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21 Amazing Photography Hacks to Try Today

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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.
Colourful pink and blue water drop photography - best potography hacks

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.

The overhang of the second CD stack cover will stop raindrops from hitting your lens.

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.

A portrait of a pink haired female model photographed through a window - best camera hacks
Jessica Kobeissi

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.

A DIY Top-Down Camera Holder - expert photography hacks

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.

A black and white portrait of a model, with a person holding a cardboard sheet with holes cut in it to create shadows - photography hacks
Learn photo editing

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.

Colorful high speed water drop photography on black background - photography hacks

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.

A diptych of a famous landmark, on the left with tourists and on the right after tourists have been removed from the frame

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.

A diptych food photography shot showing how to add steam to food images with diy photography hacks

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.

Dreamy portrait of a female model using a cloth for a Soft-Focus Lens Effect

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.

A photographer shooting a portrait of a male model in a studio using a plastic bag as a softbox
Sheldon Evans

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.

A porttrait of a male model with lens flare effect created through cool photography hacks
Sheldon Evans

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.

A fountain in front of an impressive building shot through a diy pinhole camera

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.

A portrait shot of a female model with shadows cast accross her face from a sifter - diy amazing photo hacks
Christina Key

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.

A beautiful coastal cityscape shot using sunglasses as a filter

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.

A street photography portrait of a man carrying an umbrella with a vignette effect made from Vaseline - diy photography hacks

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.

A diptych shot of a cupcake - one shot with no sweep and one with sweep
Taylor Mathis

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.

A photographer using a coffee hood as a lens hood - diy camera hacks
Peter McKinnon

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.

A photographer shooting with a Macro Lens made from a Toilet Paper Roll - diy photography hacks

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.

A black and white portrait of a female model shot using 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.

A product photography shot of a purple anamorphic figure using a black tile as a photography hack to make a black reflective surface

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.

A Studio Snoot made from a Pringles Tube - diy camera hacks

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.

A photographer taking a shot out of a car window using a beanbag as a tripod - diy photography hacks
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