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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 6 of 21

Tips for Beginners Using Lensbaby

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

6. Tips for Beginners Using Lensbaby

Lesson Info

Tips for Beginners Using Lensbaby

Before we get back to the presentation, I wanted to ask the studio audience if you have Lensbaby, what do you think about it? What have your issues been? Successes? Any troubles you've had? Because if there are any issues that you have I can probably help you with them. Polly. Hi Kathleen, I took your Lensbaby class like 10 years ago and I was in one of the, I think it was the 2nd generation Lensbaby and I shot with it probably non-stop for about a year. And, I really loved it, really enjoyed it and just recently I just tried the new Sweet and I got pretty stuck on just the Sweet 50, I tried the 35, I tried some of the other options on the lenses as well. But, as you say, the learning curve is pretty strong on that and I thought I would just jump into it and be an expert right away with my experience with Lensbaby. Do you still use some of your older lenses? Like the 2nd or 3rd generation with the bellows and all of that. I do. The Muse is still my very favorite Lensbaby and it's ...

not part of the optic swap system. Since I started on the bellows model, there's a real comfort level for me with the bellows model. My first one was a Lensbaby 2.0 which also had the bellows, but the Muse allows me to sort of just be in the moment. Let me grab it. The ball and socket design is easier for most people to use but sometimes I forget where I had it pointed. With the bellows model, there's no forgetting because if you let go, it goes back to center. So, I found that I could just be making very subtle, tiny changes in focus and shooting and not have to take my hand, twist that, just a tiny little very small bend, to focus you would squeeze the bellows, so just squeeze a little more or push it out to get closer. And, this was a bigger learning curve for me, it was harder for me to learn how to use this. I'm fine with it now, but every now and then, oh yes, definitely, I put the Muse on, I'll put the 2.0 on, the Lensbaby original, the LBO. The Lensbaby 2 was a much sharper glass, so the original Lensbaby has a very soft, diffused, ethereal kind of a look. I'll put that on, that's my favorite Lensbaby. Then I'll take that off, then I'll put something else on, well that's my favorite Lensbaby. And I'll do that when I feel like I need a change, you know, or I'm shooting the same subject. I mean, flowers can be a little bit limiting, where I live, so if I put on a different Lensbaby I'm going to get a different kind of effect and I fall in love with them all over again. Did you keep your old stuff? I still have it. Good, because it's fun. I have a I think it's a Lensbaby composer, where you drop in the little apertures, the little magnetic apertures, I don't know if it's a composer but you drop in the little-- And, I've had, I played with it and I just couldn't get a feel for it and wondering, now I want to drag it out and get it out and start playing with it. It's the one where you have to adjust, it's not the bellows, so it is one of those moveable ones, so you start in the center, and just kind of tweak it a little bit and just see what you have. So, I'm guessing what you have is the double-glass optic. Probably, That is the same thing, actually, as the Sweet except for the way you change apertures. With the older models, you had a little rubber ring that you dropped right into the center. I didn't bring any of those with me. So, to change aperture, you had to stop and dig that out and there was a little magnetic tool that you use with your apertures. I've lost my apertures a lot. I'm sure there are my apertures in gardens all over the place because I take them out and lose them in the garden. But, the effect, the focal length and the effect is the same as it would be for the Sweet 50 between your double glass. It's just a matter of it's just so much easier to change apertures now. Would you suggest that I start with the F/4 aperture? Just work with that? 4 or 5.6 because F/4 will give you a decent sized sweet spot of focus that you can see in the viewfinder. I mean, shooting wide open is a blast, but when you are learning, it's very hard to actually, you want to see the area in focus, so that you can decide where to put it and you can see that it's in focus. So, F/4, F/5.6 gives you a large enough one to see. So, F/5.6 will be a little bit larger than F/4. Either of those would be good place to start. Okay, I will do that. And, I'm gonna give you a list of my top tips for beginners coming up and that will be on it, as well as a few more. On the Lensbaby, have you had experience doing general landscapes with them? I've been playing with them for a little while and I enjoy the macro capabilities, I find they're really great. But when I switch to oh, I'm gonna shoot a landscape and put let's say someone on a distant cliff in focus and blurring the foreground to it, have you had any experience about you shooting wider shots with these? I have, I've shot lighthouses with my Lensbabies, and buildings, that sort of thing, but that's not where my heart is and my work, so I don't shoot as much of that sort of thing. Portraits as well, little tricky with anything that moves. I've tried with my grandkids. (laughter) They move fast, and the manual focusing trying to be sure that I get their eyes in focus, but it's a fun challenge as well. So yeah, I definitely don't want you to think that it's just for macro, or just for flowers. Some of the other optics, the optics that I have talked about, the Sweet 50, and the Sweet have a sweet spot of focus. There are also a couple of optics that are the Edge optics, and instead of a spot of focus you get a slice of focus that you can move to any angle in the composition, which is a whole another another way of seeing. But, for what I shoot, a slice rarely works. I'm much better off with a spot than I am a slice. But, it depends on what you like to shoot. So, something else to think about. There's a fish-eye, there's all kinds of different optics. [Man In Green Shirt] Thank you. Anyone else want to share their Lensbaby story? Do we have any from home? We do, in fact. So, one of our viewers says that they bought a Lensbaby Velvet and either is not using it correctly, or doesn't understand the difference between it and photographing with my 180mm in shallow-depth of field. Does that make sense? Okay, and that's coming up. We haven't even talked about the Velvet yet, that's coming up. I say we keep going because some of the comments that are coming through are things are on your list of tips for newbies. Okay. Since I showed you in the video how I add macro to get closer, I just wanted to show you what kind of effect that has, and it's going to be a similar effect to the extension tubes. It gets you closer, but you're going to lose depth of field. So, all of these are at F/5. and the first shot is with no macro. That's as close as I could get to the Rudbeckia. And then I added the +4 diopter and you can see that I can get a lot closer, but look at how much less is in focus now. And then when I put the +10 on, I couldn't even get the whole flower in the frame. You can see that depth of field has gotten considerably shallower. So, it works in the same fashion as the extension tubes did. Let's talk a little bit about focus too, because getting the focus in the right spot is really essential with the Lensbaby. And this is one where I missed the focus. Now, granted this is a Cosmos and they do this so you really need a lot of patience to shoot them. But, the focus here ended up further back than I wanted it, and here I nailed it. That's just where I wanted the focus. If you are shooting a moving subject, then you need to plan to what I call bracket for focus; take more than one shot, make small adjustments to your focus, because your focus needs to be where you want to draw the eye. Here are my Lensbaby tips for beginners: So as we just talked about, I want you to start with f/4 or f/5.6 so that you can see that area of focus. There's still gonna be plenty of blur, but you should be able to see the area of focus right through your viewfinder. I also want you to keep the lens straight in the beginning, and when I tell people this they are like awww, because they don't want a centered composition. But we're learning here, so it's okay. The reason that I want you to do that is because it's a lot easier to focus straight on. Much easier. I also want you to delay adding macro, because when we talked about, macro is going to reduce depth of field. So your f/5.6 isn't f/5.6 anymore if you put a +10 diopter on. So macro is going to make focus tougher. So all of these things that make focus tougher I don't want you to do in the beginning. You also, because this is a manual focus lens, you need to be sure that your camera's diopter is set correctly for your vision. Cause there's no auto-anything here, there's no auto-focus. If your diopter isn't set correctly, it might look in focus to you through the camera, and then you are going to go home and say nothing is in focus. Check it not just when you get started, I have to check mine pretty often because just putting your camera away in your bag, it gets off. You know, I'll look through, take a few shots, and I'm getting nothing in focus with my Lensbaby, I'm checking my diopter. So, it's not a one-time thing, you have to be sure it stays set correctly. I would use a tripod in the beginning. Because you want to eliminate any movement. I wouldn't shoot moving subjects in the beginning, and I would use a tripod to be sure there's no movement in you because I see this happen time and time again. Not just with the Lensbaby, with any lens that you're handholding that you get your shot all lined up, you're focused, got your focus set, and just before you click the shutter, you lean in. It happens, we move. If you move, then I want you to be using a tripod, at least in the beginning, because I think that people get frustrated because of these reasons, because they're trying to do too much, too fast. They're doing superbends, they're adding macro, they didn't check their diopter, and they're handholding. They're nice and light for handholding, but then like I said before, you need to know what you can get away with for handholding and what you can't, and some people can't handhold at all. The other thing I want you to do is shoot and shoot and shoot. There's gonna be a learning curve, and do not delete in your camera. Wait, have a look at the big picture. If nothing else, you'll get a good look at what went wrong, where the focus is, or where your bend was, or if there's back-focus. You can recognize back-focus, which was what happens when you lean in, because there'll be a swirl of blur. I want you to keep that lens centered, so right in the middle of the shot there's gonna be a swirl of blur. So instead of a sweet spot of focus, there's a very swirled blur, and these tiny areas of focus around it, and more blur. That's back-focus and it means you either leaned it, it also might mean that you turned the focus ring just a little bit too far. Those are things to watch out for. If you follow these, if you follow these steps, I think that you'll shorten your learning curve. The other thing you can do is take a workshop with me and I'll stand next to you and we'll do it together.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Make yourself stand out among nature photographers by adding a new dimension to your images. Painterly techniques draw attention to the delicate patterns, lines, textures, and designs that we often overlook in the natural world.

Kathleen Clemons is an experienced nature photographer, known for her creative techniques and her unique, stunning compositions. 

Join Kathleen for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to achieve the painterly look in-camera with slow shutter, selective focus, Lensbaby, and multiple exposures.
  • How to evoke the painterly look in Photoshop with panning.
  • How to use Topaz Impression and NIK software to make painterly photos.
In this class, you’ll learn how to create painterly images by using a wide variety of techniques. Kathleen will show you how to apply effects using in-camera settings, different lenses, Adobe Photoshop®, and low-tech tricks like applying vaseline to filters. Capture the magic of nature and turn your photography into remarkable impressionistic art. 



Wow. I really loved this class. I took her other class, "The Art of Flower Photography" as well. She is very thorough, explains concepts clearly and is professional, yet kind. I have been doing photography for decades, but flower photography is a little bit of a different animal. I have found it to be extraordinarily challenging - which is also invigorating! At the same time, using Kathleen's principles, I feel like I now have basic rules and tools under my belt which I did not have before. This is a little humbling as I have been doing photography for so long and was surprised there were a few basic concepts I didn't "get the memo" on. haha. This class will save me heaps of trial and error time. I will be much better able to zero in on what I really need to work on. I actually recommend taking both her Creative Live courses. Yes, there is a bit of overlap - but that little bit of repetition is actually helpful. They are not the same class. Oh, and one more "perk" get to view some of the most stunning flower photography ever created. Masterful. Thank you, Kathleen.

Donna Macri Stevens

As I've been watching this class, I have literally been sitting at my computer and saying aloud, "Wow....WOW!" This is an absolutely amazing class!!! I began watching it while it streamed, but had to buy it. Kathleen is an amazing instructor, and she is SO generous with her tips and techniques. I love that she supplemented her instruction with on-site videos, in class photo manipulation and so much more. If you love flower photography or want amazing tips on how to make your photos more painterly, CLICK BUY NOW! I'm just blown away! This is a GREAT, GREAT class!


Kathleen's images have a very artistic and painterly character, so she is a great presenter for this subject. In this class she openly shares many of her methods of shooting to create in-camera artistic images (even with your phone) as well as post-processing techniques. She presents this material with her open, calm, strong and passionate manner that gives you an "artistic license" to experiment and discover "What happens if?" I have admired her work for a long time and am so excited that she shares the secrets of creating her enchanting images here. If you are interested in capturing images that go beyond what you see to incorporate how you feel about a subject, you will love this class!