Author: Karen Roberts

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software.

 Advantages to processing and developing your photos in the digital darkroom.

In today’s world, everything has to be instantaneous, there’s an app for everything, from monitoring your sleep to counting your calories.  We live in an instant world.

So, when it comes to Digital Camera Photo Editing SoftwareWhy?” I hear you say, would I want to bother when my camera or smartphone can take images which can be uploaded within a few seconds of being taken?

Using the Lensbaby Optic Swap System, having the capabilities to post process my images to create what I have visualised is priceless.  This is one of many reasons that I choose to use digital camera photo editing software.

As covered in my previous article (Click here for more information) most D-SLR cameras have the capacity to capture images in RAW mode which cannot be uploaded to your social media account but has the maximum amount of information in a digital photo for quality images.

This is where Digital Camera Photo Editing Software comes in.

This article is not intended to review photo editing software but instead, to help you grow your creativity as a photographer.  Everyone has their own opinion as to which is the best software, so I will leave that down to you to find what suits your needs.

A little bit of background information first of all.

In 2007, for my birthday I was lucky enough to receive a D-SLR in the form of my trusty Olympus E400.  I was a newcomer to digital photography, quite happily working in auto mode and snapping all of my photos as JPEG files.  As my confidence with the camera grew, I found that I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the images I was producing.

The Photography Institute provide a fantastic online course, covering every aspect of digital photography which was exactly what I was looking for.  So I signed up and over the following 8 months, completed the 12 modules and received my Diploma in recognition of my progress.

As a part of this course, you are expected to work with photo processing software.  Possessing a very early version of Adobe Photoshop Elements, I was armed and ready…or so I thought!

The first stumbling blocks appeared when asked to perform certain tasks as a part of the course – I couldn’t follow what was expected of me, or it took a lot longer and was a frustrating time.  I contacted my tutor and it became apparent how much had changed from Elements to Elements 8, which was the current software at that time.  Oops!

A swift purchase from Amazon rectified this and the rest, as they say, is history.  I was able to complete the course and realised that my idea of getting perfect images straight out of the camera was perhaps, too idealistic, being limited also by the presets that the manufacturers deem to be the benchmark for photos.

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software

Part of this course touched on Digital Camera Photo Editing Software and the importance of the digital darkroom as an introduction as there are numerous stand-alone courses offered by multiple different providers which delve much further into this.

To get the best quality image, it is highly recommended first of all to take your photos in Camera RAW.  From this, you are then able to import these into the computer and open using the digital camera photo editing software.

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software
Adobe Photoshop on Apple iMac

Personally, I use Adobe CS6,   Within CS6 there are a host of programs which include Photoshop and Lightroom.   This was the final edition that you could buy to install onto your home computer before Adobe launched their Creative Cloud system.

Whilst I see the advantages of this for portability and saving space on your hard drive, I also see the disadvantages, which if anything happened to Adobe’s server which hosts your files, could be catastrophic.  If you use cloud storage of any sort, it is worth backing up your cloud files locally to a storage device just in case.


With digital camera photo editing software, you now need to establish your workflow routine to create shortcuts or presets to help you maximise your efficiency without impeding on your creativity.  There are many suggested ideas on the web, you will find your own workflow method as you gain confidence with your digital camera photo processing software.

Digital Camera Photo Processing Software
Opening RAW file with Photoshop (.ORF file extension)

The first part of your workflow will be to import your RAW files into your digital camera photo editing software.  From here you have the capacity to make many adjustments, to increase or decrease the exposure, adjust the clarity, crop, straighten and pull detail from the shadows.

As shown in the image below of Alfie, our cat, his eyes are not very well lit, there are a lot of shadows and dark areas present within this image which can be altered within my digital camera photo editing software.

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software
Adjustment sliders within the Editor mode.

And now the fun begins!

You can also apply a vignette, create an atmospheric black and white image, add noise/grain, create a masterpiece by adding layers, take multiple photos of a scene and by stitching them together turn them into a panoramic view.

For portrait photos, you can perform dodge and burn techniques to give greater depth to an image, or if you have used the flash in your photo, you can then remove the red eye effect.  The potential for creativity is limited only by your imagination and vision.

Adjusting the shadows, increasing the clarity and adjusting the exposure value slightly has lifted the image of Alfie.  Post editing, I have then selected the create Black and White image option as you can see in the screenshot below.

Alfie, post editing and converted to a black and white image.

Once you have finished your editing, personally I would recommend that you save the open files twice.  The first copies will be TIF files, the next will be in JPEG format.  A TIF file is too high a quality for uploading onto the internet but if you are turning your hobby into a business, are of the resolution that you would show to prospective clients within your portfolio.  The JPEG files can then be showcased on the internet.  Don’t forget to add a watermark with copyright information onto the JPEG files to protect your work.

It is worth mentioning here that a lot of camera manufacturers produce their own digital camera photo editing software which is included with the purchase of your camera.  Olympus, for example, supplied their Olympus Master Software with my E400 camera.  I have to confess that my experience with this was limited, having Adobe Photoshop Elements initially, progressing onto my current software within CS6.

There are numerous digital camera photo editing software programs freely available to download from the Internet.  Gimp is one which comes highly recommended, although again I have no experience of, I know people who have worked with this and are completely satisfied with this program.

Photo editing can be fun, relaxing and gives you something to do on a rainy afternoon.  If you ensure that you do not overwrite your original RAW files, you are able to revisit the same photo many times over, applying different editing techniques and effects, which is also a great benchmark to show you how your skills have improved.  It is also a great way of reviewing your work which will help you to improve as a photographer in the future.

For anyone using a mobile phone to take their photos, there are fun apps such as Snapchat which put a twist on the photo, but if you are looking for a more serious effect, Adobe Lightroom is currently available as a free download for mobile devices which I use on my Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and am very happy with the results.

With the use of digital camera photo editing software, you may then feel inspired to make some money from your hobby by becoming a freelance photographer, having your first image published is a wonderful feeling.

Digital Camera Photo Editing Software
The finished image with copyright applied as a watermark.

Please feel free to comment on what experiences you have with photo editing and I hope that you have enjoyed reading my article on Digital Camera Photo Editing Software.



RAW v JPEG Myth?

RAW v JPEG Myth or fact?

This is a contentious subject within the realm of digital photography, what type of file format should you take your photos in?  RAW v JPEG Myth or fact?

I’m not here to lecture you, only to explain the differences in these two types of file format.  The right choice is what works best for you.

Expanding on the RAW v JPEG Myth

Most D-SLR’s have the option to change the mode that the images are saved as within the camera.  The default factory setting is likely to be JPEG.  This is an excellent choice for someone who is new to photography, to enable them to get used to other settings and controls on their camera.

The file extension JPEG derives its name from the Joint Photographic Expert Group as a standard for images.  Full details can be found here for those of you interested in the background and technical information; it would be pure plagiarism for me to go in-depth to that degree.

However, to summarise the information on Wikipedia, JPEG files are flexible, you can determine what quality you wish to save your file as, which in turn determines the size of the file in storage terms.

This is illustrated in the photos above, the image on the left showing you how many photos I can store on my E400 using the lowest quality JPEG file, the one on the right, the highest quality RAW file.  This is using a 16Gb CF Card, the largest that my trusty E400 can handle.

However, as you have probably worked out, lower quality files take less space but have a lower quality or resolution.  Whilst this is ok for social media and websites, if you were looking to be a professional photographer selling your images, you would want better resolution.


If you put your camera into RAW mode, the first thing you will notice is just how few images you can save onto your memory card compared to JPEG.  However, the file size has increased dramatically.

The reason for this is that in RAW mode the camera captures everything to the highest possible degree.  Typically on my E400, each RAW file is between 8 and 10Mb!  That’s a lot of pixels and data.

Sounds great?  The major drawback with a RAW file is that it is too large to upload onto the internet in its native state.  A lot of websites will not recognise a RAW file either.  So what do you do?

I would take a step back to the days of the SLR camera as discussed here and think laterally – a RAW file is like 35mm film – this film required processing in the darkroom to produce first the negatives, then the prints.

A RAW file needs to be ‘developed’ in the digital darkroom into a usable file format.  I use Adobe CS6 which has Photoshop and Lightroom within the package, however, there are many different software options out there, including bespoke software which comes with your camera and those which are available freely or at a lower price than Adobe.  CS6 has been superseded by the Creative Cloud plan, not something I am a fan of, to be honest.


Within Photoshop I can then make many adjustments to my RAW file to create my final image.  This can be simply a process of opening the RAW file and then saving a copy as a low-resolution JPEG with no edits, or applying the sharpening tool, desaturating the colour to create a ‘black and white’ image or applying a vignette.

These edits are partially possible with a JPEG file, however, you are starting with a file which doesn’t have as much basic information as a RAW file.  The professional photographer will then save 2 versions of the edited file, as a TIF and JPEG.  The TIF file is a quality between JPEG and RAW and is a format understood by most programs.

A RAW file will take longer to save to the memory card within your camera than a JPEG, due to the size of data being written to the card.

Another downside to RAW files is that because this file type (e.g. Olympus are .ORF) cannot be read unless you have the codec or photo editing software, you cannot upload onto social media sites directly from the camera, (a lot of modern DSLRs have built in WiFi and can upload instantly) you have to do the processing as described above, which in today’s instant society, is a huge drawback.


However, as illustrated above, most DSLRs have the option to save both the RAW file and a JPEG file simultaneously, the JPEG file can be ready for immediate upload onto the web, the RAW file can be processed in the digital darkroom.  But this does restrict the number of images as you can see.

Personally, I always shoot in RAW, then edit my photos.  I find this therapeutic and a great way to reflect on my work.  I find flaws that weren’t immediately obvious and can be more critical of my work rather than being caught up in the moment.  I can then also revisit my RAW files and apply different processing methods, to create fresh images.

RAW v JPEG Myth?

Hopefully, I haven’t lectured you too much and you will take your camera out to try shooting images in RAW to then see for yourself which you prefer.   Do you feel that the RAW v JPEG myth is still contentious?

Happy clicking!

Kaz 🙂

What is a DSLR Camera?

What is a DSLR Camera?

What is a DSLR Camera?Back to basics – What is a DSLR Camera?

To help you understand more about what is a DSLR camera and get more from your system.

What is a DSLR Camera?

DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex.  The digital part of this is self explanatory, but Single Lens Reflex?

Until the late 1940’s, there were two types of camera system available.  They are called Rangefinder and Twin-Lens Reflex systems.

What is a DSLR Camera

The Rangefinder typically has the viewfinder above the lens, which can make accurate focussing and composition of the photo difficult with close up shots.  This type of camera led to the evolution of the compact camera, nicknamed point and click.

A Twin-Lens Reflex camera has two lenses mounted in parallel one above the other, giving a figure of 8 appearance.  These tended to be expensive, for professionals only and typically heavy and cumbersome.  Not something that you would take to the beach for the family holiday snapshots!

The revolution in photography came along in the form of what is known as the SLR or Single Lens Reflex system in the immediate years following the end of WWII.  (It is worth noting that the first SLR camera was produced almost 80 years ago now!)

This system works differently in that there is a mirror and prism within the camera body.  The light comes in through the lens, bounces off the mirror up to the prism which then reflects the image through the viewfinder on the back.

What is a DSLR Camera?

When you press the shutter, the mirror lifts up, allowing the light to make contact with the light sensitive film loaded in the camera whist temporarily blocking the viewfinder.

For photographers world wide this was a break through, being able to compose their images in a very different manner than they were used to.

The other advantage of the SLR camera is that they do not have a fixed lens, they are interchangeable depending on the subject being photographed.  This led to a number of companies producing some great optics.

SLR camera manufacturers then, as technology changed and improved, effected changes to their cameras, including TTL – Through The Lens metering for correct aperture exposure.

With the advent of the Digital age and microprocessors, the niche of photography was ripe to develop and embrace the digital format we now accept as the norm.

A better understanding of What is a DSLR Camera?

The current form of DSLR is not that much different in looks or initial overview of operation.  The lenses are interchangeable, there is a mirror which reflects the image onto the prism for you to compose your image through the viewfinder.

What is a DSLR Camera?

However, the 35mm film has been replaced by a sensor which lies behind the mirror, there are processors within the camera performing multiple calculations based on the settings you have dialled in.  Most DSLR’s have an LCD screen giving live view and an instant review of the image taken.  Pretty amazing huh, when you think about it?

What is a DSLR Camera?

With 35mm film, you were limited to the number of exposures on the roll of film, typically 24 or 36.  You also needed to find a decent developing laboratory to process your films, wait a week and to a degree, hope that you got something decent in return for your efforts.

But with DSLR technology, all of the waiting in anticipation has gone, the capacity to check each shot in the camera, deleting substandard images, modern storage cards that are used in a DSLR can hold thousands of images; the restrictions of the past are just that!

The lenses themselves are also digital, made of glass and electronics.  They communicate with the camera body through the lens mount, enabling you to set the correct values for the exposure you are looking for to create your photo.

As discussed here there are numerous camera manufacturers producing bespoke systems which are not interchangeable.  Standardisation is not something which is in the interests of the big corporations, failing to realise the potential for increased sales.

Technology has moved on again with the introduction of the mirrorless system, reducing the camera body in size.

It is interesting to follow the evolution of the camera, I wonder where it will go next?

Thank you for reading this article and I hope it gives you a better understanding of What is a DSLR.

Happy clicking!


Kaz 🙂

What is Manual Mode?

What is Manual Mode?

What is manual mode?What is Manual Mode?

In the third part of this series we take a look at What is Manual Mode to make the final step towards creating better photos.

By now you should have read my previous articles about Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority and realise that the camera in your hands is far more capable of creating wonderful images using these modes.  I would like to explain What is Manual Mode and encourage you to experiment with your photography.

Many people (myself included a few years ago) assume that the Auto setting on the dial is the best mode for their camera; this is designed by the manufacturers so why mess with it?

There are many situations that as a photographer you will find yourself in that calls for creativity, the lighting may not be so great, you may only want a very shallow depth of field or to make a portrait stand out want wonderful bokeh in the background.  Auto mode will struggle to do these effectively.

Using either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority will improve your skills to create your photo in challenging circumstances but understanding and using the Manual mode will, with time and practise, produce photos that are unique, crafted by you.

Down to the nitty gritty then – What is Manual Mode?

What is Manual Mode?

By turning the dial to Manual, you are now taking control of the camera settings.  By this, you will now be responsible for setting the shutter speed, F-stop (aperture) and ISO.

The ISO is something we have not really touched on before.  This sets the amount of grain or ‘noise’ in an image.  The lower the ISO equates to maximum clarity.  However, you may want to create an antiqued effect image, with lots of ‘speckles’ or grain.  For this effect you would select a high value of 1600+.  Also, with using a higher ISO, you are then able to take photos in low light conditions without the need for artificial lighting.

So, with Auto firmly switched off you are going to have to think about the following:

  • What kind of photo do I want to create?
  • What do I see?
  • What are the lighting conditions?

I would recommend that you get into the habit of setting your camera as follows in Manual mode:

  • Shutter speed 1/125
  • Aperture F8
  • ISO – 100

What is Manual Mode?

This is a good base to start from.  The shutter speed can be increased or decreased depending on the subject matter and the aperture depends on what Depth of Field you are aiming for.  The ISO can then be set dependent on the values used for shutter and aperture and type of photo you are visualising.

What is Manual Mode?

It is a good idea to get into the habit of checking your camera’s settings before you take photos, as you may have forgotten to change a value when you last used it.  I have done this one or two times and have been very disappointed when I realised this.

What is Manual Mode?

Looking through the viewfinder at the camera’s display, by pressing the shutter release half way you should get a visual indicator to show what exposure you have with the settings.  The plus symbol or the bar being too far to the right means too bright, over exposed.  Highlights will be blown out.  Too far to the left or the minus symbol means not enough light, under exposed.  Shadows will have little detail.

What is Manual Mode?
Image through the viewfinder of my Olympus E400. The value of -4.3 indicates under exposed, too dark for the correct exposure.

You then are able to adjust the shutter, aperture and ISO to correct the exposure value.  A lot of photographers also refer to the camera’s built-in histogram, which indicates whether an image is not balanced.  However this is not appropriate all of the time, but is a good guide.  The histogram can be found by referring to your camera manual and can be used to examine an image that you have taken.

I learned a valuable lesson from the photography course I completed a few years ago.  To better understand my camera, I took 3 photos, 1 deliberately under exposed, one over exposed and one at the correct exposure value.  Using Adobe Photoshop Elements, I was tasked with trying to then pull the photos back, learning what my camera’s capabilities are.  I now know how far I am able to push my camera before the image is unusable.

As you become more confident and accomplished with your camera you will not even realise you are running through a mental checklist, you will start to be able to select the correct values in your camera to take carefully crafted photos in your own unique style.

What is Manual Mode?
Views of Snowdonia.

Thanks for reading this, I hope that this article inspires you to try taking photos manually.  Please feel free to leave any comments below about your experiences.

Happy clicking!





What is shutter priority mode

What is Shutter Priority Mode?

What is shutter priority modeWhat is Shutter Priority Mode?

& when should I use it?

In the second part of this series I would like to explain what is Shutter Priority Mode and suggest some appropriate uses for this mode.

To examine what is shutter priority mode, set the dial to S on the camera.

What Is Shutter Priority mode

As explained here, I would like to help to encourage you to move out of Auto mode on your D-SLR and become a more accomplished photographer, crafting your own images through the settings within the camera.

Shutter Priority (S)

This mode does exactly what it says – it prioritises the shutter speed over the other settings in the camera, compensating by adjusting the aperture and ISO values.

The ‘shutter’ on a D-SLR is the mirror, which lifts up to allow the light through the lens onto the sensor, creating the photograph.  They tend to make a definite ‘clunk’ when in operation.

You can set the speed of the shutter on the dial.  This is based on the time that the shutter is open allowing light onto the sensor.  The measurement of this is a fraction of a second, for example, 1/125.  The shutter is open for 125th of a second, or 0.008 seconds – that’s pretty fast!

The range of shutter speeds depends on your camera, ranging from 60 seconds to 1/8,000 of a second!  The mind boggles at 0.000125 seconds!  Micro time!

Bear in mind the average blink of an eye is the equivalent of 1/3 of a second to help give you some perspective on shutter speeds!

Ok, I now know what is Shutter Priority Mode but when should I use it?

Have you ever admired photos of waterfalls, where the water is milky white?  That’s due to the image being taken using a very slow shutter speed, which then gives motion blur.

what is shutter priority mode waterfall
Slow shutter speed = motion blur

Or conversely, do you follow a fast paced sport, such as motor racing?  Using a fast shutter speed allows the photographer to capture the high speed movement of the car keeping it in perfect focus.

You may want to capture the movement of the water using a faster shutter speed, reflecting the more natural state of the waterfall.  It’s your choice.

The advantage of shutter priority mode is that you do not have to worry about setting the aperture or ISO – the camera makes the necessary adjustments to ensure that the image has the correct exposure, leaving you to concentrate on your subject.

what is shutter priority mode fast shutter
Fast shutter speed = a moment frozen in time

In Auto mode, either of the subjects above would be very difficult to capture effectively, a lot of cameras have ‘scene’ modes which will be based on Shutter or Aperture Priority – Sports for example has a fast shutter speed setting for fast paced photos.

But where is the fun in that?  Why not craft your own images, adding your own stamp of creativity!

It sounds daunting and difficult, but it is all too easy to remain within your comfort zone.  By pushing your boundaries, you will begin to then discover your own potential as a photographer, taking ownership of the images that you create.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you take the time to have a browse around the other pages in this website.

Please feel free to add any comments or links below to your own photos taken in shutter priority mode.

Happy clicking!



What is Aperture Priority

What is Aperture Priority and Why Should I Use it?

What is Aperture PriorityWhat is Aperture Priority? Have you ever looked at the mode dial on the top of your D-SLR and wondered what the other settings are outside of auto?  Within this series of introductions I hope to help you on a voyage of discovery.

What is Aperture Priority?

Quite simply put, within this mode, the aperture that the camera is adjusted to is the primary setting, the camera will then calculate the shutter speed and ISO.

I’m still unsure – what is Aperture Priority!

Fair enough – took me a while to get my head around the settings and how they work!

The aperture of the camera can be likened to the pupil of the eye.  Ever noticed that in very shadowy, dark environments, the pupils of the eye dilate, growing bigger, but in very bright conditions they contract into a very small dot in the middle of the iris?

This is due to the amount of light that is being passed through the eye to the brain, making sense of the world around us.  The body needs to stay safe, therefore if the ambient light is very poor, the pupils dilate to allow as much light in as possible to ensure you don’t trip over any unseen hazard.

Aperture numbers also work backward, the larger the number, the smaller the aperture.  Typically, aperture values range from F2.8 (large opening) through to F22 (very narrow).

Ok, I get that, but how does this explain what is Aperture Priority?

The camera needs to see in the same way as the human eye, to make sense of the world around, the sensor of the camera needs a specific amount of light to capture the image.

However, Aperture Priority (AP) allows you to set the aperture to meet the various conditions that you encounter in your travels, allowing you to create your unique image in your style.

In AP, the camera will then determine the shutter speed and ISO value to create the image.  You should be aware that this may result in a very slow shutter speed being achieved.  It is recommended that for any shutter speed below 1/60th that the camera is mounted on a tripod to avoid camera shake and disappointment.

Aperture is also very important in creating stunning images due to the Depth of Field.  Like the pupil of the eye, the larger the aperture (F1.4), things in the distance are going to be out of focus, blurred, but the foreground to be pin sharp.  Great for close up portrait shots.What is Aperture Priority and why I should use it

As you can see in the portrait snap of our cat, Alfie, his face is in focus, the eye on the left being the point of focus, his body and the background are out of focus.  This was taken using a Sigma lens with an aperture value of F1.4, matching Alfie’s pupils!

Working with a very small aperture (F22) the foreground will remain in focus as well as any objects in the distance.  Great for landscape photos.

It is also worth noting that dependent on your camera’s capabilities, in AP mode, a high ISO value may result in a very grainy, noisy photo.  Whilst this may be appropriate for some photos, a portrait of a new born baby which is grainy probably wouldn’t be the right subject.

A lot of photographers recommend AP as their preferred method of taking photos, which I think is a great way of easing yourself away from auto, a gentle transition toward manual mode.

It is also the suggested setting for using the Lensbaby Optic Swap System taking some of the pressure off learning to create beautiful, diverse images.  The Lensbaby system uses magnetic aperture discs which are simply dropped in front of the optic.

What is Aperture Priority and why should I use it

Due to the aperture discs, the automatic setting in the camera will not work, therefore you have to tell the camera what aperture you are working with, it then calculates every other setting as previously described

Some people (and everyone has their own opinion) would argue the point why bother?  Surely the Manufacturer’s Auto setting is more than up to the job?

Whilst they try their best to achieve great results in the auto mode, you will find as you become more confident within your photography that this has limitations, the image it captures doesn’t reflect what you saw.  This is where AP (and other modes) come into their own, allowing you to express your creativity.

In the day of 35mm SLR film cameras, the photographer crafted their photo, taking a light reading, ensuring the correct exposure for the shutter speed.  Using the dial on the top of the camera, you set the ISO to the value on the film canister and you created an image.

This is what I am hoping that you will do by taking your first step away from auto and discovering what is Aperture Priority.

Happy clicking!


Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review January 2017

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

Lensbaby Optic Swap System ReviewLensbaby Optic Swap System Review January 2017

My Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review is based on my experiences using a Lensbaby Composer mounted on an Olympus Four Thirds Camera, the E400.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System ReviewWhat’s in the bag?

The Lensbaby Optic Swap System comprises of three interchangeable optics as listed below

  • Plastic Optic
  • Single Glass Optic
  • Pinhole/ZonePlate

Included with this are the aperture discs in a case which incorporates the magnetic tool to remove them from the optic.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

The Mount.

The Composer works on a simple idea of a ball and socket.  You manually focus using the focussing ring on the Composer, to then adjust the angle of the lens you simply twist the locking ring and start to swivel and tilt until the desired effect is obtained.  You then rotate the locking ring to secure the lens and take the photo.

By adjusting the angle that the lens is in relation to the camera body alters the area of focus, creating a small ‘sweet spot’ (as Lensbaby aptly named this) of focus.  You are bending light!  This relies on the lens fitted, as the lens focusses the beams of light onto the camera sensor.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

The Composer is a hybrid of aluminium and plastic and was designed as the mid-range entry into the world of Lensbaby, with the Muse being the entry level and Control Freak as the high-end mount.   Subsequently the Composer has been replaced by the Composer Pro II mount with an all metal body and improved swivel/tilt capabilities.  The Muse came with the plastic optic as standard, the Composer Pro II and Control Freak are supplied with the double glass optic.

The Optics

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

Each optic comes supplied in its own sturdy plastic container, complete with protective lens cloth.  The lid of the container is the optic swap tool, having 3 lugs that lock into place to remove the optic from the Lensbaby mount.

Simply take the lid of the container, adjust the Composer so that the optic is sitting flush, whilst holding the mount securely, locate the 3 lugs into the 3 corresponding slots.  Apply light pressure and twist gently – the optic will be loose of the mount.  To fit another optic, simply drop it into the mount and use the optic swap tool to lock it into place.

The Plastic Optic is the basic lens in the range, giving a very soft focus effect on the images.   The clarity of this can in all honesty be a little disappointing to photographers new to Lensbaby.   I would recommend starting out with the Single Glass Optic to gain confidence and experience.

As mentioned above, the Single Glass Optic is (in my opinion) the better optic to begin your journey, as the glass lens gives a much clearer image.  The closest you can focus with these lenses is 50mm, the maximum is infinity.  The depth of field is dependent on the size of aperture disc inserted, the larger the hole, the shallower the focal point is in the image.

Pinhole/ZonePlate has an ethereal effect and is best used in brightly lit controlled environments, using a tripod for long exposures to allow enough light for the image.  This can take a little time to get used to and work with, but the results are very worthwhile.

As this is not a true optic or lens (see images below) you cannot use the swivel/tilt that the Lensbaby system is known for.  As described earlier, to bend the image, a lens is required for the effect.

The name Pinhole is reminiscent of the early days of photography, with pinhole cameras and long exposure times/slow shutter values.

Pinhole gives an effective aperture of F/177, ZonePlate works at F/19.  It is possible to take photos using ZonePlate whilst out walking, best effects are created using a tripod and in more controlled conditions.

Changing the Aperture

(Or how to adjust your Depth of Field)

Insertion/removal of aperture discs is also something which is easily done whilst you are outdoors, but again with great care.  Inserting the discs is simple – select the aperture you require and drop the disc in front of the optic, F number face up.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

They plastic coated and magnetised.  Inside the optic body are 3 metal ‘retainers’ which secure the disc in front of the lens.  To remove, first take the end cap off the removal tool to expose the magnet and then place the magnetic tool onto the aperture disc and gently withdraw.

The larger the hole, the smaller the ‘F’ number on the disc resulting in a shallow depth of field.  The smaller the hole, the larger ‘F’ number on the disc resulting in an increased depth of field.  In simple terms, if you have an increased depth of field, more of the image is in focus.  The shallow depth of field results in lots of beautiful blurring.

The Lensbaby Optic Swap System is an introduction into the world of Lensbaby, there are other optics available for this system, listed below.

  • Double Glass Optic
  • Sweet 35
  • Edge 50
  • Edge 80
  • Fisheye (complete with bespoke aperture discs)
  • Super Wide Angle 0.42 X
  • Wide Angle/Telephoto Kit

Lensbaby also have the following range of accessories to compliment the system.

Creative Aperture Discs

With the Creative Aperture Disc used, you are able to create images with stunning bokeh, in the shape of hearts, stars and swirls to name a few.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review
Macro Adapters +4 and +10

These are designed to fit on the optic allowing for extreme close up work, allowing for magnification of the subject by +4 and +10.  Coupled with the shallow depth of field and sweet spot, some very amazing photos can be created at this magnification level.

Lensbaby System Bag

Designed to allow you to attach additional bags to as your Lensbaby Optic and Accessory collection grows.  Each bag holds up to 4 of the Optics in their containers and has a zip fastener, shoulder strap and secure pockets on the inside of the top of the bag.

Composer Protective Case

Simply a toughened case, which has a clamshell opening to protect your Composer and Optic.  This has a zip fastener and is padded on the inside.  Highly recommended.

Lensbaby have also written a book on this niche in photography which is available to buy from many online retail stores.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review – in Summary

Although updated by Lensbaby, I am more than happy with my pre-loved Composer, proving the build quality of the mount, locking into position as you would expect.  I have no plans to replace this for the foreseeable future; the reliability of this illustrating how good the Lensbaby brand is.

I am a little unsure why Lensbaby made the plastic optic, as I have never been completely satisfied with the results from this lens.  The Optic Swap System is an affordable, fun way to grow your creativity and skills with whilst you are taking photos that stand out from the crowd.

Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review January 2017

This system is very lightweight, therefore easily carried whilst walking/hiking, swapping lenses is very simple to do on the fly, just be careful not to allow any dust or debris to enter the camera.  It is a very well made, durable system.

To grow my creativity and further my understanding of the Lensbaby Optic Swap System, I have just purchased a Control Freak mount to further feed my passion for that elusive ‘sweet spot’ within the world of macro photography.  This will be fun and I will be sure to share my adventures with you.

For further inspiration please see my previous article


Thank you for reading my Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review.


Happy Clicking!




4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap System

4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap System

Lensbaby Optic Swap System – Seeing in a New Way

So you’ve bought your Lensbaby Optic Swap System and have thought to yourself ‘what can I do with this, what kind of photos can I create?’ Read on for suggestions on 4 ways you can Grow your Creativity using Lensbaby Optic Swap System.

As explained here the Lensbaby Optic Swap System is a different approach to D-SLR photography, as the image bends, so do the rules!

Below there are 4 ways you can grow your creativity using Lensbaby Optic Swap System

This is not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive, merely suggestions to encourage you in the art of using the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and find your own niche.


Ever seen those wonderful photos where the background is out of focus, where the lights are mere blobs but enhance the overall image?  If so, this is Bokeh

The Lensbaby Double Glass Optic is a good choice for creating magical photos, simply select an aperture 4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap Systemdisc with a low number (F2.0) or even just the optic alone.

The aperture relates to the amount of light hitting the sensor in the camera and the focal point of the image, otherwise called Depth of Field  The lower the number, the more light hits the sensor and the point of focus is very shallow, blurring the background.

This is particularly effective for creating stunning portraits, where you would focus on the features of the model’s face, the background bokeh helps to enhance the overall photo.

For even greater bokeh, try the Lensbaby Creative Aperture set.  This is a set of aperture discs, but with shapes cut out in place of the aperture.  Stars, love hearts – all there to help you develop your creative edge.


Looking for that creative edge?  Thought about trying your hand at Tilt-shift photography? Choosing a mount such as the Lensbaby Composer Pro II or Control Freak, combined with the Edge 50 or 80 optics is a great way to produce photos that really stand out from the crowd.  You can use other optics from the range as your confidence and creativity grows.

4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap SystemThis is achieved by choosing your subject matter very carefully.  I have found for best results you are looking for a scene with good depth.  Ideally, you need subject matter in the foreground, mid-ground and background.  Focus on your subject, then start tilting!

Using the ball and socket system on the Composer series of mounts, you tilt and swivel the lens until you have your ‘slice’ which is the selected part of the image which is in focus.  Lock the Composer and using the right aperture for the depth of field, you should have an image which in the ‘slice’ looks miniaturised.  This is due to the angle that the lens has been bent to, creating a very narrow area of the image which is in focus.

This type of photography is great for promotional product images also, used in conjunction with a wide aperture, creating a narrow depth of field can give some great perspective photos.


Back to photography basics with this.  Lensbaby produce an optic called Pinhole/Zone Plate.  This part of the blog focusses (sorry, no pun intended!) on Pinhole only; the Zone Plate is covered elsewhere within this website.

Pinhole is not strictly an optic, as there is no lens, just a very small hole in the housing of what we will call ‘the optic’ for ease.

Subsequently, this does not allow much light in as the aperture of Pinhole is F/177 so very small, hence the name.  This optic gives the 21st Century photographer a chance to simulate 19th Century creativity.4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap System

Due to the very small aperture, the camera needs to be used in a very stable, secure place, such as mounted on a good tripod to allow a long exposure or slow shutter speed, thus avoiding any camera shake.  It also gives best results in brightly lit conditions.  As there is no lens in this optic there is no advantage to being able to tilt the mount as it cannot bend the image.


As strange as it may seem, you hold the key to the 4 ways to grow your creativity using Lensbaby Optic Swap System.  Relax, go with your instincts, let go of the rules, focus on the unfocused and let your creativity take control.  Further inspiration can be found here.

In no time at all you will find your niche with the Lensbaby, your work will become as identifiable as your signature, developing your own, unique style.  You will start to look at objects and scenes with fresh eyes, looking for the ideal tilt-shift opportunity, or soft focus imagery, opening up a whole new world to you!

With your niche firmly created, why not look to make some money from your images?  How to Make Money from Stock Photos is a good guide to helping you find the right platform for your work.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope that these 4 Ways You Can Grow Your Creativity Using Lensbaby Optic Swap System has inspired you!

Happy clicking!





Lensbaby Composer – Double Glass Optic

Dragonfly photographed using the E400 with Lensbaby Composer and Double Glass Optic.

The Lensbaby Double Glass Optic is a highly rated and sought after addition to the Lensbaby collection.  The optic swap system allows for this to be used across multiple platforms, such as the Lensbaby Composer, Composer Pro and Spark.

As suggested by it’s name there are two elements to the Double Glass Optic, with a 50mm focal length, giving a very sharp rendition of the subject in the photo, but by the very nature of Lensbaby, blurring the background offering some wonderful images and effects.

This optic uses both the magnetic aperture discs and the special effect bokeh discs that are available.  These are simply dropped in front of the lens, offering apertures from F2.0 to F22.  They are easily removed with the magnetic tool that Lensbaby supply, which gently eases them out.  It is possible to use the Double Glass Optic without any aperture disc inserted, which gives an aperture value of F1.8, which gives a shallow depth of field.

Used in conjunction with the Lensbaby Composer, it gives wonderful results, using the tilt action of the Composer will offer a new focal point with the sweet spot being to the top, bottom, left or right of the image, as opposed to traditional lenses which are centre focussed.

This is a very good quality optic that should be in your camera bag or on your want list (Christmas/birthday etc.) and will give you outstanding results with photos that are unique and stand out.

Happy clicking!



Lensbaby Composer – Edge 80 Optic

Lensbaby Composer –  Edge 80 Optic is a little different from the others in the optic swap system as it does not require the separate aperture discs supplied with other Lensbaby Optics.  This, doubled with the tilt-shift effect makes it a very good lens to start your collection with as you will build up your confidence with this in no time at all.

The aperture is controlled on the lens, via the built in aperture blades.  This differs from other Lensbaby optics as they have separate aperture discs that you insert.  There are 12 sturdy aperture blades in the Edge 80, from F2.8 to F22 giving a very workable range for the depth of field.

Robin – Olympus E400 and Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 Optic. The focal plane is straight, no tilt and close focus used.

The Edge 80 is a very straightforward lens to work with. It has the additional feature of a close focus lens, which is activated by pulling the ring at the front away from the camera.  This adjusts the focal point as it has moved the lens further away from the sensor.  This can be utilised as a ‘zoom’ lens or, for best effect, a close up or macro lens.  This works best with the tilt angle set to zero, or to maximum of 19º.

Used in conjunction with the Lensbaby Composer, the Edge 80 works very much the same as a traditional lens if the focal plane is in line with the camera.  However, if you unlock the Composer and adjust the angle to up or down, left or right, you then achieve the ‘slice’.  This gives a very narrow depth of field, blurring the background of the image.   With the right subject matter, the image takes on a new perspective; miniaturised, a diorama.

Waterfall, Olympus E400 and Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 Optic. Note that the focal plane is tilted, giving the ‘diorama effect’.

Focusing is as always, via the focusing ring on the Lensbaby Composer, which moves the optics in the lens away or toward the camera.  As stated before, it is very important to adjust the diopter or viewfinder in manual mode (there is an adjustment knob or lever beside the diopter) as this will affect your ability to get the subject in focus.

Due to the nature of the Edge 80, it is a more expensive lens within the Lensbaby range, however good quality used lenses can be sourced via reputable internet marketplace sellers, such as Amazon, Ebay, Gumtree and online camera retailers.  The build quality is very robust and this optic will last you for many years to come.

Happy Clicking!