Lens Wacking – detaching your lens for interesting video flare

by planetmitch18 Comments

Always looking for things that are different, we now bring you ‘lens wacking' – and some of you may have done this back before we had the Canon EOS 5D Mark II manual control firmware and didn't know it was ‘cool' LOL. Lens wacking is simply shooting with the lens detached from the camera so that light can possibly flare from the rear lens elements and thru the sides.

We talked with Daniel Peters (twitter acct) who first showed us his experiments with lens wacking and he's given us quite a lesson (as you'll see below). First up, to give you an idea of what the video effects are of lens wacking, Daniel's latest experiment called “Bertie and Princess”.

Redrock Micro

Bertie and Princess from Daniel Peters on Vimeo.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon L 16-35mm 2.8
Canon 100mm Macro 2.8
Zeiss 50mm 1.4
Light Craft Workshop Fader ND MK II
Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly
Glidecam 4000 HD

Bertie (Horse)
Princess (Horse)

Artist: The All American Rejects
Song: The Wind Blows
Album: When The World Comes Down

My Bro's girlfriend always goes to the Stables to go Horse riding and look after them, so today I asked if I could tag along and do some filming. Without the Fader ND every shot would have looked terrible especially since I love a shallow depth of field look.

The wheel barrow scenes I tried some Glidecam shots with a…ha 50mm at 1.4… and to me they came out great. I love the glidecam for the price and cant wait to get a vest and arm for it.

I also did some more Lens Wacking style that Im too addicted to haha.


Here's what friend of planet5D Daniel Peters had to tell us about his experiences with lens wacking:

So going from online research, I think this look originally started from David Lynch but for me it happened by accident.

At the time I was looking around to try and create a good looking lens flare, the typical horizontal light streak across the screen but always looks cool in the right Music Video. I know there is some 4×4 filters but I haven't found any good ones yet so I had to figure out a cheapish way of doing so as I cant afford Anamorphic lenses and its so hard to find a good Kowa lens around.

So I came across this trick that Rich Lee does in his Music Videos and what he did for the ‘I Wanna' music video by The All American Rejects…where is puts a fishing wire, sewing type wire on the back surface of the lens to create the flare when bright light hits it.

I won't go too much into this as were discussing Lens Wacking but as I was doing this trick I accidentally left my camera on and notice a cool look when the lens was held to the camera but not locked in. So I did some online searching again, came across the David Lynch thing somewhere and then came across this cool guy in the UK where I am at the moment called ‘James Miller'. The video on his page was ‘Set Free'

Set Free from James Miller on Vimeo.

We shared a few messages back and forth discussing this look and watching his pieces on it was amazing so I had to try this look out too.

Now like most things, my first attempt wasn't too great ha…you can watch it here:

Wack a Canon from Daniel Peters on Vimeo.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Zeiss 50mm 1.4
Canon L 100mm Macro IS 2.8
Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3x
Shoot35 Cinefocus
Artist: Kings Of Leon
Song: On Call
Album: Because Of The Times

Just like any piece of gear and style, you get better at it the more you do it…only problem is, god knows what this might be doing to your sensor letting all that light in. But yes it is very addicting. Main reason I love it and its like a cheap tilt-shift/lens flare effect without being able to afford a Tilt-shift lens or doing it in post. I'm very much DIY type of guy where I need to make it look good first thing so I know what I have to play with. Don't get me wrong effects are amazing but I just don't like to sit behind a computer all day messing with things…waiting for your files to transfer and do a great edit takes long enough ha.

The way I like to use the Lens Wacking technique is to use it as if it was another lens in your bag. This shot I wanna use the 100mm Macro, this on Lens Wacking, 16-35mm here etc….plus not everyone does it…YET, so It gives your videos that tiny bit extra of a unique look that people might not know what it is yet.

Here are some of my Latest Lens Wacking Videos:

Pedigree Commercial (not official)

Billy Gregory (Dance The Night Away Music Video)

Here is a great video James Miller did for his meet up at the DSLR Philip Bloom :

London Meet – up with Philip Bloom:

London Meet-up with Philip Bloom from James Miller on Vimeo.

Great, London's Piccadilly Circus meet up. Lots of great characters. Not a lot of footage, to much chin wagging.

Thank you to all the nice people.
Sorry Nel 😉 – ‘The Umbrella Shaker'

Shot with the Canon 5Dmk2, using the detached lens method. As I have had many requests on methods here are the general guidelines.

You need to start with a non canon mount lens, like a nikon f-mount or M42.
If you try this with a canon mount you won't be able to get the back focus right and not get infinity focus.
Once you have your non canon mount lens, M42 work the best as they don't foul the camera body when you try and swivel the lens.

1/ Start by setting the camera to live view.
2/ Open the aperture fully on the lens and set the focus to infinity.
3/ Hold the camera body to your chest with your right hand.
4/ Pickup the lens with your left hand. (50mm or wider work the best).
5/ Still with the left, hand hold the lens tight up to the body of the camera with your thumb and index finger whilst pinching the middle finger of your left hand, causing the lens to rock on this pinch. (Note: How much middle finger to pinch depends on the amount to back focus the lens)
6/ Try and use your left hand palm to act as a hinge that allows the focus to be adjusted by changing the gap between the lens and the body.
7/ Change the shutter speed as desired.
8/ If your worried about dirt or dust getting on the sensor 1/ Don't do it. 2/ Cut out some good optical quality polyester film like Melinex and fit it under the camera bodies lens mount, on top of the contact pins. Has to be good quality otherwise you will get blooming on highlights. You can also use ND filter film acting as a dust blocker and filter. (Filters on the rear of the lens are very forgiving).

• Don't try and focus using the focus ring on the lens.
• Only change the focus ring slightly away from infinity to adjust the back focus that will cause you to decrease the gap between the lens and the camera, thus blocking extreme light from entering the camera (if needed).
• Have fun.

More examples of whacking:

Music: Eros – Ludovico Einaudi

James almost made a tutorial on how he create his look:

Final Cut Pro – 3 Way Colour Grading from James Miller on Vimeo.

Final Cut Pro – 3 Way Colour Grading from the London Meet-up with Philip Bloom

Before, after and side by side shots.

The Camera picture profile is Neutral and the sharpness all the way down, contrast down 1 and sats down 1.

If you drag the ‘Color Corrector 3-way' from the Effects Window to your Browser Window, rename if you like then ‘Ctrl' click ‘Open In Editor' and replace the code with the my link.


Whew! What a long post! Hope you enjoyed it – it seems to be pretty complete tutorial on lens wacking – or do you have something to add? Sound off below in the comments!

Our thanks to Daniel Peters for helping put this together!

(Photo credit: snap from the video)

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


  1. Pingback: Create Analog Lens Flares on a DSLR with ‘Lens Whacking’ - NoFilmSchool

  2. This is so refreshing! A camera are such a creative tool but limited by what we are taught. Koodos for digging deeper and letting the image reflect your style.

    Love it!

  3. Pingback: Cool Lens Flare by Lens Wacking. « Video Deconstruct

  4. Pingback: Everything You Wanted to Know about Lens Whacking, but were afraid to ask...

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  7. Why are so many of these videos like “Wack a Canon” all set to private and I can’t see them?

  8. Awesome collection of videos and tutorials. It’s a fantastic effect once you get the hang of it. You can also throw pre-made light leaks onto your timeline and change the blending mode. If anyone is interested in trying it out we have some free light leaks available on our site: lightleaks.me/pages/free-light-leaks Thanks!

  9. Taking the time and
    actual effort to produce a superb article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and don’t manage to get
    nearly anything done.


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  12. Hey guys.
    If anyone is interested, check out www.Lensbender.net
    Its a universal lensmount designed to make freelensing a whole lot easier.

    The Lensbender suspends your lens securely in front of the camera body, allowing a range of movement and flexibility and giving you an extra hand for aperture adjustment and focus-pulling.


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