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Using Fish Eye Lenses in Architecture Photography

Fish eye lenses are ultra wide angle lenses that capture an extremely wide angle of view; say around 180° or 220°degrees. They were originally created for meteorologists and astro photographers to capture the entire sky (e.g. star formations and cloud formations) but was adapted by photographers of other genres who love the artistic distortions they create.

Using Fish Eye Lenses in Architecture Photography
Photo by: Pedro Szekely

Normal wide angle lenses are rectilinear lenses, they create a normal perspective where straight lines in the frame are rendered straight. But fisheye lenses are not corrected for distortions and so they suffer from barrel distortion/curvilinear distortion. Subjects at the centre of the frame appear to bulge outwards, and straight lines curve wildly giving them a dynamic, abstract feel. The greater the distance of the subject from the optical center axis of the lens, the greater the distortion.

Types of Fish Eye Lenses

There are two types of fish eye lenses circular and full-frame.

Circular Fisheye Lenses

A circular fisheye lens captures a full 180 degree view in all directions. This results in a circular image at the center with the edges of the frame rendered black.

Full Frame Fisheye Lenses

Fish Eye Lenses in Architecture Photography
Photo by: Justin Brown

Full frame fisheye lenses captures a 180 degree field of view along its diagonal. The horizontal and vertical sides of the image are less than 180 degrees (typically around 150 degrees horizontal and 100 degrees vertical). Though they don’t capture as wide a frame as the circular type, pictures taken with them do not have black edges.

Using Fish Eye Lenses in Architecture Photography

A fish eye lens is never the first choice for straight architectural photography due to the distortions it causes. In extreme cases it distorts the structure beyond recognition. So its use is very limited in regular architectural work. But it could be used to give a very dramatic supplementary image to a regular distortion free image. And when shooting in very cramped spaces its ultra wide angle of view could be very helpful (in certain cases the only option available for you) to cover the whole scene in a frame.

 Fish Eye Lenses in Architectural Photography
Photo by: Dennis Wilkinson

Thus fish eye lenses should be used more for effects rather than regular work; a great option for adding some surreal drama to your building shots. They work best on buildings which have a symmetrical design where bowed lines on one side of the image are perfectly mirrored by lines on the other side.

In situations where the results are not quite how you intended (un-usable due to extreme distortion) there are several software’s available that help correct the distortion and produce a straighter image; the downside to this is loss of resolution as you will end up with a slightly cropped final image.

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