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Build & Shoot: Fisheye Lens

Lesson 15 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

15. Build & Shoot: Fisheye Lens

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Fisheye Lens

The photos that we're going to produce from this, and the photos that I'm going to show here on the screen behind me, are not your typical fisheye photographs. They're a bit different than you're used to. It's still this fisheye effect, but the image quality isn't quite there. But it's still fun, so let me show you how to do this. If you would, would you guys show these? So, here are three images. I took these at my home. I took them about a week and a half ago using the tools I'm going to show you now, actually using one of the tools I'm going to show you now. So, I just made a little triptych out of these, little three image set. You got some flowers here. My barn there in the background, and the sun. This one is a little flower, and then this one is my house, my garage, and my fabulous Honda Accord. Really great. And you can see the fisheye effect, right? It's kind of this wide, really distorted bulbous type of effect. You're going to find that when you shoot fisheye lens, this effe...

ct, you're going to want it to be sunny outside, so that you get a lot of vibrant color, a lot of punch. This look doesn't look as good if the light is flat or if you don't have a lot of vibrant color in the photograph. So, there is just something fun I did. I actually contemplated printing this out in a little panorama and putting it on my desk. And not that it's the sharpest thing, but it's just kind of cool to look at. I'm going to show you two ways to make fisheye lenses, and the cost of each will be less than about $20, $25 bucks. The first method I want to show you is using a peephole, like the peephole that you look through your front door to see who's coming into your house. The second method I want to show you is using a lens designed for a Holga camera, and I'm going to show you how to modify that so that it works with your own camera. Okay. so, let's go. I'll come over here. All right. I just realized I'm missing my other pinhole lens cap. It's all right, I've got two. You know what? I'm going to do something different. I'm going to use another type of pinhole lens cap that I made. Let me just talk about this whole setup as a family. I'm going to block this out so you guys can't see the name, but just go to your local hardware store and buy yourself a peep eye or peephole. There's a couple of types. Actually, this one was here. This was the 160-degree peephole, and then this other one that I bought, I actually bought this one from Amazon. This was like a 200 or 210-degree peephole. Get the wider one. You're going to find it works so much better. It gets a much broader angle of view. So, here is how this works. Here's the concept. You've got to find a way to get this peephole lined up with your camera. Now, when you look through it, the human eye can actually focus on that, and I can actually see. I can all the way to this set over here and I can see all the way to the windows over there, so it's a real wide range. But your camera can't, so you have to provide some type of aperture or some type of iris, basically, for the peephole to go through. Well, we've already made one of those today, that was the pinhole. So, I'm going to show you how can use a pinhole in combination with this. And that's exactly how I took all of those photos on the screen earlier. Those were through a pinhole and a little fisheye tool. All right. So, what I'm doing is I'm unscrewing this and the reason why I'm unscrewing it is because I want to get the fish eye portion as close to the camera body as possible. So, this is the pinhole lens I'm going to use. I made this out of the bottom of a pop can. So, the same pop can I used earlier, and I used the lens cap, remember that one? Just to show it again. That was the body cap pinhole. Well, this one, I just took the bottom of the pop can, and then I put tape around it, and I'm going to tape that to the front of my camera. And then, there's the pinhole. I can't see anything but you get the idea. And there's the backside of that. So what we're going to do now is after I've taped that to the front of my camera, we're going to take the peephole and just set it up against that little hole and simply take the photo. That simple. All right, let me do it. We're just going to do a quick test. Make sure it all works properly. Here, I've got my Nikon D800, and I've got it tethered, so, hopefully, it'll shine through. I'll do it from this side, so I'll actually see what I'm doing. So the pop can, just try to get it centered. Yeah. There we go. Tape it on there. And just a quick test before I put this on there. I'm just going to snap an image, and I have to rearrange all my exposure settings, so I'm going to go to manual mode, and I'm going to set my ISO for pretty high, like 3,200. There we go, 3,200. My mode is in manual, like I say, and my shutter speed now, I'm going to set my shutter speed for about one second. So, this is without the fisheye lens. Okay, let's see if that came through in Lightroom. Okay, cool. You guys look very happy. Nice. All right. So, here, we're starting to see some of the limitations with pinhole photography. See that haze along the bottom? That's because my pinhole maybe isn't as clean as it should be, so we're actually getting light diffracted all around there. It also might be that it's just not centered properly. Who knows? Okay, we'll center it up a little better. Sometimes, what I like to do is I like to put the pop can on and then tape it, so you can see that it's actually centered. Okay, one more test and just to see if our exposure is close. Oh, yeah, that's more better, and you guys look happier. So, a well-centered pinhole makes for happy customers. Okay, so now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to shoot this way towards the light and also in profile, so you guys can kind of see what I'm doing. I'm just going to take the peephole and line it up there. Just like that. Hold it. And take the shot. Make sure your hand and your arm is back from it. Oh, not so great. It didn't come out as good as I wanted to. I thought maybe we would get a little more foreground, a little more background, but it's a starting point. And that's what this all is about. It's about experimenting. So, if we look at that, I know of a number of people are going to look at that and go, "Well, that's not quite what I expected, and that's not what you showed earlier. You just showed this little box and this little square." Well, that's the thing. You're going to have to actually go into Photoshop or Lightroom and crop it, and maybe even do a little bit of exposure and contrast and color correction. Now, this is a super high contrast image. Not the greatest shot. Let me come over this way, and let's do a pinhole photo of our flowers. Now, sometimes, with this, I have been able to get Live View to work for me. I don't have...this isn't my Live View camera. But sometimes, I can actually frame it up in Live View, with a mega high ISO and it works really well. So here, I'm actually just guessing. Okay, put that on there. Let's see what we get. Okay, you guys can all tell me over my shoulder. Did we get anything? - [Woman] Yeah. - Yeah. Okay, that's not bad. So, I'll do this, and then I'll do a little bit of work in Lightroom, just to show you what we can expect and how to actually convert it to a usable image. All right, so now, I'm going to put that back on there. Fat hands. Here we go. Notice how close I am. Off center. Why is it moving around like that? The reason why is because if you move the lens ever so slightly left to right, it changes how it impacts the sensor. And this is why I like shooting with a camera like the D800. Or if you're a Canon shooter, maybe something like the EOS 5D, what is it, the R? Like 40 megapixels, 30 megapixels, because you are going to have a lot of information to work with. All right. So, for now, we'll just use that as our example, or maybe the previous one. Yeah, we'll do the previous one. Okay? So let me real quickly just develop it and just to show you how I get that effect from the previous images. First thing is I need to crop it, and I'm just going to work fairly quickly here. I'm going to hit crop. I'm going to go to 1:1 crop. That's basically the Instagram square crop. And then bring down the corner here like that. And I'm going to crop it right to the pinhole shape. I'm hitting Shift + Option when I crop it. I hit Enter. There's our starting point. Now, let's increase the brightness. So, I'm going to increase the exposure a little bit. Now, you can see how important it is to have color and contrast in there. I'm going to add some clarity. It needs some work, it isn't perfect but it's a starting point. There we go. And we'll just go full frame. Okay. There's a lot of issues that... These peepholes, even though when you look through them, they look kind of sharp. Remember, we are shooting through a pinhole, so I'm doing a peephole through a pinhole. And a pinhole by itself is not all that sharp. There's lots of different ways to make this peephole work. The simplest one is the one I just showed you there. But maybe what you do is you take your lens and you make like a block of wood, and you drill a hole in the block of wood, so that that block of wood is the same diameter as your lens. And then you stick the peephole in the block of wood and then mount that to the lens. That's a possibility. You're going to have to shoot at f/22, by the way, for that to work. But there's basically a lot of different ways to get this peephole attached to the camera system. And then I'm going to talk... One more thing about this. If you have a little point-and-shoot camera, I'm talking like a little Canon or a Sony, sometimes, this peephole lens is the perfect size to fit right in front of your little point-and-shoot lens. And you can get a very good fisheye look through those cameras as well. So that's method one. Peephole lens photography. And this one, by the way, this was the 210 degree angle fisheye. So, let's talk about the next one. All right, I keep setting my toys down. That's a dangerous thing to do. Okay, I move this back over here. The next thing I want to show you is this Holga lens. Basically, the same general concept. We're trying to find a way to hack a fisheye. Well, this is Holga and this, by the way, is Kenna's Holga. She brought it in today. Thank you for bringing it in for me. I appreciate that. These old Holga cameras, they're all plastic and they are specifically designed to be low quality, low image quality. They're medium format, so they take 120 film. They're really old school. They're designed also so that they produce light leaks. Light is supposed to come in through the seams to give you this weird look to your photographs. You'll notice on here, there's tape all over it. Kenna said she put the tape on that because it was too light leaky. Too much light leaked into it so she had to reduce some of the effect. Well, the typical Holga lens is something like... It's about a 50-millimeter equivalent, so it's kind of a semi-tight look. They sell this little product, it's called the Holga 120 fisheye lens. And the way that's supposed to work is, it fits over the Holga camera lens. Okay? So here's the fish eye, show the back of that and the front of that. And then what that does is it just fits over the Holga lens. There you go. But it basically increases the angle to about 120 degrees. Okay? That's cool. But that's not what we're for today. We're here to learn how to do this with your own digital camera. So what I'm going to show you, let me grab, where is my 50? Yeah. Just for the sake of cameras, I'll do it here and then I'll motate over to my D800. So, you're going to have a lens like this, like a 50-millimeter lens. And then you're just going to take this and put it right over the front just like that. Pretty cool. Alternatively, and this is pretty cool, you can also use this with your pinhole. So you can put this over the pinhole and get a very similar effect. So you can do pinhole, Holga, fisheye, or you can do regular lens, Holga, fisheye. And it just so happens that the Holga lens fits right over my little Nikon lens. So let me show you some photos with that. And that Holga lens that I bought, I think I paid like $27. I paid $27 for it. I bought it at that online store that everyone shops at. You all know the one or the ones. All right. I'm taking this sucker off. I'm putting on my 50. And let's take a picture. We'll go back to our flowers. Here we go. And I'm just going to take one picture without the fisheye lens, so you get a feel for what that looks like. Okay. It says FEE. In other words, your aperture ring is in the wrong position. Great. And I'm in manual mode, so I'm going to go back to aperture priority. Mode button, A for aperture, and set my ISO to 400. So I'm at f/1.8, but I don't want to be there. I'm going to go more like f/8. Okay. So there's f/8. And here's the picture. Just snapped, straight on out of camera. Okay? So that's what a regular 50-millimeter lens looks like. Now, let's throw the Holga lens on and see what happens. Okay. Throw that sucker on there. Actually, you know what I'm going to do is I'm going to set focus more towards infinity rather than close and take that picture again. Yeah. Okay, cool. And now, auto-focus is kind of an oxymoron as you'll see here in a second. But focus does work a little bit, so I'm just kind of focusing until I get the effect that I want. All right, here's the snap. There's the snap. So this image, so there's the fisheye effect. Kind of a wider angle view. Now we're going to get even more of a fisheye effect if I can get that lens closer to the camera. Remember earlier when I was talking about that pinhole lens? If your pinhole is far away, you get more telephoto, and if the pinhole is closer, you get more wide angle. Well, here, if you look at this, you can see that my Holga lens is actually quite far away from the camera body. So, how can I get it in closer? Well, I could use my little pinhole to do that. Sometimes I actually will do the same exact thing with the pinhole lens. It's actually quite fun to do, just for the heck of it. Let me grab my other pinhole filter over here. And while I'm at it, I'm going to grab this. Another little toy to show off. Okay. I'm back to my regular body cap pinhole. There we go. I screw that on there. And now I'm going to put this, just set it. I'm not taping it. It doesn't mount. I'm just setting it right there. I'm going to look through the camera and I'm going to really overexpose it. Hopefully, I just nail it right from the first shot. It's a four-second exposure. Two, three, four. See how much more wider the angle is because I got that little Holga lens closer to the camera. So, pinhole works great. Now, Holga, this is kind of fun. Holga does actually sell a Holga lens for the Nikon camera body. So the same lens I was just showing over with Kenna's little Holga. They actually sell a little product that gives me the same Holga look. So there's that. That's the Holga lens and it comes in a Nikon mount. And then you can put the Holga fisheye lens like that and put all that on the camera. So, let me show you the sequence or the iteration from there. I'll start with just the Holga lens and then I'll go Holga lens fisheye. I can imagine listening to this, you're like, "Okay. Where we at? How many things are you stacking on there?" All right. So here's just the Holga lens. There's no focus. There's this whole world of Holga lens photography. There's Instagram groups and all that fun stuff. It's just a fun world to be a part of. So this is the... I think I paid $22 or $25 for the Holga lens. Over expose it, I forgot. But you get the idea. I'll take another shot at only one second. And the whole purpose of Holga photography is blurry photos. I mean, that's what it's all about. And now, we throw on the fisheye attachment to the Holga lens and we'll just take that same photo again. One second exposure. By the way, the Holga lens... There we go. Cool. Much wider angle. The Holga lens, the one that I bought that fits for the Nikon camera, it's about f/8. I don't know if that matters to you. The aperture is approximately f/8. So as you're setting your exposure and you're kind of thinking through ISOs and depth of field and all of that good stuff, just think it's about an f/8 lens. Cool. There you have it. Really inexpensive ways to do fisheye photography.

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a Creativelive Student

It's a fun course, with a lot of interesting ideas presented in a way to help spark the creative juices in anyone wanting to branch out and experiment with different ideas. Mike's presentation style is fun and easygoing - perfect for this type of discussion. If you're not afraid to color outside the lines and see where the road takes you, this is a very enjoyable bit of inspiration.


Love it!! Very creative and full of inspiration. Mike Hagen explains the different effects in a great way, he is precise yet easy-going so he makes learning fun. I recommend this class to all who wants to take their creative photography to the next level without spending money on expensive accessories.


Mike has an easy-going, pleasant & fun personality. He explains things clearly. Rolls with whatever happens. And, he's very good about answering audience questions in an understandable, positively reinforcing and non-judgemental way (which can be rare for some established pro photographers...).

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