by Kelly Garvey
I have a list of “fun stuff” that I think about buying when I have extra work money. The list is full of things that are not necessities and that probably wouldn’t help my business but would be so much fun to have! The “fun stuff” helps inspire me when I need it and can even help pull me out of a rut.
One of my favorite fun purchases ever was the 16mm fisheye lens. I bought it over a year ago and because it doesn’t get used all the time it still feels new and exciting every time I use it. I LOVE IT.
As every lens does, this lens has strengths and weaknesses. When I first got it I was “fisheye lens happy”, shooting everything fisheye including things that did not lend themselves well to fisheye. After taking a bunch of silly shots, I started to realize what made a good fisheye shot and what didn’t. Of course this is all just opinion but here is my take on the fisheye lens I have (the Nikon 16mm 2.8 fisheye lens).
1. Fisheye lenses are a novelty so they are fun to use and allow you to be creative with a different perspective.
2. Not everyone has one so an image naturally stands out when it is shot with a fisheye lens.
3. It focuses fast at both near and far focusing distances.
4. It’s sharp.
5. It’s wide, especially on a full frame camera, and gives you a 180 degree perspective.
6. It’s great for emphasizing a certain feature in an image.
7. It’s fast.
8. It’s really very versatile despite the fact that there’s distortion (landscapes, architecture, portraits done right, animals).
9. It’s a great lifestyle lens because it’s so wide (great for incorporating context into the frame).
1. Because it’s so wide, it’s not ideal for portraits unless the subjects are far enough away in the frame.
2. It’s got a fixed focal length so you can’t zoom in and out (this is actually a positive to me because I love the sharpness of prime lenses).
3. It’s got distortion (but isn’t this the perk of using fisheye? Again, this is a positive to me!).
4. Aside from a shot or two at weddings, I don’t use this lens for work and keep it strictly for personal use. So while it is versatile, I am still limited with it (if that makes sense).
5. It’s pricey. I spent about $950 a year ago.
6. When shooting certain angles you may have your arms, legs, or even your camera strap in the frame because it’s so wide.
It’s important to learn when to use it and when not to use it. In the first grocery store picture, I was on a short aisle so I wasn’t able to back up. I don’t like the composition because of this since it looks cramped, crowded and forced.
The second one is better. The composition is more natural. Since I’m farther away from my subjects, the combination of the fisheye distortion and the shelves create nice framing. I used radial blur and Ariana Falerni’s tilt shift action to exaggerate the curvature.
The fisheye lens is very versatile. It’s capable of so much more than I have used it for yet. Here are some examples of why I like it.
Because it turns in at the edges – I love this lens with framing.
I like to use the fisheye when I want to exaggerate a point since it shows off the chaos well with the wide angle and distortion.
I love this lens to show context and give a lifestyle feel as it did in the image below.
It does a good job of exaggerating a feature. Obviously this is not usually flattering (in human portraits) but there are particular times when it’s neat. I’ve seen some really great fisheye pictures taken at the zoo.
It’s fun for capturing motion.
I challenged myself to use this lens exclusively on a trip to the beach. I wanted to play around with it for a whole day and see if there was a way to make almost every shot I wanted work. At the end of the day I definitely had to scrap a bunch of them but had a lot of fun with it.
Way too close. Awkward. Weird composition. Sorry dad!
I think this is about as close as I could get away with here. I think any closer and the distortion would be too distracting.
In my opinion the composition here is distracting because the fisheye distortion turns the picture in at the edges and I don’t feel like a center comp is the way to go. I wish I had put the subjects more to the left.
I like this one because it matches the personality of the fisheye – fun!
This one was my favorite of the day.
There is so much you can do with the fisheye lens. I haven’t used this lens enough in the year i’ve had it and I still need to branch out and use it on architecture and landscapes because it would be great for that. I want to try more with motion too but the general idea is that I love my fisheye lens and highly recommend it! I’d love to see your fisheye images on the picture share boards of the photography forum or in the comments below!
Kelly Garvey, Texas
website | blog | facebook | twitter | pinterest | ask a pro
Kelly Garvey is a natural light photographer in Houston, TX. She prefers a candid, natural, relaxed approached over the classic “portrait session” and loves photographing real connections and emotions wherever she can find them: kids, families, weddings, engagement, newborns, you name it. Though always loving photography by growing up in a house with a photographer dad and a job in the fashion industry, it wasn’t until her son was born in 2008 that she acted on her interest, found her style & pursued photography as a career.