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Photography has a great many rules and every once in a while, it is great to break all of them, don’t you think? For me, the art of freelensing for creative photography is the permission to play with both light and blur to archive a totally unexpected and magical image.
My first attempts at freelensing were just lucky shots among many more frustrated attempts. So, I gave up quickly. But as my photographer friends started posting beautiful dreamy images, I was tempted to pick up my camera and lens and try again.
I gave freelensing another try and I have been addicted ever since. It is a perfect way to get those creative juices flowing and add a little diversity to your photography portfolio and client work. Plus, you don’t really need any extra equipment to purchase or invest in other than what you already have in your camera bag.
Freelensing is a technique where the photographer shoots with the lens DETACHED from the camera body, creating a unique shot. With freelensing, you can manipulate your plane of focus to draw the eye of the viewer to a specific area. Alternatively, you can have an entire shot out of focus, creating a very dreamy frame.
It’s a great way to do creative photography play.
Here are some things to consider as you try freelensing for the first time:
Before freelensing, you must get your camera settings right. With the lens still attached to the camera, set the aperture to the widest possible value, and adjust the shutter speed and ISO settings for the correct exposure.
You can figure out the widest aperture on your lens by looking at the lens specifics. Once the lens is detached, you can make adjustments to the settings on the camera. For maximum control, use the camera in the manual mode setting where you, the photographer, are adjusting all variables like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.
Check your camera and lens settings. Some lens will automatically maintain aperture when detached while others won’t. With Canon, the aperture stays wide open, so you don’t need to do anything specific. With a manual lens, you might have to keep the aperture open manually.
Before detaching the lens, turn the focal distance dial of the lens all the way to the infinity symbol. This sets the focal distance to the farthest possible point. Then you can detach the lens and keep it as close as possible to the ring.
Keeping your eye in the viewfinder, start tilting the lens slowly – up, down, left, or right until you see a composition that you like. Remember that by its nature, freelensing is not perfection. You will not find a tack-sharp image with freelensing, but that adds to the magic of creativity with this exercise.
The beauty of freelensing for creative photography is that there are no rules. But one thing that can make or break a good creative image is the focus. While a completely out of focus image is still very beautiful, having a focal point in the image adds to the magic. Along with light, composition, and color, focus draws the eye into that element of perfection while the rest is imperfect.
As you move the lens around, try and get one area of the frame in focus. Landing focus in freelensing is hard, so give yourself some time to get used to it and be patient.
Try multiple frames to find the focus point. Play with the focal distance of the lens to help you determine that focal area. Also, try moving in and out of the scene until you’re happy with what you see.
As you decide on composition and focus point, consider the message, mood, and story you want to convey to the viewer.
Freelensing for creative photography can lead to all kinds of interesting images, but it’s the element of light that makes them work. It can add flares and light leaks to the frame and infuse the image with an extra-magical effect.
It’s better to work with good backlight when capturing light leaks and flares. I find the ideal time is during golden hour, when the sun is straight-on but slightly softer than other times of the day.
As you tilt and separate the lens from the camera, bits of surrounding light can spill into the sensor, adding some cool light-leak effects to the frame.
Play around with the light leaks and see how they affect the frame. You can control the direction and amount of light entering the frame by adjusting the size of the gap. Be aware that too much light can ruin the image too.
The best advice for successful freelensing for creative photography is to leave all the rules behind and photograph with your heart. Find that creativity and let the magic unfold.
We’d love to see your freelensing images! Please share them with us in the comments section.