"Macro Art In Nature"

Explorations in the artistic world of macro photography.

Photography. What The Lensbaby “Should” Force You To Do!


I have noticed some questions about the “Lensbaby” on various forums, and there almost always seems to be something lacking within those conversations about this tool.
All of the talk is about ease of use, “hey, … take a look at my pics” without much thought behind them, what can one do with it, etc., … but it seems the most important subject is rarely talked about.The one thing that the Lensbaby “should ” force you to do, (and is great for a beginner in my opinion), is that it forces you to decide what is the most important part of the subject that you are viewing, and it “should” give one a higher sense of “composition”.


© 2007 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited

Recently, … or pretty much ever sense the Lensbaby hit the market, some of images created with the Lensbaby seems to have very little composition, which is so important to capture and hold the viewer’s attention. The Lensbabies are absolutely wonderful for abstracts, but even with some abstracts, and depending on the subject, some should have some type of compositional flow to it. There are those images that I have seen that have varying composition, little that really captures my attention, … and some may even be distracting to the viewer! A big glob of color is sometimes what I see. Now, … a big glob of color can make a wonderful abstract, but it seems to me that it works best if there is at least some kind of flow with one or more of the colors, …… at least! But often that can be missing as well!

The image above is a simple image to create with the Lensbaby. Here you see composition, and a composition that has a flow about it that makes it easy for the viewer’s eyes to follow. I focused my attention on the top portion, while letting the bottom portion to simply “fall where it may”.


© 2007 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited

The second image is one that needed a bit more time and thought put into it. These cyclamen flowers were shot in a high-key lighting. I wanted the main area of the flower to be fairly detailed yet soft, colorful. The rest of the image was washed in bright light, and I wanted that to be almost a total blur. You can see that at least the main area has some detail, (you can tell what it is), and the rest that is in a blur at least has some “compositional flow” to it. It moves your eyes, … not leaving one’s eyes to play about all over the place and not knowing if or where to settle down within a “big glob of color!”


© 2007 – Michael Brown
* Copying/downloading of images is prohibited

So again, … the Lensbaby is a great tool to have along with you while out in the field. It is a great tool not only for nature type images, but for weddings, certain types of journalism, commercial, etc. Sure, you can do a lot of this type of selective blurring in Photoshop, but the Lensbaby can help train your eyes, to help them to see the composition, to force you to think and work with that composition, and then forcing the eyes and your mind to selectively choose what is the most important part of the scene that you are viewing, thus leading you in the important direction of how to enhance the entire image for overall impact and appeal!

Take care everyone, … now to answer some of your questions on these other posts. (I keep getting so far behind!) :)

“Macro Art In Nature”

February 16, 2007 - Posted by | abstract, art, blog, botanical, canon, composition, Digital, DSLR, fauna, Fine Art Nature Photography, flora, flowers, hiking, horticulture, insects, landscapes, life, macro, Macro Photographer, nature, Nature Photographer, outdoors, paintings, Photo Blog, photoblog, photography, photoshop | , , , , ,


  1. probably the best photos I’ve seen taken with a lensbaby… most of them make me dizzy, and as you say have nothing to ‘anchor’ them.. they just don’t have that ‘punch’ that your other abstracts have.

    Comment by Cindy | February 16, 2007

  2. I have to agree with your opinion.
    I haven’t taken the time to get a Lensbaby yet, but I’ve been doing some experimental editing in Photoshop (that looks very similar to those effects) and I have to stop myself and ask at times, am I “blurring and shaping” for the sake of “editing” or for the sake of composition to improve upon an image.
    Of course, this goes with any sort of “off camera” manipulation that I do, but I don’t see any reason this can’t be applied to lenses and actual shooting as well…

    Comment by solphoto | February 16, 2007

  3. Cindy, Sol, … thanks!

    Yes Cindy, I think that it is the “punch” factor that many individuals will overlook. If it be that the individual simply does not take the time, or not use to using the Lensbaby, … I don’t know. Easy to overcome though!

    So right Sol!
    You know, the only problem I have with doing this type of blurring in Photoshop is to obtain that “gradual & perfect” transition with the blur. If you have the image to small on your screen, it is hard to tell if the gradual transition of the blur is perfect or near perfect. Then if you have it to large, … well you know the rest of the story. You really need a 4ft wide screen to work with! :)
    Doing that type of blur for a client who wants a wall mural is very very tricky.
    At that size, … man can you ever see if the transition is gradual or not!!!

    Still, ….. I love a good challenge!

    Thanks again for visiting,

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 16, 2007

  4. Nice shots and great tips. The advice you give for composition techniques and thinking about what you’re doing are great with or without the Lensbaby. I don’t have one yet, but I may pick one up when I’m feeling un-inspired.

    Comment by Brian Auer | February 16, 2007

  5. I love the softness of these images. Using the Lensbaby requires practice to learn to use it with the type of skill you have shown here. Just goes to show how it’s not so much the tools but the person using them! Had you not talked about the Lensbaby, I would never have guessed that’s what was used.

    Comment by Roberta | February 17, 2007

  6. Brian, Roberta, … thanks guys! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 17, 2007

  7. […] Brown at Macro Art in Nature has some great composition techniques in his post titled “What The Lensbaby ‘Should’ Force You To Do.”  Though the tips use the Lensbaby as the subject, the tips presented are useful whether […]

    Pingback by Epic Edits Weblog » Blog Archive » Lensbabies, Lighting, and Batching | February 17, 2007

  8. Love your images! I agree with you. I can’t afford myself a Lensbaby for now, but I’d really like to get my hands on one, sooner or later :) Just to experiment. I’ve tried to obtain the same effect in PS but as you said it’s really difficult to get a smooth blur.

    Thanks for visiting my blog :)

    Comment by sil | February 17, 2007

  9. They are all interesting, but I just love the last one.. :)

    Comment by Natalie | February 17, 2007

  10. Just curious Michael – are you using your lightbox as the lightsource for these? These are gorgeous. I have found the Lensbaby a neat tool, but difficult to master – which you obviously have. I’ll have to keep pluggin away at it.

    Comment by Mark | February 17, 2007

  11. Thanks again everyone!

    Mark, for these I simply sat them on a white picnic table outside in a very bright but still hazy light. I had two small reflectors on each side of the flower for most of the shots.
    For the second one that you see, I wanted to get some light down into the flower. I did not want it to dark compared to the rest of the image.
    So for that, I used a small mirror to direct some light down in there. Still, I had to dodge it just a pinch in Photoshop, … maybe around 10-15% or so.

    Personally, … I love these high-key type of images!

    Thanks again guys,

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 17, 2007

  12. Mike, thanks for the reminder. I have LensBaby, but I don’t use it too much, for the reasons that you stated. I see too many shots that are just bad, but taken with the LB and I don’t want to follow suit. I’ve had a few good images that I’ve taken with it, but not a lot.

    After seeing your images, it gives me a few ideas that I may want to try tomorrow morning when I go to the gardens to shoot.

    Comment by paul | February 17, 2007

  13. Go get’em Paul! :)
    Get the creativity flowing, and show us all a few of them.
    Will check you out tomorrow!

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 17, 2007

  14. salam ana bahboko ktir ana

    Comment by yassmin | February 18, 2007

  15. Hello Mike,

    I wanted to thank you for posting this very thoughtful and informative essay about using a Lensbaby. In truth, the Lensbaby as a photographic tool is still very young, in the sense that photographers are just beginning (in my opinion) to develop a more mature aesthetic around the device.

    It is delightfully easy to create a different type of image with a Lensbaby. But more thought is required to understand what types of images are enhanced with selective focus, how to compose with selective focus, and how to use selective focus to create a compelling photo.

    I hope your essay is the beginning of many more discussions of how to use a Lensbaby thoughtfully to create beautiful art.


    Sam Pardue
    Lensbabies, LLC

    PS – the second image really grabbed me!

    Comment by Sam Pardue | February 19, 2007

  16. Yassmin, … Sam, … many thanks!

    And thanks Sam for that bit of perspective with the Lensbaby.
    Glad you liked what you have seen, and hopefully someway, somehow, I can enhance this style of shooting even more using this wonderful little tool!

    Time for a second round of coffee this morning! :)

    Thanks again for visiting,

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 20, 2007

  17. Nice shots, Mike, and I completely agree with you. The second image is lovely. Even when not in focus, the Lensbaby gives a nice blur, not looking like a “normal” lens does when it is out of focus.

    I’m a proud papa of a 2.0, 3G and macro kit. When I first got my 2.0 I used it all the time. Mostly at f/2.8. The lensbaby taught me more about composition than anything else I did. Read books, study photos, etc. I think it would be a great tool for photography classes. It makes you think before you shoot. For the record, you can’t duplicate a Lensbaby in Photoshop, due to it’s ability to bend and capture different focal planes, even at f/2.

    However, using it all the time also taught me that it doesn’t work in every situation. Selective works several ways. I always have it with me and I am getting better at deciding when to use it. I also think the Lensbaby is great for portraits. Especially on location. I can take your portrait in the bathroom and get a pleasing background. Not that I suggest that. :)

    Sam…I’d like to see the LB forum get a little tougher. It’s one of the reasons you don’t see me around much anymore. It’s gotten busy and fast and it’s a little “cozy” for me. I’m afraid to go against the flow and add some constructive criticism. That said, it’s a great place for newbies to learn and build a little confidence. It helped me a ton. The fact that you allow us to have big galleries on a free forum is awesome. I would like to see more of a group format, instead of one constant thread. I’d be willing to shell out some cash for a gallery. I’m sure when you and Craig started Lensbaby you didn’t realize how big and popular that forum would get. It’s a compliment to your lens and class act organization.

    If you can afford a DSLR, you can afford a Lensbaby. The original goes for $100 and at that price is a steal. Only $50 more for a 2.0. Don’t let price fool you either, I get high quality prints from my Lensbaby shots.

    Comment by AJ Schroetlin | February 20, 2007

  18. Thanks AJ for stopping by and leaving many wonderful thoughts and ideas.
    I for one, would most certainly back some of the suggestions made on a different and/or varied forum over at LB.
    I think it would be very cool!

    Comment by macroartinnature | February 23, 2007

  19. Hi guys,

    I appreciate both AJ’s recognition that the Lensbaby is not for every shot as well as his suggestion that the Lensbabies Friends forum involve more constructive criticism. We will be looking at ways to do this in the near future. The more conversation like this the better. Lensbabies can be dangerously addictive, so discussion on when to use them, and when not to, and how to use the lens to best effect is certainly very healthy!


    Comment by Sam Pardue | March 2, 2007

  20. This is great news Sam, … and I for one, most certainly will participate in a forum such as this you mentioned.
    Only good can come from it! :)

    Comment by macroartinnature | March 2, 2007

  21. […] – Unwanted Highlights In Your Photography? 5. Rose Stamen – 50mm Reversed Lens 6. What The Lensbaby “Should” Force You To Do! 7. Adding Space To A Image In Photoshop Using The “Free Transform” Tool 8. Michael Brown, […]

    Pingback by Top Ten Posts From “Macro Art In Nature” Since 2005. « "Macro Art In Nature" | December 27, 2009

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