How to Create Dreamy Photographs With Free Lensing

Saikat Basu 29-01-2018

Free lensing, also called lens whacking, is a simple technique: you “free” the lens from your camera to create dream-like photos. It is a photography idea even beginners can try 18 Creative Photography Ideas for Beginners to Improve Their Skills Coming up with photography ideas can be tough for beginners. These 18 creative ideas will help you find a photography subject in no time! Read More with something as simple as a 50mm prime lens.


How to Create Dreamy Photos With Free Lensing

Photography is all about light. The freestyle nature of detaching your lens from the camera while keeping it close can create interesting effects. The light leaks add a dream-like touch to the photos as some of part of your composition goes out of focus. In some cases, it also gives the appearance of a tilt-shift 5 Ways to Tilt-Shift Your Photos for Model-tastic Mockups Read More  or a macro shot if the subject is right.

Image Credit: Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr

A smaller lens is better for grip and stability. So, any lens that is 50mm or shorter is an ideal candidate for free lensing. Here’s how to do it right:

  1. Set the focus to infinity manually (or highest aperture setting) before you detach the lens.
  2. Switch off the camera and separate the lens. Turn the camera on.
  3. Hold the lens close to the camera body but physically move the lens to get your subject in focus.
  4. Tilt the lens right or left or move it forward or backward. Live View (if available) will help you focus on your subject.

Some more tips:

  • Shoot in bright light with a tripod and your Live View enabled.
  • Move the free lens close to the sensor to focus on distant objects. Move the lens away to bring closer objects into focus.
  • As the lens is detached, you do not have control over the aperture. But you can experiment with different ISO and shutter speeds.
  • You are not connecting the lens, so you can pair any lens brand with the camera.
  • Don’t shoot in a dusty, windy, or a wet environment to protect your lens from flying particles.

The Free Lensing Flickr Group showcases the art form and the myriad ways you can try it with simple subjects. You can see the cool light leaks and flares. Notice that you can get the interesting depth of field and tilt-shift effects as well. Do read the many tips suggested by the group members. And check out this illustrated guide.


Practice and experiments will get you there. Can you offer us any free lensing tips if you have tried it?

Image Credit: stevanovicigor/Depositphotos

Related topics: Camera Lens, Digital Camera, DSLR, Photography.

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  1. raven
    January 30, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    one quick way to get dust in all the wrong places
    (this is why people dont just do this)

    -25 year wildlife/scenery photographer