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Build & Shoot: Free-Lensing

Lesson 14 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

14. Build & Shoot: Free-Lensing

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Free-Lensing

- [Mike] So let's move on to the next one. The next one is called freelensing, right? Freelensing. Well, let me set this...let me take this thing off. Freelensing, what that means is taking photos with the lens not attached to the camera. Literally, free lensing. So you can use your Nikon lenses or your Canon lenses on your Canon camera, but why? Why don't we try to use this little Pentax lens on my Nikon camera, and just see what happens as we take photos with a free lens. Why would you do this? Well, remember in the earlier sessions what we were doing is we were creating some...we were imparting some lens flare and some odd looks to it. And that's what this is going to do as well. Is this my live view camera? No, it's not. Let me go grab my live view camera, because that's the one we should be using. So this is just a really creative approach to another way to get some, you know, light bleed, some light coming into the camera. All right, here we go. Pull this out. And for this one, I...

was wondering, would one of you be willing to stand and just kind of be a place model for me? Any of you? You'll do it? Sweet. This will be cool. So for this one I'm just going to have you stand, basically, here, and then I'm going to photograph that way. So tell everyone at home your name. - [Tanya] Hi, I'm Tanya. - Hi. Thank you for being a volunteer. I really appreciate it. All righty. Normally for this, what you're doing is you're hand holding your camera and you're hand holding your lens. But for this case, since we're live-viewed and I know watching this stuff on a screen when it's all flopping around like crazy can be annoying, so... All righty. First thing is I need to set my shutter speed a little bit slower. My ISO is still cranked way up, so let me bring that down. Let me bring my ISO down to 600. And, now, I'm going to take my lens here, and I'm going to set my lens approximately for the focus distance where she is. You know, she...what would you say, we're six feet apart? - Yeah. - Something like that. So I'm going to set my focus distance for about six feet. Throw the lens in front of the camera. Okay. And...oh, I set my aperture...I was back down to f/22. I don't want to do that, so now I got to go...let's open this sucker way up to f/2. Oh, hey, there you are. There you are. She's in there. Okay. So now I'm going to, kind of, set my focus distance. Okay. Come a little closer. Oh yeah, cool. Loosen this up a bit, okay. Hey, we're freelensing. A little closer. Keep coming in. Oh yeah, right there. Oh, yeah, there we go. Oh, I'm taking pictures. I forgot I'm in live view. I need to go to my other camera to actually take pictures. All right. So, in live view mode, here, you can kind of see we're just moving this around a little bit, trying to get, like, differential focus. This is almost like a tilt and shift lens effect. Isn't that cool? I can get, like, even, here, look, like, straight at the camera. Look right at the camera. See how I can get like her right eye in focus, and her left eye blurry, even though she's looking right at the camera? That is really neat. Now, I'm freelensing, so I'm moving the lens this way. I'm now going to move the lens up. And now I can get like her...I'm going to call this shawl, I know that's not the right term, but you can see the shawl below is a little blurry, and now I'm tilting the lens the other way. And now I'm getting the background more blurry. How cool is that? Just freelensing. Just moving the lens around. So why did I keep asking her to come in close? Well, here's the thing. When you're doing macro photography and when you're doing these types of things where the lens isn't mounted on the actual mount, it's just like using an extension tube, getting that lens farther away from the camera. That's how you actually do macro. So, because I'm getting the lens farther away. she has to be closer, otherwise it won't focus on her. So, all right. Would you stay here for a second so I can actually take some other photos? Okay, cool. So I'm going to turn this one off of live view. Grab this other camera. And we'll shoot into Lightroom. Okay. These are going to be your prize-winning photos of the day. I'm sure you're going to love them. What I'm going to do is I'm going to get this all set up, and then I'm going to take it off, and I'm going to kind of hand hold it as I'm taking the shots. But before I do, let me make sure we're connected. Yep. We are connected. Sweet. I'm at infinity, I'm at F2, I'm, my white balance is still set from before. I'm going to bring my ISO back down, I'll go to ISO 800. And, let's just see what my exposure is. Oh, yeah, this is perfect. Oh yeah, fantastic. Okay, I'm going to rotate ever so slightly. I know you want to see. - Sorry. - Yeah, that's why it's...when you have models on set, it's never a good idea to put the big screen up there, because the model's always like, "Well, what did I look like? Did I look okay?" So now I'm just going to start taking some photos this way. So this is really how the freelenser works. You get all limbered up, you get all ready, and you just start moving in and out. Oh, these are cool. And now I'm going to switch the lens to the other side, get her left eye focused. Oh, these are really fun. These are great portraits. I'm moving closer. Notice I'm focusing by moving forward and backward. Oh, this is so cool. Are the exposures okay? Folks in the studio? - [Woman] Yeah. - Kena, yeah, yeah, kind of. Sweet. - Those are a lot of portraits. - Oh, you look beautiful. What are you worried about? Thank you. You can grab a seat. Thank you. I appreciate that greatly. - [Woman] And I just wanted to give another shout out to Tanya, who we couldn't hear earlier when you asked her for her name because she didn't have a mic. - Oh. - Usually you're good and you repeat things, Mike, but... - I know, I refocused. - I have a question for you about this freelensing technique. How do're not worried about your sensor? Because it's open to the world. - Yeah, so...let me turn this camera around and talk to that. Okay, so, first of all, all day today, this is how my cameras have been. My cameras have been like this all day today, all right? It's not dusty in here, it's a fairly controlled environment, and so, in general, I'm okay with just having stuff out there like that. Freelensing out in the real world though, let's say you're at the beach. Or let's say you're in Tanzania photographing that lion over there, with your free-lensed 600 millimeter F4. You know, I'm making that up, you wouldn't really do that. But, if it's dusty outside, and kind of crazy, you definitely don't want to be freelensing in those environments. In the studio, no problem. I have no issues doing that. But I also want to make another point. And this sounds a little bit heretical. Heresy is the term that I'm trying to say. A little bit of heresy. You know, my cameras, for me, are tools. That's all they are. They're literally tools. And I know some people form bonds with their cameras. Say, "This is Larry, and that one's Samantha, and we've got Jenna over there. You know, this is my little baby." I want you to really get into the mindset that your camera is a tool. It's like a shovel. If you're a landscaper, it's okay to get that shovel dirty. It's okay to use that shovel, because it's designed for a purpose. You know, photography, for us, the purpose is creativity, it's image-making. So don't be afraid to do things like this. Don't abuse it, right? You don't see me, like, hacking on the thing with a hacksaw, but at the same time, I'm never afraid to actually use my camera in the field. I don't coddle my camera gear. It gets wet, it gets rainy, and filled with dust and all of that stuff. I've learned how to clean my gear, but I'm never afraid of doing stuff like this. This also freaks people out when they see me reach in. You can touch this stuff, it's okay. Nope, don't put your fingerprint on the mirror in there, but look, it's okay. It's not going to hurt anything. It's all designed to move up and down and, you know, there's mechanical systems, it's all right. Get comfortable with your camera. Treat it well, but it's okay to use it. Yeah, I loved that question. So that's freelensing, and I just used that little Pentax lens. This would work with, basically, any lens that I own. My Nikon F2.8s, you know, my 50 millimeter, my 85. Freelensing, it's a lot of fun. One other thing to keep in mind, and I didn't really show this here, today, but if you're outside and it's sunny, the sun will actually enter and provide some interesting, kind of, flare. So doing it outside, or maybe if you're afraid to do it outside, do it inside with the sun coming in, you can get lots of interesting flare effects with this freelensing approach. But, man, I really enjoyed that. Look...I really like that photo. It's just really fascinating. You don't really see stuff like that where one eye is in sharp focus and the other is soft. It's wonderful.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY How-To Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

It's a fun course, with a lot of interesting ideas presented in a way to help spark the creative juices in anyone wanting to branch out and experiment with different ideas. Mike's presentation style is fun and easygoing - perfect for this type of discussion. If you're not afraid to color outside the lines and see where the road takes you, this is a very enjoyable bit of inspiration.


Love it!! Very creative and full of inspiration. Mike Hagen explains the different effects in a great way, he is precise yet easy-going so he makes learning fun. I recommend this class to all who wants to take their creative photography to the next level without spending money on expensive accessories.


Mike has an easy-going, pleasant & fun personality. He explains things clearly. Rolls with whatever happens. And, he's very good about answering audience questions in an understandable, positively reinforcing and non-judgemental way (which can be rare for some established pro photographers...).

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