Beating the winter blues with a Lensbaby Composer!

Beating the winter blues with a Lensbaby Composer!


composer.jpgFirst of all, if you’ve never heard of Lensbaby, they manufacture creative effects SLR lenses and accessories to fit your system. The composer is the most popular and versatile lens of the Lensbaby line. It features a tilt lens which you can easily move to the desired angle, lock in place if you wish, and focus using the manual focussing ring. The Composer comes with the double glass optic and a magnetic aperture set. You have full control of the aperture setting by placing the aperture disk of your choice (f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 or f/22) in front of the lens. The disks are easily removed by using a magnetic wand which is part of the kit.

I have to admit, I’ve always been in awe by some of the images displayed on the Lensbaby website gallery. The dreamy look created by the lens paired with the right subject can make some amazing images.

I received the Lensbaby right after a blizzard here in Minnesota. Living with snow for 5 months every year can make any outdoor photographer a bit stir crazy. I enjoy shooting in the snow and I don’t mind the cold but after several weeks of the white stuff, your creativity can use a little boost. At first I thought that snow would alter the dreamy effect of the Lensbaby given that the blur doesn’t show on white. Yet, I wanted to prove that you can use a special effect lens in the least expected environment. I also believe that, even though the Composer can make any ordinary object look extraordinary, it is important to look for the right subject, scene or action and try to tell a story in a frame.

On first trial, I took the Lensbaby composer back in time to a Victorian Christmas event in town. It takes a lot of trial and error at first to tilt the lens in order to place the sweet spot where you want it, especially when shooting an action. Most of my first shots were done with the lens pointed straight ahead so I could concentrate on the manual focussing. It’s hard to get the full effect of the creative blur in the snow but I particularly like the image of the horse drawn carriage, the time period adds to the dreamy look of the picture.

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Then I took the Lensbaby for hikes in the woods and looked for some color in a black and white landscape…

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My next step was to try the Lensbaby Composer on smaller subjects I opted for something more colorful and bought some fresh flowers to shoot in ambient light using a tripod and a remote trigger. For the green flowers, I tilted the lens slightly to move the sweet spot off center. The effect is quite pleasing to the eye and very soft.

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Then I experimented with the macro lens attachment which you can purchase separately. The macro kit features a +4 filter and a +10 filter allowing you to focus from 2 to 13 inches (5 to 33 cm) away. You can also attach both to your Composer which is what I did to get this macro shot of a yellow chrysanthemum.

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What an amazing little lens, I’m hooked! I find it the perfect tool to let your creativity flow. I realize that some of those effects could be achieved in post processing but nothing beats seeing the desired effect in the field while you are shooting. I am looking forward to spring time and more colorful landscapes to shoot! I also want to experiment with other accessories, including their really cool fisheye optic.

Is the Lensbaby composer going to replace any of the lenses in your camera bag? Probably not.

Is it one of the most creative and fun addition to your gear? Most definitely! You can find out more about Lensbaby products by visiting their website at

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • ulysses February 27, 2011 10:24 pm

    when I stare at some of the images, they seem to actually zoom in---the blurs move.

  • Gita February 17, 2011 09:23 am

    I love what the lensbaby can do. I have a lot of fun with mine. Last year went to Big White and took this shot. To this day it is still my favourite lensbaby shot that I have taken. I am going on a mission with it this summer. I think it will deliver the look I am going for.

    It was a bit of a learning curve at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is fun. I have to agree with a previous comment about the purists. But each person has their own personal style and this lens only lends to that.

    [eimg link='' title='branches with lensbaby' url='']

  • Anita February 2, 2011 04:38 am

    I love that macro shot of the chrysanthemum! That being said, I agree with others who said its look does get boring after a while.

    To me, this is up there with fisheye lenses: something I'd love to rent for the weekend just for fun, but not something I'd want to always have in my bag.

  • Fernando January 28, 2011 03:15 am

    I have a Lensbaby 3G.. and although it's not a permanent fixture on my body (sees little use actually), I do love that little lens. Just like any other creative lens or effect... it has its place. It can create some absolutely wonderful and creative photos if you know how to use it properly, and more importantly WHEN to use it. One type of photography is not the be-all end-all. Each creative effect has its own merit and its own place, and when used properly enhances an image. A lensbaby is no different. You may not like every lensbaby shot, but there are some shots out there that only work as shot with a lensbaby and they are some spectacular shots. Someone mentioned lensbaby being the new HDR (I guess.. fad? that will fade away?) I highly doubt it. First off, you dont see as many lensbaby shots as you do HDR, and secondly I don't see either of those as being fads that will eventually go away. Both are creative effects which will always be around, and in one way or another have always been around.
    The people flaming the lensbaby style need to realise that there are other creative tools that you may not like but others do like. Static posed photos may be your style, while others like a more fluid motion in their shots. Some people like absolutely tack sharp high DOF f22 shots through and through, while others adore shooting everything at f1.4! Some people love HDR, others hate it. Some love a lensbaby shot, others do not. Photography is art people!!! No two shots are going to be the same, and you may like some but not others. Dont like a shot? No problem! Shoot what you like and let others shoot their own style.

    My own 2c

  • Jessica S. January 26, 2011 05:13 pm

    I love my lensbaby, especially with one or the other of the macro filters. Check out this image I made of the zipper on my pants. Not bad, huh?

  • Michelle January 21, 2011 07:38 am

    I am enjoying experimenting with mine, the creative aperture kits look fun but I haven't tried that yet, get shaped bokeh! You do need to know how to adjust shutter speed and apertures manually to control exposure. I am always looking for a point of difference and this is one more idea. I too like to have fun and try things out, as far as cost goes it is a pretty affordable very different way of creating an effect. The lensbaby website has some very nice images, worth a look before you forget about the idea.
    What wasn't explained before I purchased was the actual best bit. You get to choose where in the image is in focus not the distance from the lens. So lots of things might be on the same focal plane but only one section (say the left top corner) is actually in focus, the rest can look like motion blur with a dynamic subject or soft and dreamy.

  • PrGrPa January 21, 2011 05:54 am

    Mmmm. A tricky lens to get good results with. Thank goodness that with digital each photo costs nothing.

  • Mei Teng January 19, 2011 10:18 pm

    I am not a fan of lensbaby.

  • Valerie jardin January 19, 2011 12:14 am

    I think we can draw a quick conclusion, this is not a toy for purists... I like having fun. It is by no means a constant fixture on my camera body but it is very creative and fun to use as a project lens. Same as you would limit yourself to a 50mm or a wide angle lens or a fisheye for a day. Enjoying the conversation!

  • scott detweiler January 18, 2011 12:13 pm

    I am not a fan of the look of this thing. Each image is a repeat of the last and after a few I am pretty much bored with it.

  • Alastair January 18, 2011 07:30 am

    Hmm.. I'm not convinced by the lens baby. To be honest, the results above don't look "soft" or "dreamy", they just look like they were shot with a really cheap lens with terrible optics and staring at the images begins to make my eyes ache!

  • Javan January 18, 2011 04:53 am

    I owned one of these back when I still shot film and loved it, but once I went digital I sold it. Why? Because the depth of field adjustment in Paint Shop Pro can create the same effect.

  • Pablo Villegas January 18, 2011 03:13 am

    Great photos Valerie!

    Yeah, it's a whole new tool for the photographer or an artist, and it works great for landscape too. I went to the beach last week, and I tried the Zoneplate/pinhole lens for the first time, also the single glass and plastic lenses.

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_3582-Edit.jpg' url='']

    There is a a zone plate example.

  • Valerie jardin January 18, 2011 02:58 am

    I agree Iza. It's not about replacing anything, it's about having fun with new techniques and experimenting. I think the Lensbaby is a fun addition to a photographer's kit. It's by no means necessary, nor will it replace any of your lenses. It's seeing in a whole different way. I can see it being very useful when working on a 365 project for example. I only used it for a few days and i look forward to trying it for some cool outdoor portraits in the Spring and more macro photography too.

  • Iza January 18, 2011 02:49 am

    I think Lensbaby is a fun lens to use and there are scenes which look just great with the effect, and certainly macro and flower photography, although tricky, done with Lensbaby is exceptional. It is sometimes hard to nail the focus, so it requires to be more attentive, making you really spend more time on every subject, giving better photos. I think Lensbaby is here to stay. As is HDR.

  • Wylee January 18, 2011 02:04 am

    I'm enjoying the effect in the macro shots, but in the landscape photos my eyes keep trying to focus the blur. Tons of snow in western WI too.

  • Tyler Robbins January 18, 2011 01:59 am

    Tim... it's not like hdr, it's more like a poor man's tilt shift. It's like owning a fisheye lens, knowing when to use it is half the battle. Mine sits on a shelf most of the time.

  • John A. January 18, 2011 01:59 am

    I checked the forum and yes indeed you can.


    Now if they would make a Tilt Transformer for K-mount...

  • Tim January 18, 2011 01:53 am

    This is going to be the new HDR. Can’t see in anymore, it is everywhere.

  • Valerie Jardin January 18, 2011 01:46 am

    Yes, I believe you can, yet I never tried it. You can certainly find out more by visiting the Lensbaby forum through their website.

  • John A. January 18, 2011 01:40 am

    Interesting. Can you use it with conventional extension tubes?