Introduction: Lensless Photography

It's amazing how light can transform our perspective.

This instructable will explore the interaction of light with everyday objects and hopefully reveal some of the secret beauty it contains.


- DSLR, 35mm, or any camera you can remove the lens.

- Broken or sacrificial lens to protect the camera sensor during use.

- Flashlight or other light source to expose the image

- Transparent object that will be placed between the light and the camera

- Dark place to take photos

Step 1: Building a Lensless Adapter

A lensless adapter will protect the camera's inner components from contamination.

This method uses an old lens and a UV filter.

You can find a lens for cheap listed as "For parts or not working". Just be sure it's compatible with your camera body.

It may be possible to shoot without the adapter depending on your camera model and your level of comfort.

Step 2: Disassemble Lens

You will need some precision screwdrivers to remove the tiny screws holding it together.

It's a good idea to have a clean work station with a place to put all the delicate lenses, screws, bits, and pieces leftover.

We are seeking the back plate that mates to the camera body and the front bezel which the UV filter will thread onto.

An aperture tab was trimmed on the back plate to allow the pieces to sit flush. You may choose to use other parts of the lens in your build as necessary.

Step 3: Reassemble Lens Components

Our adapter needs to mate with the camera body and be removed when necessary.

The first version of this was made with super glue and duct tape, and it continues to be functional. This improved version was made with a mixture of epoxy and fumed silica.

Be sure everything is clean and sealed before attaching it to the camera.

Step 4: Modify Light Source

We need a small, point source of light to get the best detail.

A bright flashlight can be covered so just a small hole is left in the center. The hole should be about 1/16" or 1.5mm in diameter.

Be sure there are no light leaks as this could compromise the image.

Different light sources will have distinct emission spectra. Filters can be used in front of the light to enhance a particular color. In one experiment, we cut out a piece of polarizing film and used a circular polarizer filter on our camera. This allowed us to maintain a dark background field.

This Flashlight Adapter was laser cut from a heavy paper material and taped on the front.

Step 5: Finding an Object

The object you choose will have a dramatic effect on the outcome.

Transparent things like glass and plastic will bend light with refraction.

Opaque objects will create a shadow, but the light will bend around the edges with diffraction.

Some of the left over lens elements create great results when held at oblique angles. Trying new combinations of materials is always the exciting part.

Step 6: Setting Up the Shot

Working on a table will make aligning everything easier. A small tripod or bean bag helps keep everything stable.

The light should be aimed straight at the camera. It only needs to be a couple feet away, or less than a meter.

You can experiment with the distance between the object and the camera.

Keeping the object still in front the camera is key for sharpness. You may need to prop it on top of something or rig some type of holding device.

It will need to be dark to get good contrast between the light and the background.

Step 7: Exposing the Image

Looking through the viewfinder, you will only see a blank field of light. Move the object in front of the camera until it's in a good position.

The camera settings will vary greatly depending on the light and the object. Be ready for longer shutter speeds to pick up some of the faint details.

Use a shutter release cable or a self timer to prevent motion blur.

Step 8: Making a Color Wheel

Filtering the light source can help you get the effect you want. It needs to be held close to the light to maintain sharpness.

Many LEDs emit a lot of blue light, so using a yellowish filter can create a more balanced spectrum.

The Color Wheel was made from Acrylic, Vinyl, and Color Gel Filters. The small motor is commonly used in microwaves to rotate the bottom glass tray.

Step 9: Reflecting on the Results

Removing the lens from your camera is like exploring the depths of the unknown.

Finding an interesting object can feel like discovering a new deep sea creature.

You never know what's out there.

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