The nervous system gives preferential treatment to objects near the hands that are candidates for action. It is not yet understood how this process is achieved. Here we show evidence for the mechanism that underlies this process having used an experimental technique that maps the use of spatial frequencies (SFs) during object recognition across time. We used this technique to replicate and characterize with greater precision the coarse-to-fine SF sampling observed in previous studies. Then we show that the visual processing of real-world objects near an observer’s hands is biased toward the use of low-SF information, around 288 ms. Conversely, high-SF information presented around 113 ms impaired object recognition when objects were presented near the hands. Notably, both of these effects happened relatively late during object recognition and suggest that the modulation of SF use by hand position is at least partly attentional in nature.