We All Need Some Lensbaby Magic in Our Camera Bag

Critical focus is the plague of this decade. I look at myself sometimes and I am ashamed. The first thing I do with any new piece of gear the second I put my hands on it is shoot a frame and punch in to see all the details, all those glorious megapixels. Manufacturers drove the conversation there, and we followed: how many focusing points, how fast can it detect an eye, a car, or a squirrel behind the bushes. How many super ED mega corrected glass elements? Let us zoom in and check if the iris is tack sharp and not the eyelashes. Regardless of your genre or photography background, if you have been doing this long enough, you are bound to get bored at some point. That’s why I’ve been getting into Lensbaby products.

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It is easy to lose touch with the craft. I certainly did. I haven’t produced anything I am remotely happy with in over a year and if I am being honest, I still enjoy images from my 5D III a lot more than I do my R5. Not the files from the body itself but the less-than-stellar lenses I was using back then. Do not get me wrong, the last thing I need today is a bride’s dress turning purple because of chromatic aberrations, but I feel like I used to do more with my techniques, my angles, and my compositions to prevent the inevitable flaring and purple fringing. Gear made me comfortable. Being comfortable made me lazy.

This is where the Lensbaby line of products kicks in. If you feel too comfortable, if you find your image output a little too sterile, Lensbaby is the ultimate cure. Maybe too much of a cure some would say.

Lensbaby optics are both a breath of fresh air and chaos on demand. When you can get something sharp, it is never that sharp. When you miss focus, you just end up with a blurry mess. But when you nail it, OH MY GOD. The few times you can manage to nail it, you get rewarded with nothing less than magic.

Lensbaby will invite you to slow down. It will demand patience and commitment. It does not matter how experienced you might be, it is a wild beast you will have to tame. Using a Lensbaby will require you to focus (pun unintended) on the aesthetics. What is in focus is just as important as what is not, and the balance between the two can make or break your images.

With the appropriate subject or scene, the twist or the swirl in the bokeh can be incredibly rewarding. I found that my composition got a lot simpler… but in a good way. Sometimes less is more.

I also love the way Lensbaby lenses handle bright points of light as it gives you a touch of originality right in-camera without stepping into Photoshop.

There is something to be said about the way those lenses render light. They have kind of a texture, a special sauce that would be difficult to create in post and that will instantaneously set your images apart. YES, it can be a little too much at times but when done right, it is an easy and cheap way to set yourself apart from most photographers.

It is not for everyone. A lot of photographers look at this and just can’t get it. It is messy. If you swipe through too many pictures, it can make you dizzy, so it is certainly not something you will build an entire portfolio on. Many of your clients will look at it and not get it as well. “Why is it so blurry?” they will ask. It takes a while to master. Many years later, I am still not there. It takes a while to carve something beautiful out of the chaos, but the beauty is not just in the final product – it is in trying. The beauty is in pushing yourself into a thought process that may not have been yours initially. The beauty is to bring a touch of something different into your otherwise clinical body of work, and for products that cheap and that lightweight, it does not hurt to leave one in your camera bag, just in case!

Alex-Michel Ngningha

Alex-Michel is a Wedding photographer based in Paris. He is a compulsive traveler and can often be found chasing the milky way in the desert or documenting fishermen off the beaten track.