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© Ute Reckhorn

© Ute Reckhorn

Storytelling with Velvet 85 | Holly Awwad


  • 3 min read
Storytelling is such a powerful part of photography! The ability to capture a moment that draws you in and engages your imagination without words or motion. As a talented visual storyteller, Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

After a walk through a pretty park, we found ourselves at the beach. The wind was making beautiful waves and it wasn’t long before my daughter took off to start throwing rocks in the water. This is one of her favorite things to do at any time of year. I always enjoy stepping back and watching her throw with all the might her little body can muster.

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Since the Velvet 85 is a Macro Lens, I love how it allowed me to zoom in close and capture beautiful details and shots of the nature around me, without having to switch lenses. I also appreciated that opening up the lens resulted in a beautiful, nostalgic glow and incredible bokeh… especially when shooting the water!

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

I loved playing with the aperture on this lens to see the different effects I could produce. In this next series, I opened the aperture up wide as my daughter walked along the beach. Note the dreamy blur and the incredible foreground bokeh from the light shining on the water. The glow gives these images such a timeless feel for me… almost like remembering it in a dream.

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

To Glow or Not To Glow ~ That is the Question

I’ve heard frustrations from others about not loving the “Glow” this lens adds to images. I think this is due to the fact that many photographers that normally shoot wide open grab this lens and attempt to shoot with it the same as they would any other lens.

I have personally found that for storytelling and portraits, I like subtle or no glow in my images. This can be achieved by stopping down the lens. I also love the glow that the Velvet 85 gives macro and nature shots when shooting wide open. I normally always shoot pretty wide open for storytelling and portraits. On a regular prime lens, I usually shoot between f 1.8 - f 2.8 depending on the number of subjects in my frame. With the Velvet 85, I choose an aperture of f 4 - f 5.6 for storytelling and portraits. I still get great isolation of my subject and dreamy bokeh, but I also get more sharpness and less glow than I would get if I were to shoot wide open.

The narrower the aperture (greater f-stop number), the less glow!

The wider the aperture (smaller f-stop number), the more glow!

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Embrace Imperfections

One of the things I love most about this lens is how the beautiful glow and blur makes every frame interesting and emotional. The textures and movement seem enhanced by the velvety tones and ethereal atmosphere. This is also a manual focus lens, which leaves more room for error… especially with moving subjects. This means that some images won’t be tack sharp, especially when wide open. This wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, because emotion, nostalgia, and authenticity are the most important elements to me in my storytelling.

Holly Awwad Lensbaby Velvet 85

Give it a Week… or Two

Since Lensbaby Lenses all produce different effects and handle differently, I always commit to shooting with a new Lensbaby daily for at least 1 - 2 weeks. This allows me to experiment and really get a feel for what the lens has to offer. And, as with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you use a lens, the more it becomes an extension of your vision and a part of your voice. Give this lens a try for a couple of weeks and I promise, you’ll fall in love with it as I have.

All images shot with the Lensbaby Velvet 85.
About Holly Awwad

Holly is a natural light photographer who lives with her husband and 3 daughters in Michigan. Her style lies somewhere in a gray area between lifestyle and fine art photography. She is drawn to capturing authentic emotion with brilliant light and thoughtful compositions. She loves using rich colors and light in creative ways to shape her subjects and create a mood. Holly shoots with a Nikon d750, and a variety of prime and Lensbaby Lenses.

Check out more of Holly's work on Instagram.
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