Ten Amazing Photos You Can Take With A Fisheye Lens

Inspirational images & techniques for underwater photography with a fisheye lens
By Scott Gietler

Wide-angle underwater photography can produce some absolutely stunning results, as is evidenced with the images below.  Perhaps foremost among the many advantages of going wide is the ability to get very close to the subject while also allowing a wide angle of view. By minimizing the amount of water between lens and subject, you can achieve excellent color and sharpness in a wide variety of shooting situations. The field of view is also much wider than our own vision, allowing you to include very large subjects and panoramic views of background scenery

Using a fisheye lens underwater doesn't produce as much obvious distortion as it does top-side, partially due to the lack of straight lines beneath the sea.   Take a look at the variety of shot you can produce with your fisheye below. Most of these photos were taken with a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.


#1 – Close-Focus, Wide-Angle


A fisheye lens is great for shooting subjects close. Really close. A fisheye lens changes perspective, so that subjects closer to the lens appear larger than normal, and subjects further away appear smaller than normal. As you can see in the photos below, this creates a very interesting effect. Small dome ports, four or five inches wide, are especially well suited for this technique, by allowing the photographer to get close to small subjects on the bottom for a close-focus wide angle shot. Read more about close-focus wide-angle underwater photography.

Close Focus, Wide Angle
Turtle taken while diving the Sea of Cortez

Trumpetfish taken in Anilao, Philippines


#2 – Capturing Cool Photos of Huge Schools of Fish


Nothing can quite capture a large school of fish like a fisheye lens. You can get close to a large school, and still get a diver or another subject in the photo. Also, since a fisheye lens curves the outer portion of the photo, you end up with a great curved effect like you see in photo of the Barracuda. Read more about photographing schooling fish.

Huge Schools of fish

Barracuda shot while diving French Polynesia


#3 – Capturing Snell's Window


Only a fisheye lens has a large enough angle of view to capture most of Snell’s window, an interesting effect where you can see the surface when looking straight up near the surface. Snell’s window makes a great background for many subjects, if you can get them close to the surface. Read more about Snell's Window.


Snell's Window
Manta Ray photographed while diving Bali


#4 – Getting the Sun in the Photo


The sun makes a great background subject, especially if you close down your aperture enough and raise your shutter speed so that the sun’s brightness does not blow out the photo. The ultra-wide angle of view of a fisheye lens makes it easy to orient the camera in portrait style (vertically), and then capture a foreground subject, and the sun higher up in the water column, by getting low and leaning the camera back. Read more about photographing sunbursts.




#5 – Create Circular Images (You’ll Need a Circular Fisheye Lens for This)


By owning a lens like the Canon 8-15mm that can produce a circular fisheye view, you can truly take unique photos that capture a foreground subject and a 180 degree view of the background in all directions. Read our Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens review.


#6 – Capture Stunning, Expansive Backgrounds


Kelp forests, oil rigs, jetties, wrecks, pier pilings, and shallow coral reefs can have expansive backgrounds that can really add an exciting element to a photo, when captured with the large angle of view that a fisheye lens can provide. Read more about kelp forests.

Giant Kelp forest, photographed while diving the Channel Islands


#7 – Get Great Colors by Getting Close


You lose red and other warm colors quickly when shooting through water. Even a subject 4ft away lit up with a strobe will have noticeably less vibrant reds and oranges than a subject 1 or 2ft away. A fisheye lens allows you to get very, very close to a large reef , sea fan, or grouping of soft coral, without losing detail or color. Read more about getting great colors.



#8 – Great Wreck Shots


Wrecks tend to be large – which means contrast and detail will be lost if you have to get too far away to photograph the entire wreck. A fisheye lens will allow you to get close enough to maintain that detail in the photo, while still showing the entire wreck and some of the background area. Read about wreck photography.


#9 – Whale Sharks and Mantas!


Whale sharks and Mantas can often get very, very big – and they can often get quite close to you. Without a fisheye lens, you’ll be cutting off half of the creature in your photo. Read about the best big animal encounters.

Whale Shark

manta ray taken with a fisheye lens


#10 – Capturing Great Split Shots


A fisheye lens is wide enough that it will minimize the size of the air/water boundary, and the size of any waves created by that boundary, important in getting a decent split shot. These superwide lenses also have excellent depth of field, which is necessary in order to maintain sharpness for both near and distant subjects. Read more about getting great over-under split shots.




Further Reading


Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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