Photography Tutorial: Free-Lensing

Transform the camera lens you already have into a macro lens!

This post comes from our blog intern, Monica!

Photography is my passion, but that passion comes at a price. It is such an expensive hobby and, since I am just like every other college student (poor), I can’t often afford to buy new camera equipment! After researching and trying different techniques with the equipment I do have, I’ve fallen in love with free-lensing. Free-lensing turns the lens you already have on your DSLR into something of a macro lens. It allows you to get closer to your subject to obtain sharper focus and provides a very shallow depth of field and background blur.

Equipment needed:

Lens with an focal length of 50mm or greater (I typically use a 50mm f/1.4)

DLSR CameraIMG_9648Step 1: Detach the lens
Remove the lens from your camera body by pressing the lens release button and twisting off. Try to do this in a fairly dry environment so moisture doesn’t creep into your camera. Mild humidity is okay but definitely don’t “free lens” in the rain or snow!

Step 2: Make sure everything is secure

Removing a camera lens can be a bit risky. Ensure you have the camera strap around your neck and the lens securely in your hand to prevent drops and damage.

Step 3: Position your lens
Place the lens up to the lens mount on the camera body. To change the focus, just hold the lens at different distances from the camera and subject you’re photographing.

Step 4: Play around with it and practice!
Free-lensing takes a bit of practice, but that’s the fun part! You can create images that are beautifully blurry or finely focused all depending on how you hold the lens. Try different angles, distances between the lens and camera body, and distances between the subject and lens.


Normal: IMG_9632Free-Lensing technique:IMG_9624


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  1. Oh wow, never thought of this before and wouldn’t come to my mind. Doesn’t it damage your camera body as dust can get in easily when it’s open? Lovely, I think I should try!

  2. Yes, I know that for more than a decade, I use to flip the lenses to get a different effect. Stopped doing that when one lens dropped and broke. And it was just a hand away from the floor!
    btw, I kniw I never commented here, but I just love this space! :)

  3. I tried this with my nikon d5000 and it wouldn’t work. it just said lens isn’t attached and it wouldn’t let me take pictures. anyone else having this problem??

  4. These photos are neat but “free lensing” is super dangerous and risky to do. Dslr cameras are not made to take photos with an unattached lens. It will ruin the mirrors if anything gets inside to scratch them. Gwtting dust inside the camera will ultimately ruin the equipment if you aren’t getting routine professional cleanings. Beautiful, gorgeous photos, but risky tactic!

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