How to Create Surreal Photos

It’s no secret that we love creating surreal photos, so when Lensbaby offered us a chance to try out their Creative Effects Kit, we jumped at the chance to see what the Composer Pro lens could do.

When I received the package in the mail, I admit I was a little intimidated. I set it aside until Scott and I visited family in Northern California over the holidays — when I knew I would have more time to play around with the kit.

The Creative Effects Kit comes with four interchangeable optics – Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic and Pinhole / Zone Plate. Each optic produces a different creative effect and you can bend the lens to make each effect more dramatic or move the focal point to a different area of an image.

It was a cold and rainy day in Northern California, so Scott and I threw a couple of umbrellas in the car and headed north toward the apple orchards that I so fondly remember photographing for my high school black-and-white photography classes.

While staying dry in the car, it took about thirty minutes of watching a few Lensbaby instructional videos online before we felt ready to test this baby out.

The following are three of our favorite optics in this kit and some examples of what they can do.

Double Glass Optic

I’m glad we decided to start with the Double Glass Optic because I think it’s the easiest one to get the hang of using. We inserted a f5.6 aperture ring and started playing around with the bend of the lens.

Finding the focal point and focusing when the lens is straight was fairly easy, but once we started bending the lens, it took some getting used to. When you bend the lens, it changes the focal point. For example, if you bend the lens to the left, your area of focus will be closer to the left-hand side of the photo.

Or to the right…

The Double Glass optic is great for portraits and I can already tell we will use it quite often.

Plastic Optic

I wasn’t sure if I liked the Plastic Optic at first. It just looked like everything was out of focus and getting your subject in focus has always been so firmly ingrained in my brain after years of practice and photography classes.

I tried it again on a foggy day in San Diego and this time I used a larger aperture ring (f4). I noticed I could get a portion of the photo somewhat in focus, but once I started to let go and not be too picky about it, I began to have a little fun with this optic.

I really like taking flower shots with the Plastic Optic. They look like paintings and I bet if I had them printed on canvas, not many people would know it’s a photograph. It makes me think of the movie, ‘What Dreams May Come.’

The Plastic Optic seems to do well in overcast and foggy conditions and creates a very dreamlike look to your images.

Pinhole / Zone Plate Optic

The Zone Plate Optic is another one that took a bit of practice before I liked any of the results. The purpose of this optic is to create soft focus images. Sunny days or a tripod is suggested when using either the Pinhole or Zone Plate settings since you are shooting at f19 (Zone Plate) and f177 (Pinhole) apertures.

The Lensbaby is a unique addition to any photographer’s kit and I can’t believe we waited so long to try it. Have you tried any of the Lensbaby lenses?

We received a complimentary Creative Effects Kit from Lensbaby — to test and review. As always, all opinions are our own.

Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in San Diego. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Scott, since 2006. Join them in their quest to find off-the-beaten-path destinations by signing up for weekly emails and following her on .