In addition to iPhoneography I occasionally take out my digital Fujifilm or my analog Olympus OM10. Using traditional cameras with detachable prime lenses I came across a technique known as freelensing. I haven’t as yet tried it with my digital camera but instead loaded a roll of film in my analog and had a play.

A change is as a good as a rest and as much as I enjoy iPhoneography, having a couple of other camera choices gives me the chance to play and experiment and sometimes the results get me thinking…

How could I achieve that with an iPhone?

I used the following 2 analog freelensing images captured on black and white ISO400 film as my reference images and set about trying to replicate the look using pure iPhoneography.

Freelensing - analog example 1

{ analog freelensing – example 1 }

Freelensing - analog example 2

{ analog freelensing – example 2 }

Freelensing traditional process and key points

Freelensing is shooting a photograph with the lens detached from the camera body. You focus by setting the lens to infinity and tilting and moving the lens in one hand whilst controlling the camera and pressing the shutter in the other. The effect of this is to change the flat focal plane to a tilted one. As a result areas that would traditionally be in focus move out of focus and generate some interesting effects. It is I guess a free version of tilt-shift or lensbaby photography but with less control.

I did come across adapters to actually attach SLR lenses to an iPhone. I guess therefore it is theoretically possible to do this with an iPhone and some lenses. The adapters though cost hundreds of dollars / pounds and that really isn’t a viable option for me. Therefore, with no option to detach the iPhone lens, I was left with post processing options. Initially I thought about simple tilt-shift apps / processing but these tend to result in blur rather than a reasonably convincing out of focus ‘bokeh’. The following is how I went about trying to copy the effect of my reference images.

iPhone photography apps used:

iPhoneography - freelensing

{ freelensing }


Process and apps used

Hipstamatic ~ initial capture. Normally where I anticipate significant processing I start with a pure image out of ProCamera. However, this Hipstamtic image struck me as suitable for the experiment so I went with it:

Filterstorm ~ as always crop and resize at the earliest opportunity. This crop is just to lose the border and resize to 2,000px x 2,000px to give a good resolution size for printing:

Snapseed ~ ‘Structure’ and ‘Sharpen’ both boosted by around 25pct:

{ image one }:

AfterFocus ~ with no masking of focus areas, the entire image is moved out of focus by the maximum possible blur amount, with a round aperture and bokeh selected. The bokeh option gives the traditional dramatic out of focus highlights (circles in this case) for light specs and is why I chose AfterFocus rather than a traditional tilt-shift app / function to help create the effect:

Photo FX ~ ‘Wide angle lens’ selected and strength adjusted to suit the image. This action pulls the edges of the image outwards and therefore creates the distorted bokeh circles I was looking to replicate from my reference images:

{ image two }:

Superimpose ~ Image one imported as background and image two imported as foreground. A Bi-Linear Gradient mask is applied centered over the subject’s right eye (as we view). The gradient mask is extended to blend out left and right gradually hiding the out of focus foreground image and introducing the focused background layer. Additionally, the gradient is set to be slightly off vertical, angled marginally from top left to bottom right. The images are blended under normal with maximum opacity:

{ image three }:

This mask is a critical step and defines the focal plane created by the freelens effect. This screen grab shows the focal line and its extent clearly:

Superimpose ~ Image one imported as background and image three imported as foreground. A rectangular mask with a maximum blurred edge is applied to the left side of the image. The Photo FX ‘wide angle lens’ process has distorted the left side of the image too much for my purposes. I therefore correct this by reintroducing the detail from image one (the focused image) but blurring it to match the out of focus nature expected. I avoid areas of circular bokeh:

At this point I have what I regard as my base image and can now proceed to process it as I see fit. The processes above have replicated the freelens effect quite well I think and now it’s time to have fun.

Mextures ~ I really enjoy creating my own Mextures formulas. However, for the purposes of this image the standard ‘Rothko’ formula is added. There is a subtle hint of light leak and freelensing may introduce light leaks to a lesser or greater extent. There are also hairs and dirt effects and whilst you would normally try to avoid these issues freelensing increases the risk of introducing dirt onto the film / sensor:

Snapseed ~ initially the standard ‘Drama’ filter is applied under standard settings. I then convert the image to black and white using the film pre-set but reduce grain levels to 25pct:


Update: ‘freelensing’ republished by The App Whisperer

I was honoured that my iPhoneography workflow ‘freelensing’ was republished by The App Whisperer.

We’re delighted to republish this fabulous iPhone photography freelensing workflow by Paul Brown. We’ve also just published a Day In The Life Interview with him and he is commonly featured within our weekly Flickr Group Showcase which represents outstanding mobile photography from around the world, weekly. He’s a wonderful mobile photographer and one that loves to share the craft that we all so love. You’ll really love this – many thanks to Paul and over to you.

Joanne Carter

View this iPhoneography workflow at The App Whisperer.

Thank you Joanne!


Update: ‘freelensing’ republished by Mobiography Magazine

I’ve known Andy Butler for quite some time now and am a big fan of his Mobiography blog and magazine. When Andy approached me to request permission to republish my image and workflow I was honoured to allow him to bring my freelensing tutorial back from the archives.

At the time I had no idea my tutorial would feature alongside some of the best mobile artists on the planet and that Andy planned a special promotion for his magazine. It is a real privilege to feature in this special issue. Please read on.

Issue 7 is an AMPt special (Advanced Mobile Photography Team) and amongst the usual high quality articles the winning entries from a recent AMPt mobile photography challenge are featured.

I was honoured to be one of the AMPt appointed judges. The images in this edition are inspirational and for me aspirational.

These images were contributed by some well known names who are amongst the best mobile photographers on the planet. Whether you are new to mobile photography or an experienced practitioner this edition will absolutely blow you away.

Thank you Andy.



Mobiography Magazine – special offer

Mobiography is normally a paid for magazine (and well worth the subscription in my opinion) but the quality of mobile photography is this issue is exceptional. Andy is offering a one month free trial for a limited period. To take advantage of his offer and access the magazine download Mobiography from the app store, open it and tap subscribe, then tap ‘current subscriber’ and enter the special promo code MOBIMAGAMPT1.


Please retweet and share the love for all the artists.


About Mobiography Magazine.

Mobiography magazine is a digital magazine available on the ipad and iphone which focuses on the subject of mobile photography. Available on the Apple newsstand this bi-monthly publication includes a broad selection of articles and features covering interviews with leading iphoneographers, tips, tutorials, mobile photography accessory and app reviews which cater for all levels and interests.




Update: I have published a second freelensing workflow introducing a couple of new ideas and methods. Please take a look if this as an area of interest.


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  1. Geri says:

    Fabulous tutorial Skip – I can’t wait to try it!

    • Skip says:

      Hi Geri, thank you very much. I’ll be keeping an eye out for some results but please feel free to tag me if you get round to giving it a try and have anything I might miss.

  2. Livingsta says:

    This is an awesome experiment and the results are fantastic. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Have a good weekend!

  3. Jeffrey Simpson says:

    Outstanding issue. Big thank you for featuring one of my photos. I am honored to be included with such talented artists.

  4. Jeffrey Simpson says:

    Great free lens tutorial Paul. Very informative. Great work.

  5. Eitan says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing and for the promo code.
    Always great to try new things 🙂

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