Lensbaby Velvet 56



I’m very happy to share this post! A while back this amazing company called Lensbaby contacted me to ask about possibly beta testing a lens they were working on. Since I already own a few lensbaby products, I was very excited to see what they were designing! When they told me about the lens, I was even more excited. This is EXACTLY right up my alley. I adore old lenses, and I’ve got quite a collection going, so I knew this lens was going to make a huge impact on my camera bag and my work! I love this company so much you guys, they are all that is good in the photo industry, and they listen to their customers without compromising their products. Check them out they have a ton of great lenses!


Models, friends and family, please enjoy the images (don’t forget the pixieset gallery at the end to see more!) Photographers, I will be offering as much information as I can throughout, but feel free to ask me any questions!


Without any further delay, my first images from the gorgeous Lensbaby Velvet 56 f1.6:


This first set was taken using the nikon D750, after that I switched to the D3x and I will explain that as we go along. Unless otherwise noted, I preferred to shoot wide open at 1.6 to get the most effect.

I LOVE shooting children, so it was very important to me to know that I could easily control my manual focus and fast. That focus ring is SO smooth, this 2 year old is fairly patient but I can’t believe how easy it is!

At first I was sad because this image was almost perfect, but then I got over it because we haven’t lost the idea of what this image is telling. I discovered the lens is more challenging to control in backlit situations. Challenge accepted!



This is a great example of the different apertures. The one on top was wide open at f1.6, while the one on the bottom was around f4. Take note of how sharp the wide open image is! I was floored. I’m also happy to not lose the effect at F4, perfect for this type of scene with some bokeh.


This was shot with a Fuji S5. This camera has a cropped sensor, so while I lost a bit of the effect around the edges, it still has a beautiful quality to it.

Here we have some of my favorite lighting ever, I was anxious to see what it would do in this situation, I was not let down! Here I have started on the D3x. That camera body has an old quality, not sure how else to describe it but the files are just.. not so digital. Not so crisp. Pairing it with this lens just made sense!

Still with the D3x for this but the sun was going down and this was the last frame…

One of the absolute best things about this lens? I feel like I can shoot straight out of camera. I didn’t for this project because there was so much learning to be done, but I would feel confident shooting in Jpeg mode as the files only needed a bit of contrast to be ready. I love the feel of this image, it reminds me of my Grandmother’s senior portrait. I dig that. Shot with the D750.

I’m back here at my studio with some awesome light and the D3x. From here on out that is all I’m using. I went back and forth between f1.6 and f2 with this model. This is f2.

F1.6, for obvious reasons. I need to make a note here that I’ve not had to do skin retouching. This lens is SO forgiving. I adore the way things just “fall off” the radar and your eye is pulled right into the part of the image that you want to see.

This image is about f8 or f11, something really stopped down because we were creating motion and I had to slow down my shutter A LOT. I’m not sure how much of the effect we can see (the background does work but it was so cold when I shot this) so I will revisit this shot when I have better circumstances!

This is at f2. It’s just so delicious.

We are back at f1.6. Look at that sharpness and yet we still have that lovely fall-off…

This is wide open, and I really wanted to get to the point where I could shoot backlit! I do not hate this image at all, but it’s definitely artsy, and not always appropriate for everything. I would totally shoot this again at a wedding or something, but I need to know what it takes to make it work.

Here we go! I stepped a little closer and kept F1.6, I got a little better this time and it’s totally blowing off the edge but that’s fun for me! I stopped down to F4 to again, see what it would take, and I love them both. See how sharp that glass is?

I just really love that soft effect, focus is dead on the eyes and so sharp…

Side note: when I heard the lens was reminiscent of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s eras, I planned mostly everything around that. Most of the dresses are vintage, this one below was worn by Kaitlin’s Grandmother on her first date with her Grandfather. It makes me all kinds of warm inside!

Things I would use this lens for: Boudoir, models, seniors, babies, children, weddings, nature… I can keep going. So versatile!

I told my amazing hair and make-up artist that I wanted Ramona to channel Pricilla Presley after I saw the dress she was bringing.. I think we got there! Thank you Sarah! Check out her page Looklush Beauty on Facebook!

I’m obsessed with this image! I had this vision the moment I saw the dress and I love that we pulled it off so quickly, Ramona and Tyler knew exactly what I wanted!

Even with 2 people I am getting away with f1.6. You can own that aperture if you want to!

I can see this being my knew go-to lens for bridal portraits. No joke, can’t get over this amazing….

I told you I love working with kids, these two beauties have been so patient with me over the years, I love working with them! And since it is warm in Arizona, I finally got to take it outside!

I want to take a moment to talk about the focal length here. 56? I mean, why? I don’t even know but I LOVE it. I’m not big on 50mm. I feel it’s a tad distorting if you get too close, so my favorite portrait lens in my good ole 85mm. I have several of them haha! but this, this is a game changer. No distortion! It’s designed to be a macro lens as well and those engineers have worked hard to make this lens pretty amazing in any facet. I don’t need extra length because I have the effect.

Here we have another example of f4 vs. f1.6. In this top image we aren’t losing the effect, it simply isn’t as pronounced.

I really dig what this lens does with sun flare, you can minimize it a bit by capping the lens, just depends on the look you are going for!

That soft light through her hair… LOVE!

I might have stopped down a tad more if I wanted them all a bit sharper, but I NEEDED to see what this lens does. And it does make a pretty sweet photo of three siblings together at f1.6. Own it!

Arizona has their own coldness in the winter which is highly exaggerated when you go on top of a mountain. Bless their tiny souls for bearing with me during this coldness! They were greatly rewarded I promise.

That bokeh!! Swoon! I cannot wait to explore more with lights and trees… come on summer!

This girl right here…. rocking it out at f1.6. Taken in their living room with a sliver of window light, I was able to completely ignore the background. I didn’t touch the background at all.

I will end with this series. Maternity? Yes please I’m all over that. look how forgiving! No skin retouching I swear!


I want to express a huge amount of gratitude to the fine folks at Lensbaby for this wonderful opportunity! I was beyond honored to be asked and am still completely shocked at the generous way they have treated me and the other testers throughout this process. Again, go to their site, check out their Facebook page and get you some fancy lens! Tell them I sent you.

To all my models: you give me life!! I could never have done this without you and from the bottom of my heart I thank you! I have promised you more images and you can view them here. Much love you to all! xoxo

  • Anne said:

    Wow - some of those images are to die for Rachel!! Beautiful work!!

  • Amazing work! I just purchased my Velvet 56. The excitement for it to arrive just got 10 times worse. Thank you for being so open to share!