Fisheye lens: everything you need to know

clown fish underwater

Do you want really creative photos? Check out the fisheye lens to give your photos a striking image distortion effect. Here are some tips on how to achieve this look on your smartphone or reflex camera.

What is fisheye effect?

POV Man kayaking in the ocean at midday. fish eye

The fisheye effect is the circular distortion of straight lines and perspectives. A photo produced with a fisheye lens gives the impression that your subject is totally round, and everything that surrounds it is circular too.

Fisheye photos are nothing new, but the effect has seen a real wave of renewed interest over the last few years because of its surprising and original results. To get the effect, you’ll need a convexly curved front lens, with a very short focal distance (10-15 mm). It’s a type of wide-angle lens, which can take in up to 180° diagonally. This is much more than what the human eye is capable of seeing!

This effect obtained by the distortion of lines is often used for capturing the vastness of certain landscapes, or the whole of large monuments.

In fisheye photos, perspectives are exaggerated. Subjects in the foreground will swell while those in the background shrink. Widely used in publicity shots, it’s also favoured in the field of architecture and at big events.

How can you create the fisheye effect?

Beautiful Miami Beach fish eye cityscape with art deco architecture and palm trees.

If you use a reflex or hybrid camera, you can buy a fisheye lens. Quite distinct with their curved lens, the fisheye shouldn’t be confused with other wide-angle lenses. A wide-angle lens generally shares a very short focal distance but results in a different perspective.

If you use an iPhone or camera phone, you can buy fisheye lenses that you can attach to your mobile. There are plenty of options at a cost of around ten pounds.
For an immediate fisheye effect, simply clip the fisheye onto the lens of your smartphone or fix it magnetically.

Don’t forget that sport cameras like a GoPro naturally offer a fisheye effect. This is to be able to capture the maximum amount of information during shooting.

Another option is to use an app to create the famous distorting effect once the photo has been taken. This is the most economical choice, but also the least effective. These applications won’t enhance the lens of your phone in any way or widen the shooting angle of the photo. They don’t provide the original 180° effect. They simply add a ‘round angle’ aspect to your photo.

Free or not, these applications are widely available: Fisheye Camera with Film, Fisheye Lens Pro or InstaFishEye, which allows you to create fisheye photos on Instagram.

Tips for obtaining your fisheye effect

group selfie on the beach

  • Firstly, choose your foreground well, because this is what balloons on the picture and becomes the centre of attention.
  • Think carefully about the composition of your photo. The lines will be distorted, so ensure that the horizon stays straight and prevent your photo from becoming indecipherable.
  • Since the fisheye’s focal distance is very short, avoid blurring caused by a shaky camera!

What are the fisheye’s limitations?

  • The strength of fisheye photos is also their weakness: the distortion induced cannot be overridden, only reduced by reframing your photo after it’s been taken, deleting the edges where the fisheye effect is most visible.
  • Watch out for the risk of lens flare, which can ruin your photo because the fisheye lens is convex and therefore sensitive to parasitic light. In this case, if you take your photo with a reflex, be sure to use your sun shield.

Now that you have mastered the fisheye and its unusual effects, all you have to do now is print large-sized versions of your pictures!

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