by Emma Wood
If you’ve never used a lensbaby before, they almost seem like a mysterious kind of secret, something unique and totally different. This is how I felt before I joined in on the fun about nine months ago. Lately I’ve found more and more people experimenting with them, and loving them. They bring something fresh and new to images and they are not expensive compared to most lenses. I remember being totally intrigued with them before I got mine, from how they work technically to how you attach them to the camera. There’s a great deal of information on the Lensbaby website, but really the only way to explore a lensbaby is to get your hands on one and have a go. Lensbaby lenses attach directly onto your camera body and there are eight interchangeable optics that can be easily removed or replaced with one another. Each of these optics give you slightly different effects. The lenses are built to bend, as much or as little as you wish, which is what gives you the tilt shift effect. I own the Composer Pro with double glass Optic and the Sweet 35 Optic. I couldn’t tell you which I prefer, both are uniquely fun in their own way and I like to switch them around depending on my mood and the image that I’m creating.
These images were taken earlier this year using the double glass optic. I love the ethereal feel that this lens gives to the images, it almost takes them into another realm.
There is definitely a learning curve when using a Lensbaby and one of the things that I found when first using one, is that I shot more frames then I usually would. As time went on and I become more familiar and comfortable with it, I found myself shooting less frames, but it’s just something that improved with practice. I also take the time to stop and look in the viewfinder after the first few frames and especially if I bend the lens – I want to make sure that focus is still falling on my subject and each time you bend the tilt shift part of the lens, this can change. I would recommend when practicing at first, not bending the lens too much, you’ll still get a lovely blurry background and it’s easier to keep focus on your subject.
Practice is the key with Lensbaby, the more you practice the better you get. I’ve found this to be true of everything photography related but the slightly more unpredictable nature of a Lensbaby or a tilt shift makes this even more necessary. For me, the practicing and experimenting is the fun part.
Another great way to practice is to use objects that don’t move. This allows you to get used to the lens, without worrying about focusing on moving subjects. These were taken using my double glass optic.
Capturing children with a lensbaby
One of my favourite ways to use a lens baby is capturing my kids. The fantastic tilt shift effect of the lens just enhances that dreaminess and playfulness that we often associate with childhood. It allows me to focus completely on my subject, leaving the background very soft and smudgy.
It’s absolutely possible to get a nice sharp subject with a lens baby but I have to admit, moving children are not the easiest subjects in the world. I’ve adopted a pretty relaxed attitude when using the combination of kids and the lensbaby because sometimes I get images like this:
and other times I get images like this:
I try not to get hung up about the whole focus thing, because if I did, I’d miss moments like these, and I love them every bit as much. Having fun with the lensbaby is really what matters to me and why I reach for it as often as I do.
Whenever I’m feeling in a rut, or just uninspired, this is my lens of choice. Lensbaby takes me out of the everyday, out of the ordinary and allows me to take my images just that little bit further.
Emma Wood, United Arab Emirates
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Emma currently resides in the United Arab Emirates with her pilot husband and 5 of their 7 children, the older kids are now studying in the UK. She loves any chance she gets to spend some one on one time with her children, watching a movie with her husband, or getting out and about and exploring new places. Emma starts her day with a Latte and can’t live without her earl grey tea, camera, iPhone, MacBook Air, avocados and miso soup. Despite discovering photography as a means to document her children’s lives within the past few years, she has always had a love for photography, “particularly black and white which stems from my love of black and white films when I was a child.” Her passion is black and white photography, often described as moody and earthy, and bringing out beauty from the most simple concepts. Emma arms herself with a Nikon D700, a variety of prime lenses and a Lensbaby. She is the instructor of the CMU workshops Shooting 103: Foundations of Composition, Shooting 107: The Art of Mobile Photography, and Shooting 205: Timeless Photography and Emotive Expression.
Congratulations to Melanie who said, “I love those ethereal looking shots! Beautiful! I would love to have one. What a fun Christmas gift that would be!” on being the random winner! I will email you soon about claiming your new lensbaby!
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Lensbaby for sponsoring today’s blog post! They have so generously donated a Composer Pro with Sweet 35 to one random commenter on today’s post. How awesome is that?! Simply comment on this post before next Tuesday December 11th at 12pm EST to enter to win. We’ll be back here on Tuesday to update the article with the winner. Good luck and please share with your friends so they have a chance too!