My current favorite photo project this summer is Operation Photo Butt-Kick, which a few of us started together as a way to kick-start our photography creativity. There’s a new challenge every two weeks, and it has definitely gotten me and my camera out the door taking pictures again. Which is kind of the whole point. The current challenge is to find a photography (or photo-editing/processing) tutorial online and use it to take (or edit) a photo. I bookmark photo tutorials all the time, but almost never find a reason to actually use them, so I was really glad to see this one.

I ended up deciding to try out freelensing, based on two tutorials I found: one from Photojojo and another from B&H. (I also watched a few youtube videos.) I’d read about it once a long time ago and thought it was cool … but that’s as far as it got.

Basically, you detach your lens from the camera to achieve a tilt-shift (or lensbaby-ish) blur, or to get a really close-up macro shot. It’s tricksy, though, because the lens is, you know, detached, meaning that it can’t talk to the camera. I tried this out with two lenses – the 40mm pancake (because it’s my new favorite) and the 50mm (which is recommended in the tutorial).

40mm2 (2) 50mm2 (1)
my two control/test shots; 40mm on the left and 50mm on the right.

I found that the 40mm was reeeeally hard to manipulate and focus once it was off of the camera (duh) because it’s so small. It worked better if I got much, much closer to T-Rex. I also got better/more noticeable results if I tilted the lens farther away from the camera than I needed to later with the 50mm.

40mm2 (1)

The 50mm has a longer focal length, and that was pretty apparent with this experiment. It also let in WAY more light, so almost every freelensed photo I took was really blown out, even adjusting the settings to try to compensate. I had to stay a little farther away, but got subtle effects with not a lot of tilt, and then some pretty wacky/over-exaggerated effects tilting it farther.

50mm2 (2)

My camera’s live view mode was awesome for helping to focus, for sure. And I definitely should have done this with a setup that didn’t involve photographing something very small that was directly on the ground, because it meant sitting with my elbows on the concrete trying to balance, and hunching way over to get close enough. Don’t do that. I would love to try this in the recommended types of scenes – streets, cube farms, etc, but I also wanted to do this in the safety of a relatively static environment where I could take a ton of shots and mess around without getting caught. But all in all, this was a fun experiment. Will I use it all the time forever? Probably not. But I’m also glad I tried it.

One thought on “Freelensing

  1. Is it really a safe environment if T-Rex is running around? I’d never heard of this technique, and now I want to try ripping my lens off of my camera!

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