The Beginner’s Guide to Freelensing

Defined by Wikipedia: Freelensing is a technique used by the photographers who own digital cameras. The photographer has to detach the lens from the camera and start moving the lens left and right. The lens functions like a magnifier and also will allow light leaks. As a result, the pictures may look more interesting, original or artistic.

A couple of tips before you start:

Once the lens and your camera are apart they will stop communicating with each other, so you do need to be in manual mode. If you have a lens hood you are going to need to remove that too so the edges don’t show up in your image (unless you want them to). Lenses with long focal lengths can also cause tunneling when you tilt them. Again okay if you want that look, if not, don’t tilt quite so drastically.

 To start:

  •  Take your lens off. (if you have a Nikon the manual is going to probably tell you to turn your camera off first)
  •  Hand hold the lens up to the front of the camera
  • Manually focus the lens. (Sometimes I will prefocus my lens before I take it off so that I am in the right general area before starting. It won’t be perfect, once the lens is off the focus distance will have changed but it will give you a good starting point.)
  • Start tilting the angle of the lens to change the focus plane. As the lens moves, so will the focus plane. This is the tough part, especially if your eyesight is as poor as mine. (It took me about a month of shooting daily with manual focus to become proficient at it.)
  • You can also physically move yourself to change what is in focus (I personally prefer doing it this way) because the lens isn’t fitting tightly to your camera you may have light leaks as you tilt the lens and may need to adjust your ISO or shutter speed accordingly. This can also create some cool lens flare.
  • If you have a lens with a really short focusing distance you can handhold it backwards and it will be a macro lens.

The wonderful thing about freelensing is that there are no hard and fast rules. Just experiment to see what works best for you. Be open to something new and let go of perfection. Freelensing images aren’t supposed to be perfect.

Written by Sherri Davis

sherri davis lensflare tunnel

(70-200 freelensed with light leak and barrel showing)



  1. You can have a set aperture too if you set your aperture to what you want, then hold down the tiny black button below the lens release while you detach your lens. You can do this with Canon anyway, not sure about Nikon.

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