06 July 2013

What's a Creative Lens?

While regular lenses are referred to as lenses, the less contrasty, less sharp, and less well corrected glass one puts in front of a camera is most often called a creative lens. Admittedly, creative sounds a lot better than crooked or broken or awkward, but how do optics fit the claim to be creative?

Double Glass Optics
In fact, it is you, the photographer, who has to be creative to get the best out of your new lens (-baby). Some think it's way more demanding to shoot a creative lens than a regular one. There is pretty much nothing left to
automation. You have to get the focus right, you have to set the sweet spot right, you have to take care about flare and you should notice that lensbabies are not well corrected at all. Once you mastered the challenge you're rewarded with a unique look, and you'll never rely on automatisms ever again. 

It's quite remarkable that many lensbaby shooters are women. Despite the common believes that women would need automation to master complex technology such as a DSLR camera, lensbabies perform very well in the hands of women who create most stunning images by using the sweet spot in a very intuitive way.

Maybe this is the fascination of lensbabying: pictures gain dimension just because of the unobtrusive way pictures are made, and by the selective focus lensbaby optics provide. There is the subject in the sweet spot and soft blur takes care of the more mundane parts of the scene. One doesn't have to consider all sorts of things before putting the lensbaby into action.

Finding your point of view and putting the sweet spot on your subject is all your image needs. This way pictures become very subjective -- it allows other people to 'look through your eyes' which I think is quite different from the view you create with regular lenses. 

Because lensbabies put you in charge of everything, photography feels more organic with them. After a while, it becomes second nature to bend the sweet spot to where you want it. From there on, you'll create pictures like you never did before. You bring in your personality, your way to look at the world, and this is felt by your audience. It's a much truer way to create pictures than relying on what some engineers though would be right for you. 

Norbert Fürst
This is why this perfect system of awkward optics is such a wonderful toolkit for me. Once I was sold on lensbabies, I sold half of my regular lenses and got all lensbaby optics but the fisheye (yet?). My camera has the Composer Pro attached most of the time and I feel creative when I look through the viewfinder. Maybe that's why they call it a creative lens?