REDEFINE | Freelensing featuring Joni Burtt Photography



“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

Why are you passionate about this topic?
I love rule-breaking photography. I love the out-of-focus, the exaggerated bokeh, the flares, the light leaks, that lovely strip of focus. I also love how freelensing can make a photo look like a memory – hazy, not quite focused, dreamy. Since I mostly take photos of my children, I love how it translates their childhood into memory.

 When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?

I can’t recall where I first read about it – I know I saw it somewhere on a photography Facebook page. It was nearly two years ago. As always, I jumped in with both feet without actually learning any ins and outs, but it didn’t matter. I was addicted even from the horrible first photos. Within a couple of months, I was contacted by a fellow freelenser who had seen some of my work on Flickr, and she invited me to join a blog circle. I am humbled every month to be sharing work amongst some amazing artists who are master freelensers as well. Check out their work for more inspiration – Heather Robinson, Melissa Lazuka, Lens & Beauty, Erin Hensley, Annie Otzen, Cynthia Dawson.

 What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique or subject/topic?
1. Relax! You’re not going to get amazing free lensed photos right off the bat. In fact, there are times now, two years into this, when I free lens my kids doing stuff and dislike most of it. It’s all about breaking rules and purposely introducing flaws into your photos, so it’s only natural that it’s not always going to work the way you want it to.

2. That said…embrace the look. If you like how it looks, then you have successfully free lensed. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a slice of focus, or if you don’t have a light leak, or if there’s nothing tack-sharp in your photo. Does it speak to you? Then don’t scrap it! Freelensing has so many varied results – go into it knowing you have no idea what might come out of it. You might not like every photo. You might LOVE the ones that you’d normally scrap. Be open-minded.

3. Experiment. Move your lens all over the place. Try different lenses – try old manual lenses, different primes. Try it in different lights. You’ll be amazed at the different looks you can achieve. Sometimes I move my lens a fraction of an inch away from my camera, and sometimes I twist and turn it all over the place. Sometimes I use my 50mm 1.4, and sometimes I use a beat up, hacked old 100mm Pentax lens (against my Nikon camera). It’s so fun to see what will result.

4. Read up on the whole process so you know what works for your camera. You need a lens that has an aperture ring that you can manually move wide open when detached from your camera, or you need to prop the shutter open with a small piece of paper. If you’re not sure what your camera needs in order to free lens, do some searches on it – freelensing has become pretty widespread and there are specific technical tips everywhere.

5. Be smart. The inside of your camera will be exposed when you’re freelensing. Don’t do it on a beach on a windy day, or during an ice storm, or on a dusty road. I’ve taken a lot of risks with my camera and as a result I have a sensor that needs cleaning, and I consider myself very lucky that I haven’t had any serious complications!


About the photographer: 

Joni Burtt is a lifestyle photographer from beautiful New Brunswick, Canada, whose biggest passion is documenting the lives of her children.  When she isn’t chasing them around with a camera, she can be found cooking, napping, hiking with her husband, or thrift shopping.

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