Sallie taken with a Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens
Photography,  Photography Projects

Take Creative Dog Photographs with a Fisheye Lens

A Fisheye lens is an extreme wide angle lens that produces images with significant distortion.  This can have a desired effect on your photograph, especially with your dog where its head and nose can look exaggerated compared to the rest of its body.

You can Use Inexpensive Fisheye Lenses for Dog Portraits

Fisheye lenses by third party manufacturers are pretty inexpensive (around $200 US).  These lenses are completely manual – manual focus with no electronic connectors on the lens.  This means that you will need to set the aperture using the aperture ring on the lens. 

Rokinon (also uses the name Samyang) produces Fisheye Lenses for most camera brands.  I use the Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye lens for my Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera.

Camera Settings for Creative Dog Portraits

Even though they are manual, these lenses are easy and fun to use.  If you have a mirrorless camera with focus peaking, you can use that to ensure your subject is in focus.  I have my focus peaking programmed to a button on the camera so that it is quicker to turn on.  I usually shoot  with an aperture around f/8 – f/11.

Sallie Up Close with Fisheye Lens
Sallie Up Close with Fisheye Lens
Topaz Labs

How to Use a Flash for Creative Dog Portraits

If you are shooting indoors, you may need to use a flash to get enough light on you subject.  If you pick a dark background, you can get a look that will make your dog stand out as they are lit by the flash. You may need to play around with the flash power so its bright enough to light your dog but keeps the background dark.  I used my front door as the background for the shots in this blog post.  You can also further darken the background in post by lowering the shadows slider.

My flash worked in both TTL and manual mode with the Rokinon Fisheye lens.  Just make sure to set the lens focal length on the flash.

You will want to bounce the flash off the wall or ceiling and / or use a diffuser to avoid getting Pet Eye.  Pet eye is a greenish or bluish glow in your dog’s eye when a flash is used to photograph.

Pet Eye Correction Tool in Lightroom
Pet Eye Correction Tool in Lightroom

How to Fix Pet Eye

If you do get some of the Pet Eye glow in your dog’s eye, you can use Lightroom to correct it.  Adobe Camera Raw also has a similar tool.

  • Select the Red Eye Correction tool in Adobe Lightroom Classic
  • Click on Pet Eye
  • Draw a circle with the tool from the center of the dog’s eye
  • Adjust the pupil size and darkness sliders as needed
  • Click on the Red Eye Correct tool again when complete

How to Get Great Compositions for Your Dog Portraits with a Fisheye Lens

Fisheye lenses are really fun to shoot, but be careful with your composition.  Since these lenses are so wide, you need to watch that your fingers, feet, and legs don’t get in the photograph.

Fisheye lenses are ultra wide angle lenses so you will need to get close to your dog with the camera.  You may need to take some time to get your dog used to the camera and flash.  Try getting on the ground with your dog and the camera to get the dog used to it.  Also, if your dog is afraid of the flash, try randomly firing the flash for a few days to get them used to the flash going off.

For your composition, get down on the dog’s level.  The lower your composition, the more exaggerated the look will be.  Try setting your camera on the floor and using the camera’s articulating LCD screen to compose and focus.

Sallie Playing Tug of War
Sallie Playing Tug of War

Tips for Getting the Shot

Try photographing your dog when they are tired or preoccupied.  In two of the photographs of my dog Sallie in this blog post, she was chewing the last piece of a chew bone.  She was so preoccupied with finishing her bone, that she didn’t mind me photographing her.

Also try playing with your dog.  A game of tug of war works great from this point of view but you will need to photograph one handed.

Written by Martin Belan

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