Blur it, baby!

Many photo buffs are bokeh crazy. Blurred backgrounds are pretty and they don’t clutter the photo so that the viewer’s attention stays focused on the subject. Blurred backgrounds (and even foregrounds) are achieved by using a shallow depth of field, the most common technique being the use of a wide aperture setting.

But what if you want to blur certain portions of a photo that are on the same level (distance) as the point of focus? For instance, you’re shooting a basketball game and you want to focus on the player holding the ball but there is another player right beside him. How do you wash out the second player? Omega Constellation Ladies' watch photographed with a Lensbaby Composer and macro filters

Enter the Lensbaby which I used in taking the photos in this entry. But there’s really a longer story about why I decided to use a Lensbaby. When I upgraded to a full-frame camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and gave Sam the EOS 40D that I had been using for the past two years and three months, I also promised her that I’d give her the 50mm lens that I use for taking food photos. She’s taking up A.B. Photography after all and she will need the 50mm lens sooner than later. My idea of course is to get another 50mm lens with an even wider aperture setting for more blurred backgrounds. But I also needed a macro lens. Two lenses means too expensive already. Omega Constellation Ladies' watch photographed with a Lensbaby Composer and macro filters

Lensbaby lenses are basically 50mm lenses. What’s the big deal about 50mm lenses anyway? The images they give you are the closest to what the human eye actually perceive. Meaning? Okay, let’s say you’re standing in front of a building and you have a full view of the building. If you take a photo using telephoto lens, you get a zoomed in image of a portion of the building which is really just a fraction of what you actually see with your eyes. If you use a wide-angle lens, the photo will show a wider view which will include objects that your eyes can see only if you look to the right and the left. A photo using a 50mm lens is an image of what you see with your eyes. That’s why they are best for portraiture. And they are ideal for taking food photos.

One of the many differences between Lensbaby lenses and other 50mm lenses is that with macro filters (Lensbaby accessories that cost only P1950), the 50mm lens becomes a macro lens with a minimum focusing distance of 2 inches. Yes, 2 inches. I was using the macro filters when I took the two photos above. Cool, huh? Lensbaby

But the Lensbaby can do so much more. I’m only scratching the surface here, I’ve had the Lensbaby Composer for only a couple of hours and I’m still getting used to it. What’s there to get used to, you may ask. A lens is a lens is a lens, isn’t it? Not in the case of the Lensbaby which doesn’t operate the way normal camera lenses do. Nothing automated here since the Lensbaby is not capable of electronically communicating with the camera. Everything is done manually. No auto-focus. The lens is rotated so that the “sweet spot” is on the desired focal point. The aperture is set not with a few turns of a wheel but by manually changing magnetic rings on the front part of the lens.

Too technical already? Never mind. Suffice to say that although the Lensbaby requires more work, it also offers a whole lot of creative possibilities that normal lenses don’t. View sample photos taken with a Lensbaby at the Lensbaby website or on Flickr and be amazed.


  1. says

    I miss my ‘nifty-fifty’ which I traded off for a wide-angle 35mm for my D40. Manual lens work on dSLR sure brings back the best of both worlds – digital and film – photography.