Freelensing is a technique used by photographers when they want to think “outside of the box” when it comes to getting creative shots. It isn’t everyone’s taste, but if you want to explore this unique technique to explore the different effects you can get, here are a few things you need to know.
Freelensing requires you to remove the lens from your camera while taking photos, while moving the lens around in front of (and close to) the sensor to get different focal points and effects such as light leaks and vignettes.
It does require practice, but you can achieve some pretty dynamic images once you get the hang of it. And using a lens you already have is cheaper than purchasing a specialized or other type of tilt-shift lens.
Before Removing The Lens
Your camera will not be communicating with the lens once it is detached. Therefore, especially when starting out and becoming comfortable with the process, it is best that you set your exposure setting prior to removing the lens.
You also want to set your focus to manual infinity. Once you have your exposure and focus settings correct, turn the camera off, remove the lens, then turn it back on. Another great option is to use a vintage manual lens with an adaptor for your camera model.
Which Lens To Use?
Prime lenses work best. A popular choice for this effect is the 50mm f/1.8. Wide-angle lenses do not work as well because of the curved glass. Also, smaller lenses are easier to handle. However, after you have plenty of practice and become familiar with freelensing, you can experiment with other lenses.
Another thing to note is that many Nikon lenses will require you to manually hold the aperture ring open due to a seal that causes it to default when detached from a camera.
Many photographers who practice the freelensing technique will often use an old lens or purchase one just for this purpose, and remove the aperture ring seal to keep from having to manually hold the ring open. You can research the type of lens you will be using to see if the ring closes when detached.
Moving The Lens In Front Of Sensor
If your camera has a live-view option, turn it on. This will allow you to easily see the different effects you get when moving the lens to different positions.
Moving the lens left to right will determine where the focus is. You can also move the lens up and down for focus in those directions. The further away from the sensor you pull it, the less focus range you will have.
Also, keep in mind that the sensor will be sensitive to light the less it’s covered. This means that you can create light leaks or vignettes by adjusting the position of the lens to allow light in certain areas, or block light completely from other areas.
When practicing freelensing, move the lens left to right, up and down, closer and further away from the sensor, etc. Take note of the different focal points, depths-of-field, the amount and position of light entering, and the overall moods and effects as you change positions.
Keep It Clean
Removing a lens can be a bit nerve-wracking for photographers due to the risk of dust and particles getting on the sensor. Just be mindful of the environment you are shooting in and clean your sensors regularly when practicing this technique.
Freelensing opens a whole new world for creatives. Just be cautious with your gear and keep it clean so you can safely use this technique. Take shots with the lens in multiple positions. The more you practice and study the results, the more familiar and comfortable you will get with the process.
If you ever just want to try something new and get creative without having to purchase a special lens, freelensing is worth experimenting with and taking a shot, literally!