Stephanie DeFranco is a portrait photographer and storyteller based in New Mexico. She loves working one-on-one and finding the stories hidden within each person and place.

The most asked question I tend to receive from people… If I was to purchase a Lensbaby, which one do you suggest I start with?

Ya’ll. That’s like asking me who my favorite child is. But you guys know I’m going to answer.

Backstory time: A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Keri at Lensbaby asking if I would be interested in joining a few Lensbaby Artists in a “Challenge Playbook”. The team over there has put together a few projects for the group to shoot and post what we’ve chosen to create. Being that I want to stay creative and always push to create, of course I wanted to participate! This blog, however, is kind of a mix of the challenge, plus a topic Keri and I had discussed at WPPI that got me thinking.

Back to the original question, which optic would you choose as your entry into the world of Lensbaby. When I first picked up the Double Glass (sweet spot effect with a 50 mm focus) in the Composer Pro, I just couldn’t get the hang out it. I tried shooting with it and while nothing seemed to work for me, I got discouraged and put it on the shelf. Several months went by and I tried it again in hopes that something magically changed. Still didn’t like the results I was getting so back on the shelf it went. I think it was about a year before I tried it again, but this time I had purchased my Sigma 85 1.4 and was LOVING the way that I was able to create with it. Enter the Lensbaby Edge 80. I had received a couple of emails about this new optic coming out and I knew I had to give it another chance. Went to WPPI, tested it out at the booth, and fell in love with it. I was still having a few issues trying to find my happy spot with it but with time, I found that I just preferred this effect and focal length better than the Double Glass. Because of this, I was able to start branching out into the effects and got better and better at nailing the focus.

Why the back story? The first challenge I decided to participate in was the “Dust off a lens you hadn’t used in a while.” Being that Lensbaby has since come out with the Sweet 35 & Sweet 80, I wanted to see which one I was more comfortable shooting on with the effect that I use the least. I started with the Sweet 35 and it was difficult. I know that I’m not a wide angle portrait shooter so finding the balance between where I should stand and the angle I need to be to create the most flattering photo was hard. My model, Elvia, was so sweet and patient when I started getting annoyed that I wasn’t achieving the look I was used to. After about 30 mins of shooting with the Sweet 35, I was over it and ready to put on the Sweet 80. I instantly could tell this was my happy spot. I knew exactly where to stand and how to create the best light. It just felt more comfortable in my hands and mindset while shooting with it.

So now comes the hard question. What optic is the best to start with? Do you prefer a different focal length to have that option of creativity difference, or should you start on something you know you’re comfortable with? Looking back at that those first two years of not using my Lensbaby, I have to wonder if I had started with the Sweet 80 or Edge 80 if I would’ve picked it up quickly and not been so frustrated.

Tip: The below photo is in the same spot just shifted over about a foot to allow sun flare.

Can you tell a difference?

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