Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fish Eye Lens: Why fake it in photoshop when it's so much fun to shoot?

You want distortion, I'll give you some distortion! 10.5mm fixed focal length fish eye! I rented it for a shoot I did for a wedding magazine cover a few years back. Though they didn't end up using this image it's one of my favorites. It was a really bright summer's day in the early evening when we did this. You can see the touch of light on the bride's face from the sun behind them. The main light is actually my SB-800 on camera with no diffusion.
Anyone who's ever set foot on a "beach" in Washington state can agree that this is a distinctly Northwest beach (Alki to be exact) since no soft sand is anywhere to be found. Yes there is real sand on the Pacific Ocean side of the state, but here in the Sound nothing can compare that isn't man made. That said, the texture can be visually compelling.
My favorite part of this image is how the horizon and the drift wood bend in opposite directions. Word to the wise: before you add this lens to your Christmas list there are a few things you should know.
  1. When shooting with a severely wide angle lens place your subject at dead center since this will be the only spot free of distortion and the only spot really sharp.
  2. Watch where you stand. Your feet might be in every photo if you are not careful. I cloned my feet out of  this image. While you are at it, be very careful of your background, more will be included then you'll  be aware of.
  3. Know your camera's sensor. I have a Nikon D300; which is a crop frame sensor. This same lens on a full frame sensor camera is even wider! I want to buy Nikkor's 12-24mm wide angle zoom but honestly it won't be worth the investment until I buy a new camera body since I won't be able to see most of the area that is curving around the edges of the frame. Though, hats off the camera salesman at Glazers that totally sold me on the lens! I'll be back, camera guy- don't worry...
  4. Watch the lingo. There are two different types of wide angle lenses both with varying results. Rectilinear lenses (as the name suggests) produces straighter lines though some distortion will occur, Fish eye lenses produce the circular distortion the sample image illustrates.
  5. Be prepared for vignetting as part of the distortion. I like that look so, it;s a bonus for me.
  6. Bring a normal 50mm also, shoot the same subject with both lenses so you can see exactly how much changes with a different shaped glass. (Good learning tool.)
  7. Most of all try new things, lenses, angles, lighting styles, you name it! Experiment and learn from every frame and you'll a better photographer for it.
Still trying to shoot Christmas lights... Maybe before New Year's?


  1. I love it! We have some pictures that were shot with a fish eye lense at our wedding. They turned out really fun. Someday maybe... I'm still hoping for a flash right now:)

  2. fish eye effect on wedding is compulsory nowadays as it can variation to the wedding photo..and one more effect should be try on wedding is HDR wedding photo..