Creative photography tools

Freelensing: Technique and Tips

I’m super excited to talk about the creative technique of freelensing this week! It's one of my absolute favourite ways to great creative behind the lens. I came across this technique years ago when I began to dabble in creative photography, and it has stuck with me.

The very first lens I purchased, beyond my kit lens, was a Nikkor 50mm 1.4. Over time, as I expanded my lens collection, my 50mm started to collect dust. I contemplated selling it until I discovered that I could freelens with it. Freelensing is called the “poor man’s tilt-shift” because it captures images with a similar look. When a photographer captures a picture with a lens attached to the camera body, she can control the depth of field or focal plane only through aperture choice. Freelensing disrupts the plane of focus because the lens is detached from the camera body. This technique results in a thin line of focus that is not necessarily only horizontal and extreme blur throughout the rest of the image.

Here are some tips to help you get freelensing:

1. Start with a 50mm

As mentioned, I use my Nikkor 50mm 1.4 when freelensing. You can freelens with most lenses; however, the 50mm is said to be one of the easiest lenses to use when photographing with this technique. This lens is also smaller, and it's manageable to handhold up to the body of your camera. The weight of larger glass could be more difficult.

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

2. Set exposure prior to detaching your lens

Before you detach your lens from your camera body set your exposure using the widest aperture for your lens, for example, when I use my 50mm 1.4 to freelens I set my aperture to 1.4 then balance my exposure settings to attain a well-exposed image. Since I’ll be shooting very wide open, I usually have a lower ISO and faster shutter speed.

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

3. Detach your lens

Once you detach your lens, Nikon users will need to tape or hold open the aperture ring. Nikon lenses automatically close down the aperture (lens opening) when a lens is detached from a camera body. I have a little piece of paper that I use to stick into the aperture slot to carefully force and hold the aperture open while I’m freelensing. Some photographers purchase older lenses specifically for freelensing and alter the lens so that the aperture ring permanently stays open. I haven’t done this with my lens because from time to time, I still like a fully functioning 50mm. Canon users don’t have to worry about forcing open the aperture ring when detaching the lens from the camera.

ISO 800, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/2000SS

ISO 800, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/2000SS

4. Set focus on your lens to infinity

You will not be able to use autofocus once your lens is removed from your camera. You can prefocus your lens before you detach it from your camera body; however, if you or your subject moves your focus will be off. So I like to and suggest you set the focus on your lens to infinity. To achieve focus when freelensing, you’ll want to move closer or farther away from your subject while moving the lens slightly from side to side or up and down.

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

5. Hold your lens close to your camera but leave it unattached

The art of freelensing is capturing an image while your lens is detached from the camera body. You will hold your lens very close to the camera body and with slight movements of the lens left to right, or up or down, you’ll be able to achieve a thin slice of focus. The trick here is to remember that the movements of your lens should be very slight.

I strongly recommend you use a neck-strap to secure your camera to your body. You’ll be holding your camera body with one hand while holding your lens with the other. If you accidentally let go of your camera body, then it’ll be secured to your neck with the strap instead of crashing to the ground. Do not let go of your lens or it’ll fall.

Due to the fact that your lens is not attached to your camera body it is possible and likely to get light leaking in and hitting your sensor. It does depend on your angle to the light in the scene, as well as how close or far away your lens is to your camera body, but it’s fun to experiment.

If you twist or turn your lens significantly or pull it away from your camera body, it is also possible to create some fun vignetting so don't be afraid to experiment a bit.

ISO 800, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/400SS

ISO 800, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/400SS

6. Use Live View

Acquiring focus when freelensing is not easy. It takes practise and a lot of patience. When I first started freelensing I practised on flowers all the time. This way, I could experiment with twisting and turning my lens and identifying how to attain different focus planes. In the end, don’t dismay if the focus is not sharp. I think that’s a beautiful part of freelensing. Images that are soft in focus can be breathtaking and dreamy, so embrace the blur!

ISO 200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/2000SS

ISO 200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/2000SS

7. Be very careful

Freelensing should be done at your discretion. With your lens detached from your camera body, there is the potential for dust and other particles to end up on your sensor. I have a second and older camera body that I use when freelensing, but I am still always very cautious about where I’m freelensing. I would never take too big of a chance and freelens in conditions that may damage my camera sensor. Accidents can happen so be cautious when using this technique.

ISO 500, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 500, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

8. Try reverse freelensing

Are you a macro lover? My eldest daughter adores macro photography and reverse freelensing is her absolute favourite technique. I’ll often find her laying down on a forest floor capturing the micro-world or up close and personal with a bug. The steps to reverse freelens are the same as above, except you will need to turn your lens around. The result of turning your lens around and photographing is stunning. You’ll capture a gorgeous macro scene surrounded by incredible bokeh blur.

ISO 500, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/160SS

ISO 500, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/160SS

Freelensing is an absolutely gorgeous creative technique but it does take some practice so don't dismay if it doesn’t go well the first time you give it a try. Overall, have fun with the creative process and remember to be very cautious when trying out this technique.

5 Tips for Finding Creativity in Full Sun

Last week I shared with you My Three Best Tips for Managing Full Sun in your images this summer. This week I want to inspire you to get creative in full sun when capturing your summer images. I know that my family is outdoors a lot in the summer and there’s a little more time to experiment and play creatively when the sun is high in the sky all day long. Here are some creative ideas to play around with this summer when you are out and about enjoying the full summer sun.

1. Incorporate natural elements

If you’ve been following The Photographer’s Notebook for awhile now you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of shooting through natural elements like flowers, leaves, trees and branches. I enjoy using natural elements in a way that infuses creativity into my images. You can try to use these items as foreground blur or in a way that frames your subject in a creative and fun way.

In the image below I held up a bouquet of dandelions in front of my camera and shot through them as I captured my daughter trying to blow bubbles. I think it adds a fun element of colour and creativity.

2. Incorporate man made elements

There are many different ways in which to incorporate man made creative elements when capturing images in full sun this summer. Some of my favourite tools are lace, bubble wrap, slime, copper tubing, a prism, plastic, straws, glass or really anything! The key here is to play around and experiment.

In the image below I held up a plastic water bottle to my lens and shot through it. Perhaps not for everyone but I really like the bokeh effect I was able to infuse into the image.

ISO 200, 50mm, 3.5f, 1/4000SS

ISO 200, 50mm, 3.5f, 1/4000SS

If you’d like to learn more about using a prism in photography click here.

3. Incorporate sun flare

“I don’t like lens flare,” said no photographer ever! Magical flare is one of my favourite creative elements to incorporate into an image. Flare can be achieved anytime light enters into your lens. So strong light, like full sun, is bound to create spectacular flare. Flare can drastically range in its form and shape so it’s really fun to play with it. Don’t forget that when the sun is high and strong you can create a sunburst, which is a form of flare. Sunbursts are best achieved with a small aperture like f18 or f22.

The rainbow flare in this image was created by a single drop of water that was catching light from the sun.

ISO 100, 50mm, 3.5f, 1/1000SS

ISO 100, 50mm, 3.5f, 1/1000SS

For tips on how to control lens flare click here.    

 4. Incorporate bokeh

I’m a bokeh addict. I fully admit it! Give me all the pretty sparkly light forever! Full sun sparkles in an incredible way and if you are looking for it you can find bokeh absolutely everywhere. There’s bokeh in trees, in water, in sand, on cement and so on. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find it! Bokeh is enhanced by camera depth of field blur so you’re more likely to capture it when shooting fairly wide open.

ISO 400, 140mm, 3.2f, 1/2000SS

ISO 400, 140mm, 3.2f, 1/2000SS

5. Incorporate shadow play

With full sun comes shadows so why not incorporate them into an image? Focusing on shadows is a fun and creative technique that I know I’m going to challenge myself to play with this summer. Images using shadows can focus solely on the shadow itself, include subject and shadow or portion of subject with shadow and can also get creative with dappled light.

ISO 100, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

ISO 100, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

Full sun is amazing and filled with creative potential so embrace it this summer. Play around and experiment. Take risks. I’m certain if you do this you’ll create images you adore and learn a ton along the way!

What is and how to use a Triangular Prism in Photography

Recently I’ve had some interest in and questions about creative photography techniques so I thought these topics would be ideal for a few blog posts. 

Today, I’m going to talk a little about using a triangular prism as a creative tool in photography. A triangular prism is simply a five sided transparent glass object that is shaped, you guessed it, triangularly! It’s a readily available tool that is often used in grade school science to teach properties of light. In photography, this tool infuses beautiful creativity into a photograph. One of the fantastic things about this tool is that it is small and can easily be tucked into any camera bag. After some practice, it’s also very easy to use. This beautiful technique can infuse rainbows, light flare and reflections into an image. Here are a few tips that will help you be more successful when using a prism. 

1. Lens Choice

I think prisms work a little better with my telephoto lenses and I tend to use my prism most successfully with my 105mm. Perhaps it’s because of the small glass circumference on this lens in addition to this telephoto’s lighter weight. However, don’t be afraid to experiment with various lenses because prism use can work with all your lenses.

ISO 320, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/2000SS

ISO 320, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/2000SS

2. Aperture considerations

I recommend shooting in manual mode when using a prism or aperture priority mode as aperture is important when using a prism. I typically shoot with a wide aperture (3.2, 2.8, 2.2, 2.0) as this really does work well with the prism technique. The shallow depth of field from a wide aperture better blurs the prism itself and the artistic effect into the image.

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/400SS

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/400SS

3. Remove your lens hood

Prisms work best when they are close to your lens. It’s important to be careful when holding objects up near to the glass on your lens. You don’t want to accidentally scratch your lens. Most of the lenses I use with my prism are inlaid a bit from the lens casing but I’m still conscious of how I’m holding the prism in relation to my glass.

ISO 400, 105,, 3.2f, 1/1600SS

ISO 400, 105,, 3.2f, 1/1600SS

4. Focus

Focus is not always easy when you are holding an object up in front of your lens as your auto focus system will try and focus on the foreground object. When I’m shooting with a prism I play around a bit with the prism in front of my lens in order to get an idea about what position the prism will need to be in for the look I want. I then pull the prism away from the lens, focus on my subject, then quickly return the prism to it’s position and capture the image. This way my subject is in focus and my camera doesn’t try to focus on my prism. I use back button focus which I find works very well in this situation. BBF (back button focus) separates focus from the camera shutter. I’ve assigned a button on the back of my camera for focus. Separating focus and shutter allows me to not worry about my camera trying to focus prior to shutter release when I go to capture my image because I’ve already focused using BBF and focus and shutter release are not attained using the same button. Although much more tedious, but as an alternative to using BBF, you can focus on your subject then flip your camera into manual focus prior to releasing the shutter if focus and shutter are attached to the same button. The difficulty here is that we all know how fast children move. I find it much quicker to use BBF then quickly move the prism in front of my lens before depressing my shutter. The majority of my images are in focus using this technique.  

ISO 500, 200mm, 3.5f, 1/1250

ISO 500, 200mm, 3.5f, 1/1250

5. Light choice

Prisms work in all types of light but you will get different effects depending on the light available in the scene. So again, the idea here is to experiment. One note of caution is specific to very bright light. If you are backlighting your subject be careful when you are turning the prism as there is the potential to reflect the bright sun right through your lens and into your eye. If you have live view on your camera you can use this to prevent strong sun reflections into your eye via the viewfinder.  

ISO 200, 35mm, 2.5f, 1/200SS

ISO 200, 35mm, 2.5f, 1/200SS

6. Turn the prism

Here’s where the fun begins! Turning the prism is your key to creating your desired creative effect. The very basic science behind a prism is that when it is held up in front of a lens as light hits the prism it bends or refracts before it even enters the camera lens. The refraction of that light results in separation in the colours of light resulting in a rainbow being superimposed into your image. Prisms can also reflect light which often shows up as hazy flare into an image when it is held at a bit of an angle and further off to the side of the lens. Another gorgeous creative effect produced by a prism is reflection of the environment. This results in a double exposure look. This is best attained when the prism is held flat horizontally or vertical at the edges of the lens and tilted just a touch. Again, experimentation really is best! 

ISO 200, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

ISO 200, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

I adore creative photography and I never think there’s a right or wrong when it comes to infusing what you like into a creative image however one thing I do tend to keep in mind when using creative effects like a prism is that I want to use the technique in such a way as to not detract from my main subject rather I want to simply enhance the artistic quality of the capture. 

The most important thing to remember when shooting with a prism is to embrace the experimentation process! I think that’s part of the fun and uniqueness of prism use anyway! 

Inside My Camera Bag: My Most Used Photography Gear when Capturing my Children

I always enjoy reading about what’s in a photographer’s gear bag so I thought I’d take you inside mine! Don’t worry I’ve cleaned out the rocks, I’ve taken out the sticks, removed the dried up leaves and flowers and shaken out the snack crumbs for just this occasion!

Speaking of camera bag, I own Kelly Moore’s, The 2 Sues in a pretty deep mauve. This bag is big enough to hold one camera body and two average lenses. I adore all the pockets and places to store items like extra batteries and memory cards. I’ve had this camera bag for years and put it to the test! It still looks great and has withstood snow, rain, sand and mud. It’s even water resistant which I appreciate!     

Now let’s dive in and I’ll share my favourite and most used photography gear!

1. Nikon D810 and D610

My camera body of choice is currently my Nikon D810. I’ve hung onto my D610 for several reasons, I’m a bit sentimental when it comes to gear, but I find it’s also incredibly useful to have two bodies at times. My D810 is my go to camera but if I need a second body for some reason I use my D610. I also bring my D610 to places like the beach or hiking because it’s a littler lighter and there’s a higher possibility that it might get scuffed up. If I’m doing any photography around water I always use my D610 as it fits nicely inside my DiCAPac.  

ISO 800, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/250SS

ISO 800, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/250SS

2. Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 f 

The Sigma Art 35mm is my most used lens when I’m photographing indoors. I like to shoot a little wider indoors as I can capture a little more space around my subject which helps me tell a better story. This lens is a dream when it comes to sharpness, although it did need calibrating with my D810. I love that I can open up my aperture nice and wide letting in as much light as possible in lower light situations. I also adore the beautiful flare that I can get indoors with this lens! It’s so pretty!   

ISO 1600, 35mm, 2f, 1/800SS

ISO 1600, 35mm, 2f, 1/800SS

3. Nikkor 50mm 1.4f 

This was the first lens I purchased and it was the only lens I captured my children with for a very long time. It’s a fantastic all around lens. Nowadays though I use this lens for all my freelensing images. 

ISO 3200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/200

ISO 3200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/200

4. Nikkor 105mm 2.8f

This is my absolute favourite lens. I’m particularly attracted to telephoto lenses when I’m out capturing my children. My children can run and play and I can hang back a little allowing them to be themselves and in the moment without a camera interfering. I also happen to adore that this lens isn’t all that heavy. My absolute favourite thing about this lens though is the gorgeous bokeh and flare!

Another thing about this lens is it doubles as a macro which is awesome! It’s nice to have options!  

ISO 800, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1250mm

ISO 800, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1250mm

5. Nikkor 70-200 2.8f

I love telephoto lenses and this lens does not disappoint! I adore the zoom on this lens. It allows for signifiant versatility when it comes to focal length. I enjoy taking this lens with me when we are not going far or shooting long because it is heavy and big. The bokeh and flare however are gorgeous and if you like that look this lens will fill up your heart’s desire! 

ISo 400, 95mm, 3.5f, 1/640SS

ISo 400, 95mm, 3.5f, 1/640SS

6. Prism, copper tube, lace

I adore creative photography so tucked into one of the pockets of my camera bag is my prism, copper tube and a piece of lace. I enjoy pulling out these tools and embracing the creativity that comes with their use! 

ISO 200, 85mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

ISO 200, 85mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

7. Sigma Art 14mm 1.8f

This lens isn’t in my camera bag yet but I wanted to mention it because it sits at the top of my wish list. I want it specifically for night landscape photography however when I rented it I enjoyed using it with my children. I adore the wide aperture and I think it’ll fit nicely into my collection of lenses I use when capturing my children specifically when I want to capture a whole scene.

I’d love to hear what your favourite child photography items are and why! So please feel free to leave a comment in the blog post!