Adding that wow factor to your photography is something many of us aspire to. There are in fact many routes to doing this, in today’s article you’ll learn ten of these cool photography effects.
Read on to discover what these photo effects are, and how they can be easily applied to your work.
10. Light Painting
Of all the photography effects you’ll read about in this article, this is arguably the most creative. There are several different approaches to this genre. You can divide it roughly into light painting and kinetic light painting.
What’s the difference? With light painting the camera stays still, and the light source moves. With kinetic light painting the camera moves and the light source stays still.
Light Painting Photography Effects
All light painting requires a long exposure, and it needs to be carried out at night. Light paintings can be complex or simple in their execution. You’ll need a tripod, a camera capable of long exposure and then some form of light painting equipment.
The following list includes some examples of light painting equipment you could use.
- Torch – The easiest and most accessible light painting tool. You can use this to make a simple light painting like spelling a word. You could also light paint an object in front of the camera like a car. To do this, aim the light beam at the object, and move it across that object evenly during a long exposure.
- Glow stick – Glow sticks don’t emit too much light, but when it’s dark enough they’ll still be very effective.
- Wire wool – This can be dangerous so take appropriate safety precautions because it can start a fire. Use fine grade wire wool and put it into a whisk attached to a piece of rope or a dog lead. Now set light to the wire wool, and begin spinning the whisk. Many sparks will fly off, and you can capture them in a long exposure.
- LED light stick – Programmable LED light sticks like the pixelstick or the magilight have transformed light photography in recent years.
- LED hula hoop – Not as flexible as the light sticks, but fun to play with are LED hula hoops.
Kinetic Light Painting
The other form of light painting is kinetic light painting. This is a type of intentional camera movement. There are three main forms of this. These are rotation, zoom and random movement.
- Zoom – You’ll need a lens that can have its focal length moved manually during long exposures to do this. Abstract photos are possible with exposures of around 2 seconds. Longer exposures of 20 or 30 seconds will allow the zoom effect to be combined with a static phase.
- Rotation – This works in a similar way to the zoom burst. Now you’re rotating the whole camera instead of zooming the lens. The effect works best when the camera is attached to a tripod.
- Random movement – Rotation and zoom are controlled movements, and as a result, look good. Random movement is a much less exact science. The best way to succeed at this is to plan the movement you’ll make, keep it short and simple. It’s unlikely you’ll have a static phase. But you could try moving the camera from the ball head of a tripod. Then lock the camera in position after you have finished the movement.
In terms of photo effects, this is the proverbial low hanging fruit. It’s easy to achieve, as long as you follow a few simple steps.
The aim is to photograph an object or person against a much brighter sky.
- Select a location where you have a clear view of the sky in the background.
- You’ll want to choose an angle where you’re a little below your main subject. This will place their entire silhouette against the sky.
- If it’s not possible to get this lower angle, look for places with highly reflective surfaces. The sky will be reflected against this and you will still see the silhouette.
- Make sure the light is behind the subject, so sunsets will work very well for this style of photo.
- Line up your photo, and expose for the sky. The sky should be correctly exposed. The main subject should appear as a black shape against this sky.
There are many locations where you can find reflections. The first that comes to mind is a reflection in a pond, but there are lots of other possibilities. Remember to use a circular polarizing filter to enhance the reflections.
- A large body of water – With larger bodies of water you’ll need a day with no wind. Look to use ponds, rivers or even the sea. Get low to the angle, as this will increase the amount of reflection.
- A puddle – After it’s rained, you’ll sometimes find puddles. These allow for great reflection photos. You can also bring a bottle of water with you and create your own temporary puddle. To maximize the puddle to low to the ground, close to the puddle, and use your wide-angle lens.
- Other reflective surfaces – Water is not the only reflective surface! Other surfaces include metal, glass or marble. Modern buildings with reflective glass facades can be great for reflections. How about trying the window on a subway train, this also has a good reflection.
Bokeh is the out of focus part of your photo. You’re looking at ways this part of the photo interacts with your main subject.
Not all backgrounds produce good bokeh. A background of blurry clear skies would be a bad choice here. What you’re looking for instead are lights or maybe sunlight reflecting off tree leaves in the background.
A small aperture won’t work. The background won’t be blurry. A kit lens might not produce this effect. Instead, use a prime lens with a large aperture.
You can create this by covering the lens of the camera with a disc of black paper. Cut a shaped hole in the middle of the disc before placing it on your lens.
You can make a star shape, heart shape or a bolt shape. It’s up to you. Now instead of background bokeh balls, you’ll have lots of background shapes instead!
One of the most unusual camera optics you can use today is the lensball. With the lensball you can capture upside down refracted images within the ball. This is a great piece of camera equipment to have in your bag.
There are plenty of ways you can photograph the ball. The typical way is to use a macro lens, so you can focus on the image in the ball while blurring the background into bokeh.
Through the use of photo filters or sometimes an adapted camera you can take infrared photos. This is the part of the spectrum that you can’t see with the naked eye, so when you get your filter it will appear black.
The filter will let infrared light through, and you can use this to create a dreamscape-like image. When using a filter you’ll be taking long exposure photos, so you need a tripod as well.
This style of photography also requires photosynthesis to be occurring. You’re going to need a bright sunny day.
The initial image produced with this type of photo will be red. To create the desired image you then either need to adapt the white balance in-camera or use further post-processing.
There are so many ways to use long exposures. A few of these have been covered already, such as light painting and infra-red photography. It goes without saying that you’ll need a tripod for this.
The following are some of the things you can do with long exposure photography.
- Traffic light trails – This is a form of light painting. In this case, you’re not controlling the light source yourself. But you can predict it’s movement. It’s typical to photograph car light trails moving along the road. You can also photograph boat light trails as well.
- The Milky Way – You can capture the Milky Way with long exposure as well. There is a limit to how long you can expose for. The aim with Milky Way photography is to correctly expose the stars, without them moving across the frame as the Earth rotates. To do this you’ll need a wide-angle lens with a large aperture. The wider the angle of your lens the longer you can expose for.
- Moving water – Anywhere you find moving water is a potential location to try long exposure photography. This could be waves crashing against rocks or a waterfall. Long exposure will give this white water a misty silk-like look. Flattening the sea is another thing you can do with long exposure. You’ll need to expose for at least 10 seconds to achieve this look.
This effect is the landscape photographer‘s best friend. This is effectively HDR post processing using the manual setting.
With this style of photography, you’ll use luminosity masks in Photoshop with a set of bracketed images. The aim is to balance the light across the frame in as natural and believable way as possible.
If you’re a landscape photographer, this is the photo effect you really must learn.
Now for a photo effect that portrait photographers will love. That’s low key lighting. This is where you make the background black and only light the face of your model.
- A shard of light – In this case, you’re looking to use sunlight to light up someone’s face. This light needs to come through a window, or perhaps a gap in the roof of a market. This shard of light will then make objects hit by it much brighter than areas in the fore and background. You can use this to light up a person’s face, expose for the light on the face, and then make the background black.
- Off-camera flash – With off-camera flash you can achieve a very similar effect. But you don’t need to go looking for a specific shard of light. Instead, you’ll create your own. To do this you’re going to put a snoot over your flash, effectively turning it into a spotlight. Using a black background will help here. You don’t want any light bouncing around your scene.
Panning is the effect produced when you follow a moving object with your camera while using a slower shutter speed. You can pan any moving object, though cyclists tend to be the easiest to get sharp images of.
The faster the moving object is, the faster your shutter speed can be whilst still retaining motion in the background. If you’re panning Formula 1 motor racing cars, a shutter speed of 1/80th might be slow enough. A walking person, however, is likely to need a shutter speed of 1/10th, and a steady hand.
This technique is usually carried out handheld. If the situation allows, you can try photographing from a tripod.
The use of a tripod should ensure smoother motion as you follow the object you’re panning.
There are lots of photo effects you can use in your photography. These are only a few. You might even prefer to use post-processing to introduce other effects not listed in this article.
Have you ever tried any of the effects listed in this article? If you have what were your experiences, and do you have photos to share? If you haven’t, now is a great chance to go out and try something new!
As always we’d love to hear your thoughts and see your photos in the comments section of this article.