Tips & Tutorials

[Part 4] Professionals Composition Techniques – Making Good Use of Special Lenses

Other than wide-angle, standard, and telephoto lenses, do you know that you can have a lot more fun with special lenses? These lenses provide special angles of view or focal lengths, such as macro and fisheye lenses. In this article, you will realize how these special lenses can further enhance composition of your photos. (Written by: Tatsuya Tanaka)

Macro Lenses

Most of the alluring images of flowers are captured using macro lenses. The angle of view becomes extremely narrow when the subject is captured in life size. This effect can be put to good use when you are taking close-up shots of flower pistils or magnified shots of insects. However, light intensity may not be sufficient when you are focusing on a small part of the subject, which forces you to make use of a slow shutter speed. Take note that this would in turn lead to camera shake. Also, since the magnification ratio varies each time you turn the focusing ring, the composition changes too whenever the point of focus is shifted. For more precise composition work, select the magnification ratio using the focusing ring, followed by moving the camera backward or forward to find the point of focus, as doing so helps to minimise any variation in the composition.

This is a conceptual diagram of the angle of view of a macro lens. When the subject is captured in life size (1.0x magnification), the angle of view becomes as narrow as that of a super telephoto lens.

A: Angle of View

B: 1.0x Magnification Region

C: Lens

Capturing insects and flowers from an extremely close distance

Here, I captured a butterfly approaching a flower in the Rule of Thirds composition using a 180mm telephoto macro lens, which comes in handy for subjects that would escape if you move too close to them.

Capturing a magnified view with the leaf veins visible

I captured a close-up shot of a fallen leaf using a 100mm macro lens. Here, I took the diagonal line into consideration when composing the shot. While photos captured from an extremely close distance have a high resolution, you are recommended to use a tripod for preventing camera shake.

Fisheye Lenses

(180° Diagonal Fisheye / 360° Circular Fisheye)

Fisheyes are a unique type of lenses that can be divided into prime fisheyes and zoom fisheyes, both offering an angle of view ranging from 180° diagonal to 360° circular view, while the fisheye zooms allow you to obtain an angle of view in between this range. With a fisheye lens, both objects located close to the camera as well as those in the far distance can be captured in a single image. However, you need to familiarise yourself with the lens characteristics before you can compose a good shot. In particular, circular fisheye lenses require you to bring out contrast in the composition. You will not be able to obtain an angle of view in the normal format that is wider than the 180° diagonal angle of view. Both types produce strong deformed or curved effects according to the distance from the subject and the angle, so it is important to compose a shot upon taking into consideration the fact that straight lines would appear curved.

Circular fisheye lenses have a half-dome shaped angle of view of 180° both vertically and horizontally, while diagonal fisheye lenses have a 180° diagonal angle of view, both of which have a wider angle than what we see through our eyes.

A: Angle of View of Diagonal Fisheye Lenses

B: Angle of View of Circular Fisheye Lenses

C: Lens

Photographing cherry blossoms with a 360° circular fisheye lens

Pointing the fisheye lens directly upward creates a dome-shaped effect similar to that of a planetarium. Here, I moved close to the cherry tree that was my main theme, and chose a centred composition while taking the surroundings near the centre into consideration.

Photographing a mountain track with a diagonal fisheye lens

When you are using a diagonal fisheye lens, distortions at the four corners of the image may become more pronounced depending on the angle and position, so attention is needed when choosing a composition.

Tatsuya Tanaka

Born in 1956, Tanaka is one of the rare photographers who produce works across a wide variety of genres from an original perspective. These genres range from objects in our daily lives, such as insects and flowers, to landscapes, skyscapes, and celestial bodies. Besides photography, Tanaka has also developed his own approach in post processes including retouch and printing.

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