Break Free | Cynthia Dawson

Break Free (a guide to freelensing)


You’ve heard your photographer friends talk about it. You’ve seen their images. You want to try it but you wonder, how in the heck can I freelens like that? Well, its a lot simpler than you think!

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Freelensing is when you take a photo with a lens detached from your camera. Does that sound scary? Well it can be at first. What if I drop my lens or my camera gets dirty? Those thoughts ran through my head a lot when I was first experimenting with freelensing. I now have a specific lens that I only use for this technique and I figure a dirty camera gives my work little character. 😉

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So you may be wondering what kind of lens you can use to try this. Any lens that has an aperture ring will work. I use a Nikon 50 1.8 because its one of the only ones I have with the outside aperture ring. So look around at your lenses, you probably already have one that you can use. Some people also “hack” their freelensing lens by taking the lens mount off. I’m not that brave but I’m working up the courage to do that.

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Now that you have a lens to use, let’s get shooting. First set your focus on the lens to infinity and open your aperture to the smallest number on the outside ring. I like to start by having the lens hover over where it would naturally go if it was attached. Then I slowly move it around the ring. Sometimes it is easier for me to move back and forth with my feet than move the lens, especially if working with my wiggly subjects. When your plane of focus falls where you want, click! Then practice, practice, practice!

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You have so much leeway while freelensing. Is your subject out of focus but the light is just stunning? It’s a keeper! Did you “mess up” but you love it anyway? Keep it! When you are freelensing it isn’t about what is “right”. This effect allows for so much creativity. The images you produce can be dreamy and magical so as long as they speak to you don’t get hung up on all the rest.


biobubblesCynthia Dawson is an on-location lifestyle photographer serving the Austin, Fort Hood, and Central Texas area. She enjoys telling stories through her photography, and has a penchant for black and white imagery. Her work is dreamy, ethereal, and sentimental. Her daughter is her muse and often a subject of her photographs. Cynthia also serves on the Board of Directors for The Gold Hope Project – a Non-Profit Organization that provides free portrait sessions to children who currently have, or have successfully survived, childhood cancer.

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  • Tina BeckettDecember 16, 2014 - 2:20 pm

    <3 <3 <3ReplyCancel

  • Summer CatesDecember 17, 2014 - 1:14 am

    Great images and info! XxReplyCancel

  • Kate DensmoreDecember 17, 2014 - 3:47 am

    love this article! And all your gorgeous eye candy!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy SpanskiDecember 17, 2014 - 11:39 pm

    OMG I have been trying and trying to get this and FINALLY I’ve got it! THANK YOU SO MUCH. Best freelensing article I’ve read. So simple.ReplyCancel

  • Bettye RainwaterDecember 18, 2014 - 1:47 pm

    I’ve been so struggling with this! I feel like there’s one piece of this I’m not understanding 🙁 when you “slowly move it around the ring,” are you just *sliding* it around, but the lens ring stays pretty much in contact w the camera lens mount all the way around? Or are you sort of rocking the lens away from a part of the camera (I keep visualizing a diagram of an atom when I try to explain that way, but…yeah) while always keeping at least one point in contact w the camera? Or is the lens not touching the camera at all?? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just so dying to do this and…it’s just not working. I don’t know anyone in real life who knows how to do it, to show me 🙁

    Thanks for any help….


    • CynthiaFebruary 19, 2015 - 10:54 pm

      You can start with the lens closer to the ring mount and then depending on how much blur you want and how far/close your subject is you can okay with how close the lens is to your camera. How that helps!ReplyCancel