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lens whacking

Working in video production demands adaptability. Equipment changes and upgrades mean we’re always trying new things. Sure, there are some standard shots and formulas used in corporate video production, but we think it’s important to challenge ourselves. Plus, our camera operators like to be creative. Today’s blog is about a camera technique called lens whacking.

What is Lens Whacking?

soft shot of barley in a field with sun behind it
Lens whacking creates a dreamy look

Lens whacking, also known as free lensing, is a technique used with still and video cameras. It’s probably something you’ve seen before in a music video or movie. The result imparts an ethereal, vintage look and feel to footage. This kind of effect can be done in post-production, although the random nature of lens whacking in the field has a more organic look. This dream-like quality is achieved by separating the lens from the body of a camera.

Light Flares

There are two ways lens whacking affects the look of footage. The first is light flares. Light flares, or lens flares, happen when a very bright light causes a scatter or flare. Think of aiming a camera at someone who is standing directly in front of the bright sun. Sometimes this composition is a mistake, but experienced videographers also use the technique for effect.

In a normal set-up, the light that hits a camera’s sensor is filtered through the lens. When you remove the camera’s lens, light can hit the sensor from many different angles. This causes light leaks and natural, smooth streaks of light wash over the sensor. Too much light and the image will disappear, but controlling this light can result in some really cool footage. James Miller, considered a lens whacking expert, shows off his free lensing chops in the video below.

Focus Shifts

Focus is the other way lens whacking affects the look of footage. As you tilt the lens away from and toward the body of the camera, framed images will move in and out of focus. You can even focus on images of two different depths by tilting the lens. Or change quickly from one depth of focus to another. This short video gives an easy-to-understand explanation of lens whacking using a still camera. The same principles apply to video.

Practice Makes Perfect

Lens whacking takes practice. It’s for the adventurous shooter who likes to experiment and is interested in a romantic look. Overexposure is the most common issue with this technique since you’re letting more light into the sensor. It takes just the right amount of light to get those dreamy lens flares and light leaks. Try it out in your free time or on a less rigid project since it can be hard to predict how footage will end up looking.

Try Something New Like Lens Whacking

At Key West Video, we like to try new things. Staying updated on our industry and remaining curious means we always have new ideas we can use in our work. By getting to know our clients and their stories, we’re inspired to try techniques and ideas that we think will help you reach your audience. Booking our services means you have access to a whole team of creatives anxious to find the best way to make your video stand out. Call us today to find out more.

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