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Tips on How to Free Lens

Posted by Jackie Acosta on

Tips on How to Free Lens

I have always been in awe at how photographers (especially, Holly Long Photography) achieve such cool effects in their images. I have heard of free lensing, but honestly, I have never tried it. I'm excited to challenge myself to this new technique and ecstatic that Holly is sharing her knowledge and beautiful imagery with us. 

photography tips

Creatively speaking, freelensing let's me surrender to the imperfections of life and gives me the freedom to let go.

Early on in photography, nailing focus and producing super sharp images was my ultimate goal; but with freelensing, I let my artist heart take the lead.

The reward is often times beautiful dream like images filled with light leaks, little slices of selective focus (or even totally blurred!), and these images speak to me.

You will experience moments of frustration, happy accidents, as well as images shot with intention that will be like no other. I think it is totally worth learning this technique. And have no fear, the learning process is all part of the fun too! Be patient with your self and watch your creativity unfold!

photography tutorials

Before sharing on exactly what free lensing is and how to achieve it, I want to emphasize how important it is to know how to manually control your camera and settings well before venturing off into this new technique as it will open yourself up to a whole new world of creative fun!  

photography ideas

What is Free Lensing? 

Well I am glad you asked ;) Technically speaking, Freelensing is a technique that can be used with any camera that accepts interchangeable lenses. You detach the lens from the camera and focus by tilting the lens in different directions, as well as by moving the lens closer and farther away from the camera body.

camera settings
How to Set Your Camera

Here are a few things you will need to do before you begin free lensing. 

  •  Adjust your camera settings (ISO,Shutter, and WB)
  •  Set your lens and camera  to manual focus and open it to infinity. ( I suggest starting off with a 50mm lens at first and then moving on to a 85 or 35 if you would like to try something different). Also to note: if you are a Nikon shooter your aperture ring will have to be held manually open. Some people use a small rubber band to keep theirs open, or if you are like me I took someones suggestion of cutting off the tip of a plastic straw and wedging it in between the aperture ring to keep in open. Here is a visual for you so you can see what I mean. Also, another option is purchasing a broken lens for parts. This is relatively inexpensive. I also just keep that straw piece in my lens as I have designated my 50mm as my exclusive lens for freelensing. 
  • Turn your camera to live view mode (if this feature is available).

photography tutorials

camera lens techniques

How to Free Lens
  • Remove your lens from your camera body (a bit of advice- make sure you are using a camera strap for a extra safety precaution) there is always the risk of dropping your lens and or your camera. Also speaking of that for your first few attempts, try a still life object and keep your self seated for your first few shots just to get comfortable.
  • Hold one hand on your lens and one hand on your camera body. At first keep your lens as close to the camera body as possible (you can play more with moving it further away later for amazing light leaks!) You can look at your LCD screen (in live view mode) to get a good visual of what your image will look like. Rotate your lens left and right, up and down in front of the camera sensor. Play around with what you see. Holding your lens at different angles will give you selective slices of focus that you can control! Note that if you turn the lens to the right you will see the right side of the image in focus and the same goes if you turn your lens to the left.
  • Okay lets have some fun with light! The further you hold your lens away from your camera body the more light is let in to your camera sensor. You will need to play around with this. You can achieve some pretty amazing light leaks and dream like blur doing this but you can also blow out your image- so there is a happy medium and you will just have to find it with more practice.
  • Lastly, you can also adjust your ISO and shutter to adjust for exposure while freelensing. It will take some practice holding it all together but over time you will get more and more comfortable with the process. 

 lightroom presets

I cant wait to see what images you produce, and if you have any questions feel free to ask in the group and I will do my best to answer them. Have Fun!

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About the Author -

Hi! My name is Holly. I am a wife, mom to five, and professional photographer in Milton, Ga. I am always looking for the light and finding ways to capture the everyday life of my little people in different ways. My two favorite lenses are the Nikon 105 1.4 (although I don't own it-yet) so a close second is my Tamron 70-200 2.8 and my Sigma 35mm 1.4 along with my little 50mm to free lens with. In my spare time you'll find me drinking coffee, at the gym, or spending time with my people at home. 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/hollylongphotography

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hollylongphotographyllc/

Website : http://www.hollylongphotographyllc.com/


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1 comment


  • Such great info!!! Can’t wait to try this out!

    Tami on

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