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How To Get Started With Freelensing

I've been experimenting the past few months. Some may say it's a little on the risky side. I have to agree. Curious? Well, I've been freelensing.

Freelensing simply means taking a photo with your lens detached from the body. Can you see why it is a little dangerous? Once your lens is detached, it can act in ways similar to a macro lens or a tilt shift lens depending on what direction you hold it against your camera body.

Now, before I explain how to freelens, I'll tell you what gear I use. I'm pretty sure it will work with any camera body. I've experimented using both my Canon T3i and Canon 5D Mark III. I get the best results using my 50mm and 85mm. I've attempted using my 24-70mm (and even my 18-55mm and 55-250mm) but couldn't get crisp images. I've even read you don't have to be brand specific (ex: Nikon lenses can work on a Canon body). Both the 50mm and the 85mm work as a "macro" and "tilt shift". I first started my freelensing adventure last fall when I was preparing for photographing my first wedding. I read that by using your 50mm lens held backwards against the camera, you could get some awesome macro shots of the rings.

I tried it and fell in love with the results. I always pull that little trick at weddings now. I've even taken "macro" shots of other things. Some of my favorites are eyelashes and flowers. I prefer to use my 50mm to get these shots. It's a little more difficult to get sharp images when using the 85mm as a "macro", but it is possible.

To get shots like this, you must first set a "ball park" exposure while your lens is still attached. Power the camera off then detach the lens. Turn the camera back on and hold the lens backwards against your camera body. Then, move closer to the subject, within inches, until it becomes clear and take the shot. Remember, just the slightest movements (wind, camera shake, etc) really affects your focus. Also, check the image on the back of the camera. Adjustments to your exposure might be necessary.

Using your lenses in a way to get the "tilt shift" effect takes a little more work. First set your exposure as explained above, and before you turn off the camera, set the lens to manual focus set to infinity. After you've detached the lens and turned the camera back on, hold the lens close to the body of the camera. Gently move the lens around until what you want in focus becomes clear. You can rotate it, move it side to side, just remember small movements affect the focus. You can also do slight adjustments to your focus ring on your lens to help achieve a sharp subject.

It takes some playing to find what works and what doesn't. A helpful tip I've learned and used is to put your camera in live view. At times it's easier to see what's going on by looking at your screen versus through your viewfinder. Freelensing also allows extra light in on the sensor which can give you lovely light leaks and flare.


A few things to keep in mind when freelensing. By detaching your lens, you subject your camera's sensor to the elements. It wouldn't be wise to freelens in any condition where dust/water/etc could likely enter. Also, make sure not to drop your lens and use your camera strap. There's a lot of adjustments and movement, you wouldn't want to drop anything.

Trust me, it's tough (and a little strange), and I am far from a freelensing pro, but this technique has been a fun and interesting challenge.

Allison Wheeler
 is a lover of lifestyle photography from Norman, Oklahoma. Her eyes were opened to photography by toying with Instagram in 2010.  She got a camera soon after and learned to use it by documenting her life with her husband and three young sons.   She now happily does the same for others, from births to weddings and almost everything in between. To see Allison's most recent work, visit her Facebook page.  She often gets on Pinterest to avoid cleaning her house.

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