Photographic equipment can be very expensive. We’ve put together these 21 photography hacks to help keep those costs down.
A little creativity will go a long way.
Mixed with some materials and a little effort, you can capture amazing photography. All without breaking the bank.
21. Blank CD Case Is a Lens Rain Guard
Remember when CDs were everywhere? My computer desk was always surrounded by packs of burnable CDs for any music or films that came my way.
The cases they came in housed them well but lost their use once the CDs were used up. What If I told you they had another purpose?
Cut a hole in the top that can fit your lens. Take another cover, cut out a wider circle and leave about an inch of overhang on the sides. Join them with duct/gaffer tape.
20. Use Windows for Softening Images
If you are looking for a softer portrait image, there are a few ways you can do this. Windows are a great tool to use for a few reasons. Due to the layer of glass between you and your subject, the image will come out softer.
Some of the light is refracted when it hits the glass. The two outer surfaces of the window glass add a slight blur due to the diffracted light, which gets bigger with the increasing thickness of the material.
Watch out for reflections, although they can add more texture, and subsequent interest into your shot.
19. Create a Perfect Top-Down Camera Holder
Ever wondered how Instagrammers and photographers capture top-down shots of themselves? You can do this with a tripod and furniture if you want to lay down on the floor.
If you are looking for images of you lounging around on the couch, or even cooking dinner, read on. Use a ladder to reach the ceiling. You’ll also need a long strip of folded cardboard.
Sellotape this to your ceiling to create a platform for your smartphone to rest on. Use a photography app that lets you take a succession of images. Press the shutter and get in position.
18. Cut Shapes In Cardboard to Create Shadows
Chiaroscuro lighting is a synonymous lighting style used in French New Wave cinema. It was a technique best known for its use in Renaissance paintings.
To use it yourself in your photography, all you need is some cardboard, scissors or a craft knife and some creativity. Cut out any number of shapes and lines, and use the shadows over your model.
This photography hack will help turn your images into amazing photography.
17. Capture Highspeed Drops With a Few Simple Items
What you’ll need are a glass, a bowl, straw, milk, a Speedlight and food dye. The color of food dye will depend on what you want to use. If you want a clean background, use black cardboard, but there are ways around this.
Place the glass on top of the upside down bowl. Fill it full of milk, until the surface tension reaches the lip of the glass. Set your Speedlight to trigger from your on-camera flash.
Drip the food coloring with one hand, as you shoot with the other. It will require a lot of time and patience, but you will be rewarded.
16. Remove Tourists From Your Pictures
Ever wondered how photographers managed to capture famous landmarks without people in them? They use a number of different techniques, but this is the easiest.
For this photography hack, you will need Photoshop. When you shoot a scene, you need a whole bunch of images. The number will depend on your scene.
Capture as many images as you need – you are photographing every part of your scene unobstructed by people. Basically, we don’t want anything hidden.
Next, open Photoshop and Select File>Scripts>Statistics>Median. Open all the files you want to use. If you captured the images handheld, then tick the ‘Auto-Align’ button.
If done correctly, there should be no people in your shot.
15. Add Steam to Food Images With Regular Appliances
Food photography can sometimes look flat and plain. That will not help your viewer stay interested. One of the ways you can add some realism into your images is by using steam.
Steam gives food that ‘fresh out of the oven’ feeling. That’s what we all want. So how do you do it?
There are many tricks in the food photography cookbook. This one requires the use of a steam iron. Just hold it under the subject, and snap away.
Remove any excess steam during post-production.
14. Use Cloth for a Soft-Focus Lens Effect
A cloth is all you need to create a soft-focus lens effect. Well, you will also need an elastic band to keep it on your lens. A square of gauze, cheesecloth or light silk scarf will work.
Cut an x in the center of the cloth and fasten it to the end of your lens with the elastic band. Fray the areas that overlap the lens.
That’s it. Experiment with the placement of the fabric to create amazing photographs.
13. Use a Plastic Bag as a Softbox
A plastic bag has many uses, but I can guarantee you never thought of this one before. Take the whitest plastic bag you have and tie the two handles together.
By trapping air inside the bag, you have an inflated softbox. All you need to do is attach it to your flash. The light will travel through the plastic and bounce around. This, in turn, softens the emitted light.
This photography hack is best used for portrait images indoor or out, ensuring amazing photography every time.
12. Create Lens Flares from a CD
Lens flares are all the rage these days. Before these modern experimentations, photographers tried their hardest to stop them from happening.
They can add interest to your images, but only if done correctly. For this photography hack, all you need is a CD. Grab it in your hand, and place the clean side at the edge of your frame.
Change its position to catch the light and capture an image when it does. Keep it close to your lens. Otherwise, you might capture it in your shot.
This photography hack is best used at wide apertures, where you might capture some amazing photography.
11. Use Cardboard to Turn Your Smartphone Into a Pinhole Camera
Pinhole photography is an interesting field. The basic idea is that you don’t use glass lenses to create an image. A pinhole gives you a tiny aperture that creates amazing photography.
You can create a pinhole type of image with your smartphone. All you need is a small square of cardboard and a needle. Punch the needle through the square.
Place the hole in the cardboard in front of the lens and shoot away.
10. Create Interesting Shadows With a Sifter
Shadows can really help to add interest in an image. They are perfect for making portrait images into amazing photography. They can also be used for fashion or boudoir photography.
All you need to do is place a flour sifter between the light source and the subject. The distance between the light and subject will change the effect the shadows have.
Have fun experimenting with this cool photography hack.
9. Turn Your Sunglasses Into a Filter
If you are looking for other filters than the ones found on Instagram, then you won’t need to go far. Break out your sunglasses for this hack.
Best used for smartphone photography, but you can also use it for your mirrorless systems and DSLR cameras too.
Just find a scene and place one of the eyes in front of the lens. Focus through it for the sharpest images. It might just be the amazing photography you were waiting for.
8. The Vaseline Vignette
Vaseline keeps your lips unchapped in the cold weather. But, used in this photography hack, can also add an interesting vignette to your images.
All you need is Vaseline and either a polarising lens filter or cling film. Place the filter or cling film over the front element of your lens to protect it.
Smear the vaseline around the edges of the cling film on your lens. This will create an interesting frame to photograph through.
7. Create a Seamless and Inexpensive Backdrop
Backdrops and backgrounds are really helpful in product or food photography shoots. The trend is to have the object floating in a sea of white, negative space. But that might not do your subject justice.
Use cloth or paper to use as a backdrop. But instead of just hanging it behind, have it sweep from a horizontal position to a vertical one.
This will give an impression of an ‘infinity curve’ as the viewer won’t notice where it starts and stops.
For a bonus tip on this glorious photography hack, use colors and textures that reflect your subject.
6. Use a Coffee Hood as a Lens Hood
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. If you’re in a pinch, a coffee hood can be used as a lens hood. This will stop random light getting into your image and ruining your exposure.
Just take it off the cup, and place the narrowest side over the end of your lens. And the bonus is you also get coffee.
5. Create a Macro Lens From a Toilet Paper Roll
You’ll need duct tape, an empty toilet roll, and a 50mm lens.
Reverse the lens, and place the toilet roll on the front of the lens element. Tape it to the lens. Tape the other side of the toilet roll to your camera body.
Carefully pick up the camera and lens by holding the lens in your hand. Now get as close as you can to any subject. You can still focus when the lens is reversed.
4. A Shower Curtain Softbox
A softbox is a very handy item to have in or out of the studio. They can be very expensive, depending on what you need. What they do is soften the harshness of the light by spreading out the light, making it less intense.
For those photographers who do not have the budget for these items, there is another way. Use a shower curtain for the same effect.
This is one of the best photography hacks we can offer.
Find a shower curtain at a homeware store, ideally one without patterns. The milky white colored ones are the best. Hang it up between your light source and your subject.
You now have a DIY Softbox.
3. Use Black Tile for Product Photography
Product photography is a somewhat difficult area of photography to break into. It can be difficult to make the objects you are photographing look interesting and well lit.
To help add interest in your images, use a black tile. Place the reflective side facing up, and then place the object on top.
The black tile will reflect the object, giving you something more interesting to capture.
2. Create a Studio Snoot from a Pringles Tube
If you photograph in a studio, you’ll see the benefits of using a snoot. This little piece of equipment helps to focus light, that otherwise spreads out.
These items can be very expensive. So why not try the photography hack version?
Use a Pringles tube. You can fill them with straws to create the same effect at a fraction of the cost.
For more information on how to make them, look at our 10 DIY Speedlight Flash Modifiers article.
1. Make Your Own Bean Bag Tripod
A tripod is a heavy object that allows you to capture images without camera shake. They are necessary for long exposures and slow shutter speeds.
However, there are perspectives and situations where a tripod just can’t work. One example is if you are in a car, or very close to the ground.
Create a bean bag to stop any camera shake. These will help for those spots that tripods just can’t reach.