The other day I wanted to make photographs, but was uninspired as to what to shoot. The bunch of gerber daisies on the kitchen table? Well, maybe. Then I remembered a technique I tried once before but hadn’t practiced since; it’s a technique of which I was recently reminded in a Click article. And I thought, Yep, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll freelens.
Freelensing is sometimes called the poor (wo)man’s tilt-shift lens. By removing the lens from the camera body and making slight adjustments up/down/right/left + varying the distance between the back of the lens and camera body, one can change the plane of focus and get interesting and beautifully soft results.
You can play with light leaks.
You can even make your lens macro by turning it around backwards. Cool, right?
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- A 50mm lens works well (that’s what I’ve used here). The weight of a long lens is more difficult to handle and a wide angle lens proves much harder to focus with this technique.
- Manually set your exposure before removing the lens. You’ll be letting in extra light, so set accordingly.
- If your camera has a live view mode, use it. It’s helpful for showing exactly what the focal plane of the final image will look like.
- Know that you’ll be exposing your camera and lens to the elements, so take care and be mindful of what and where you’re shooting.
- Want to tinker with creating a dedicated lens for freelensing? Read this.
Bear in mind that different cameras will handle this process in different ways. The first time I freelensed, I was using my Canon; it was as simple as removing my lens and jumping right in. I shot the images in this post with my Fuji mirrorless camera. When I first tried to freelens, it didn’t work! A quick Google search let me know that I needed to go into settings and select the “Shoot without Lens” function. So just know that different cameras require different actions.
Freelensing is an incredibly fun technique. It requires deliberate movement and planning, while also insisting on space for unexpected surprises. As the name implies, it can be quite freeing. And it truly doesn’t cost a cent.
Have you experimented with freelensing? Or maybe you’re willing to give it a try. Share your thoughts in the comments below + we’d love to see what images you make…use the hashtags #viewfindersio #viewfindersiofreelens so we can find you!