I've recently heard about a photographic technique called 'freelensing.' How do I go about 'freelensing,' and what can I do with the technique?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't heard of this technique until reading your post. Thanks so much for asking this. I'm going to try this tonight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frank Hale
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 23:14

3 Answers 3


Freelensing isn’t as simple as just popping off any old lens: some lenses work better than others, and capturing your subject takes a bit of planning. It’s easy to make mistakes! Fortunately, we’ve been around the block with freelensing and over time have made every mistake a person can make so you don’t have to. These Photojojo-tested techniques will have you snapping successfully in no time.

Above is a high definition video of him moving the lens around and focusing on things, and it kind of shows the exciting organic and hard to control effect it produces.

Photos taken with the lens detached from the camera but held in place and moved around to focus. This also lets extra light in sometimes causing light leaks and giving a vintage look and feel.

Freelensing can also:

  • Give extra bokeh by shrinking the area in focus (aperture is 0)
  • Allow for super macro shots
  • Produce ethereal lighting by allowing stray light to get in to the sensor
  • Make delicious light leaks
  • Create tilt-shift effects
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    \$\begingroup\$ Links are okay, but they can break. Please include some basic information in your answers, so that if the links go bad people can still get the gist of the answer -- this site hopes to be around for the long haul. You should use links to supplement the answers you provide, not to be the answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 10:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if the links breaks, it should be a starting point for finding that particular source of information, or google for something related. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't like to copy/paste from linked resources - with the exception of existing summary in case of a single link. \$\endgroup\$
    – alexandrul
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 10:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the amount of information that I might assume that is enough to be included in the answer may very well be dangerously incomplete for others. \$\endgroup\$
    – alexandrul
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 10:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ No information, on the other hand, is "dangerously incomplete" for everybody. We're not talking about cutting and pasting entire websites here -- an explanatory summary is all we ask for, at least for areas that won't fit neatly into an answer here. That's Stack Exchange-wide, too, not just this community -- Joel and Jeff are trying to create a "long tail" Q&A environment, not just another forum. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alexandrul: At the photo-SE community the 'best practice' we've decided to go with is generally to link but ALSO summarize for posterity. I've started a thread over on Meta about the differences between SO and photo-SE here: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/754/… if you're interested in weighing in... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 9:37

If you're familiar with reverse macro, I guess you already have the basic of 'freelensing'. This works the same way and you need to take your lens off the body, hand-held it to add dramatic effects to your snap. You can do tilt-shift, light leaks, macros and a lot of customized blurry effects. This requires a lot of passion, practice and in some cases specific gears.

But you also need to understand, by taking your lens off, you're exposing your sensor and lens mount to dust, mist and other potential risks. So, there's nothing better than a tilt-shift lens if you want to do tilt-shift or a macro lens for macro purpose. This technique is just a cheaper solution to some of them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a poor man's substitute for a bellows or a mini-view setup. Fun, I'd imagine, but every shot is an experiment at best, especially given the image circle of ordinary 35mm-format lenses and the fact that your focus depends on your hands. The "serious" equivalent would be something like the Cambo X2 or Ultima 35 and a Digitar (or similar) lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ well, bellows themselves are poor man's substitute to costly macro lenses! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, aren't costly macro lenses on modern cameras just a poor mans substitute for a good old middle-format bellows-camera? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Leonidas
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 12:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ lol, you can say that! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand the humor, but the two examples I gave run at $1500 and $4000, respectively, without the glass. It's another three grand if you want a lens to go with it. You can always use older view camera lenses if you want, but the older designs -- the ones you can call affordable -- won't be coated or corrected well enough for a 35mm-format DSLR's sensor. And even an "accessory" bellows will let you use a 12mm micro lens for an easy 20X magnification -- just a little bit bigger than you can get with a macro lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 14:05

As far as I can see from a quick google, Freelensing appears to be the act of uncoupling your lens from the camera body and hand holding it in front of the body. You then hand tilt the lens until you get a desired plane of focus (similar to tilt and shift) and take your shot.

Or, a good way to break something on your camera :)


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