Freelensing and Reverse-Lens Macro Photography

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I've taken a sad amount of photos ever since the beginning of this semester. I partly blame the weather; while I can think of creative winter shots, they aren't as dynamic as spring photos. Plus I don't want my fingers to freeze off just for the sake of taking pics. Thankfully it's starting to look and feel like spring! We've been having delicious weather lately - high 70's, warm sunshine, perfect breezes, and a hint of flowery scent in the air.

Lately I've been shooting in manual mode. To be honest, I've been using auto or a scenic mode for the past few years. The idea of shooting having to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and exposure myself kinda scared me, probably because I wasn't familiar with what adjust I should make. Curiosity took over, and for the past few weeks I've forced myself to only shoot in manual mode. I can't believe I didn't try it before! I swear it makes my photos look better. rawr I'm such a phail fotographer.
Over the past few weeks, I've been trying out two lens hacks (or techniques as others call it): freelensing and reverse-lens macro photography.

Tilt-lens photography is unique because it reduces the apparent depth of field. Freelensing, in short, is the cheap way to do tilt-shift photography.

So cool, right?! Especially aerial shots. The first 3 are taken with a tilt-shift lens while the bottom 3 are taken by freelensing.

Basically, you detach the lens, hold it against the camera body, and move one side of it ever so slightly (ie a few millimeters). You can move it up, down, or to the side.

Through the viewfinder, you will see that the side where you moved the lens away from the body is blurry but the opposite side of it is clear. Since the lens isn't attached to the body, it requires manual focus. Using a tripod will help free up one of your hands so that one hand can hold the camera and the other can adjust the focus ring. Make sure you set the exposure setting beforehand. Photos don't turn out the same, exposure-wise, when the lens isn't attached.

"Wait, isn't this bad for the camera's sensor??" Yea, it is. Sorta. As long as you don't detach it too far from the body and you're not shooting in the rain or a dust storm or on a beach, there shouldn't be a problem. But all hacks/shortcut techniques come with risks, right? I wanted to try freelensing because I think tilt-shift photography is cool, but I can't afford a tilt-shift lens. Someday I will! My camera has a dust removal function to clean itself, so after I freelens, I just run that operation a few times to clean the sensor. Plus my camera is so-so and I'm going to upgrade in a year or two. You also get some nice light leaks because light seeps through where your lens is detached.

Read more about freelensing on Photojojo and watch a video of how to do it.

Here's what I've taken using freelensing

The first photo of moss from the previous post was also taken using free-lensing.

The other hack/technique is reverse-lens macro photography, also called reverse macro photography. Basically, you unhinge the lens and put it backwards against the camera body. This leads to extreme close-ups. The shorter your lens, the greater the magnification. The first time I tried this I saw that everything was super blurry until I got really close to an object. As soon as I did that, the object became focused and SUPER magnified. It's really cool, although I tried it out on some teensy flowers but none of my photos came out looking sharp. It's all manual focusing, but it might also be a problem with the lens or my camera. I've seen photos online of people using this hack, and their photos look amazing!

Here's a somewhat successful one I've taken... I could've used photoshop to sharpen the photo, but I was too lazy. Just to clarify, this is homemade cream cheese bread, the same as the first pic in the set above.

 Other people's gorgeous reverse-lens photos

What's difficult about both techniques is that, obviously, the camera has no way of communicating with the lens electronically. Time to get used to manual focus and doing guess work! For me, I adjust the focusing ring before shooting so that I zoom in an out by moving my camera. I know a lot of people are used to autofocusing, but since I've been using my manual 50 prime lens lately, I've improved on making slight adjustments in focusing to achieve crisp edges and great detail.

hehe, my first post on something photography!

have a great day!

P.S. I didn't take any of the pictures unless I explicitly said so. Clicking on the photos will take you to their origin.

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  1. Is that a Harry Potter book I saw?? :DD

    Anyway. Amazing photography!

  2. yesss good job! it's my roomie's book. and thanks :)