Dalmatian Pelicans of Lake Kerkini, Greece. To join me or to read more about the trip, click below.

Dalmatian Pelicans with Denise Ippolito ~ Greece January 26th-31st, 2017 ~ 5 Nights/ 4 Full days of photography Limit 8.

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15 Responses

  1. Dennis Bishop says:

    I love it! Fisheyes are great, in fact I just got one for my iPhone.

    Thanks Dennis, I appreciate it.
    denise

  2. Jay S Kaplan says:

    While I do not have a fisheye lens I know that they are excellent for night/astro photography.

    Hi Jay, yes, you could. I will be using a 14mm lens so that I won’t get to much distortion.
    denise

  3. Carolyn says:

    It’s a “scooper duper” Denise! I find the fish-eye can be so much fun.

    Hi Carolyn, Thank so much! Too funny!
    denise

  4. Joseph R Moran says:

    DENICSE; AS ALWAYS I ENJOY YOUR INSITE ON THE FISH EYE LENSE. MY WIFE BOUGHT ME A NIKON FISH EYE FOR CHRISTMAS AN I AM REALLY ENJOYING IT. i LOVE YOUR EBOOK ON FILTERS AND REFER TO THEM QUITE OFTEN THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO FOR PHOTOGRAPHY. JOE MORAN

    Hi Joe, Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate your support of my work.
    denise

  5. James Saxon says:

    I love what you did with the fisheye. Nikon has only a 16mm Nikkor in its lineup. I agree the Nikon 16mm is small and light so it is easy to pack and carry. I use mine a lot in tight spaces and when the effect is not that great. As you know it was nice at the Silk Mill for a different look. Love the post processing you did.

    Thanks James, because it’s small it goes on more of my trips than it would if it were bigger 🙂
    denise

  6. Neil Hickman says:

    Hi! Just lovely! How about that big eye in the shadow – bottom left?

    Hi Neil, Thanks so much! I don’t see it sorry.
    denise

  7. Rona Schwarz says:

    I just love this, Denise! I have always loved the creative possibilities of the fisheye, yet I never would have thought to use it on wildlife. I have never picked up the Nikon 16mm either – maybe I should reconsider it!

    Hi Rona, Thanks so much. I am glad that you will try it again.
    denise

  8. Rich Lewis says:

    Thanks for proving you can photograph wildlife with a fisheye. Those birds must have been really close to you. I have the 8-15mm and use it rarely but am always pleased with the different spin it provides on our world. I was thinking of traveling light for your workshop in South Carolina. Now here is another thing I have to pack.

    Hi Rich, I know it is difficult to decide which lenses to bring and we are always trying to pack less than we do 🙂
    denise

  9. Stunning image Denise!!! My 15mm fisheye lens has become my go to lens for Bullfrogs. The creative possibilities with fisheye lenses seems to be endless 🙂

    Thanks Andrew, much appreciated!
    denise

  10. Rich Doerr says:

    Superb effect with the fisheye. May look for one on Amazon. As always, Your vision of the finished image is artistic, like Michelangelo looking at a piece of marble and seeing the final sculpture. Brava.

    Thanks Rich, I really appreciate your kind words.
    denise

  11. Ramona Boone says:

    Beautiful Denise…you mentioned a 14mm to Mr Kaplan?? Could you tell us the pros and cons of each? thank..see you in Charleston!

    Ramona, They are both an f/2.8 and that is good but the 15mm fisheye has a barrel effect that the 14mm minimizes. So that means that the 15mm image will be more distorted and require more post processing work. Thanks and see you soon!
    denise

  12. Len Saltiel says:

    I love my fisheye but it is not for everything. I think this is an amazing shot and I am glad you brought it out.

    Hi Len, I agree but at times it can be very effective!
    denise

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