Free-Lensing Photography Techniques

Ready to hone in on your subjects in an entirely new way? Free lensing is an interesting effect that’s easier to pull off than it looks. Photographer Chris Turner explains how it’s done in this brief tutorial:

Essentially, this technique involves shifting your camera’s entire plane of focus by shifting the position of the lens in relation to the sensor.

When a lens is mounted to a camera, you cannot capture two objects at different distances in focus without resorting to a narrow depth of field. If you want to throw background details out of focus, you’ll generally have to choose just one object to focus on because the focal plane runs parallel to the sensor.

focal plane
free lensing focal plane

However, when you free lens, you shift the focal plane at an angle. This makes it possible to capture two objects at different distances in focus, even when using a shallow depth of field.

So, how do you pull off this effect?

First, you’ll want to set the aperture to as wide as it will go, then set the focus to infinity. From there, you turn the camera off and detach the lens. This locks the previous settings in when you turn the body back on. Hold the lens to the sensor at an angle, without actually mounting it to the body. When you’re satisfied with the focus, shoot away!

demonstrating free lens photography

At first, this technique is a bit tricky to master. For beginners, it’s often easiest to hold the lens steady and¬†adjust the body of the camera instead. This more or less keeps the composition stable and makes things a bit easier to control. You may also want to try shooting in burst mode as you get the hang of free lensing. It provides a greater chance of actually capturing a frame in sharp focus.

free lens wedding sample

Sometimes, getting a cool look doesn’t involve advanced edits or expensive gadgets. With a little bit of practice, free lensing can easily provide some flair to an image at a moment’s notice. The next time you find yourself struggling to get everything in focus, consider this uncommon approach to accomplish the task!

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