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Tutorial: Lensbaby Edge 80 | Learning to see the slice of focus

Lensbaby lenses are manual-focus tilt-shift lenses that allow a photographer creatively explore selective focus and blur. The look they create does not appeal to everyone, however, the images they create are very unique, and a lot of fun to create. I happen to be a huge lensbaby fan. It is the one lens that is always in my camera bag (which means that I bring it daily to my non-photography job, ’cause you never know, right?)

Lensbaby lenses consist of two parts – lens body and lens optic. I have a composer pro lensbaby lens body and a variety of optics which are interchangeable: sweet 35 (35mm), edge 80 (80mm), single glass optic (50mm), pinhole optic, and zone plate optic. By far, my most favorite lensbaby optic is the edge 80. It creates a slice of focus through the frame, blurring out the rest.

When I got my edge 80, i didn’t love it. However, after about a month of shooting all my lensbaby work with the edge 80, it became my favorite lens, and the only optic I wanted to use. I am a very technical shooter with a touch of OCD. If I see a scene, I have a vision of how I would like it captured. If my results don’t match my vision – well, you get the idea. Yes, there is an occasional happy accident, but for the most part, I love control, even when I shoot with my Lensbaby. For me, that meant to learn to control the slice of focus, and to know how to manipulate my Lensbaby so that the results are predictable, and match my vision.

I am hopeful that this tutorial will help someone else to love the Edge 80 too!

All shot with composer pro with Lensbaby Edge 80 optic at f/2.8. I used high-contrast material to illustrate the focus drop-off. The smaller the aperture (i.e. the higher the number), the wider the slice of focus will be.

No tilt – as you can see, great focus throughout the field.


For all tilts below, i will use directions to tell you exactly how my lens was tilted.

Next 2 shots: lens tilted to the left (i.e. WEST)

focusing in the direction of the tilt – as you can see this gives you a narrow slice of vertical focus on the left.

focusing on the right of the frame, while maintaining a tilt WEST – as you can see, this this gives you a wider slice of vertical focus from the middle and towards the right of the frame. interesting, right?

Next 2 shots: lens tilted to the right (i.e. EAST)

focusing in the direction of the tilt – 
narrow slice of focus on the right

focusing on the left of the frame now while maintaining a tilt EAST

Next 2 shots: lens tilted down (i.e. SOUTH)

focusing on the bottom of the frame
 (the fade-off is not even here because i must have had a slight tilt to the side as well by accident.)

focusing at the top of the frame now while maintaining a tilt SOUTH – the difference in the width of the focus slice is not as pronounced as it was when lens is shifted left or right, but still apparent as you compare this shot to the next one)

Next 2 shots: lens tilted UP (NORTH)

first, focusing at the top of the frame, in the direction of the tilt. compare this shot to the shot above to see the difference in the width of the slice.

now focusing at the bottom of the frame, while maintaining a tilt NORTH

so, as you can see, you can achieve focus at the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame in two different ways and choosing where to focus.

– to have the top of the frame in focus you can either tilt NORTH focus NORTH (narrow slice of focus), or tilt SOUTH focus NORTH (wider slice of focus)

– to have the bottom of the frame in focus you can either tilt SOUTH focus SOUTH (narrow slice of focus), or tilt NORTH focus SOUTH (wider slice of focus)


…and now to the fun stuff!

Next 2 shots: tilting SOUTH-WEST:
focus in the direction of the tilt

focus in the opposite direction (NORTH-EAST) while maintaining SW tilt

The next shot has the same area in focus as the previous one, but the slice of focus is much narrower here, because the lens was tilted NORTH-EAST while focusing in the same direction. 


I love how much control you can actually have with the lensbaby!

just some more shots, to “solidify the concept”

tilt NE, focus SW

tilt SE, focus SE


tilt SE, focus NW

tilt NW, focus NW

tilt NW, focus SE


I hope this information will help someone, as it really helped me once I figured it out!


Other links:

My lensbaby archive

Lensbaby Love: The Basics and Beyond – an collection of 3 e-books by 3 talented photographers who rock their lensbaby. Also includes some videos on processing and shooting.

Lensbaby website also has a great simulator that you can play with to see the unique effect of edge 80.

I am always happy to answer any questions. If you have any, please either contact me through the link on the menu bar at the top of the page, or post your question in the “comments” below. Please DO NOT use facebook comments, as I do not get notified when those are posted and will not see your question.

tags: lensbaby edge 80 tutorial, lensbaby tutorial, slice of focus, edge 80

  • Kristen Hyde VonBerg - This is awesome! Just what I needed. I’m determined to figure my edge 80 out instead of waiting for happy accidents. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Ditto! Thank you so much for the tutorialReplyCancel

  • Stacey - Thanks for this info on the lensbaby! I have the edge 50… So similar effects. I struggle to capture focus on the right point of my subject… For example I took a shot of my dog and through my viewfinder thought I nailed focus, but when I uploaded it in my computer I see that I missed and my focus was overshot (in this case to the left) do u have any suggestions/tips on how to nail focus where you want..? I really love my edge 50 and want to get good at it- but this is frustrating!
    Ps not sure how I’ll know when you respond– I’d love an email back just in case I don’t see it 😊ReplyCancel

  • Phil - Thank you for this well planned and thought out learning presentation! You have a knack for explaining things and I, for one, appreciate it! I have a Lensbaby Composer pro and sweet 50 on the way, but will consider an Edge optic as my next purchase. The other sites I’ve visited, including, do not explain it as well as you have here.

    Thanks again,


  • Laura Barsi - Hello there

    I am interested in the e bookscollection you mention:
    Lensbaby love: the basics and beyond
    But the link on your website seems to be broken?

    Can tou help pointing me towards any training to learn how to use sweet 35 (andrelated macro extenders…)

    I have recently acquired these optics and I would love to find a little more guidance!

    Thank youReplyCancel

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