Your digital camera, whether it’s built in to your cellphone or it’s a hefty DSLR, is an incredible creative tool. If you’ve only used it as it comes straight out of the box, however, you’re only scratching the surface. Here are our top 10 photography hacks to supercharge your camera.
It’s difficult to take a good, steady shot if you have absolutely nothing with which to stabilize your camera. This problem is exacerbated by the need to click the camera’s shutter, causing just a little extra movement that can mean the difference between a sharp and blurry photo. What’s any easy way to solve this? Use your camera’s timer function. You can click the shutter take a couple of seconds to stabilize your shot, breathe like a sniper, and you should end up with a more stabile photo.
If the timer trick isn’t quite enough, you can create a DIY stabilizer out of something as simple as a tennis ball. Basically you just put a weight in the tennis ball and attach a mount that will screw into your camera’s base. The weight in the tennis ball will help keep things a lot more stabile, and it’s a tool that’ll easily fit in your pocket (although you might want to wear a belt so the weight doesn’t pull your pants off).
8. Create an Instant “Green Screen” with Your Computer’s Display for Quick and Dirty Background Removal
Removing complex backgrounds and setting up green screens are both tedious tasks. Fortunately, your computer monitor can act as a pretty decent alternative if you need to kill the background on something relatively small. Just place the object in front of the computer screen, snap your photo, and use the magic wand (or other selection tool) to quickly select and delete the background. Just make sure you set your exposure to compensate for the screen’s bright light or your subject will end up lost in the shadows.
Automatic air fresheners come with servo motors and timers inside, so they’re perfect items for repurposing. Using the inside of an air freshener, you can put together a simple remote camera trigger with just a little bit of work.
There are plenty of options for DIY flash diffusers, but nothing is more readily available and easy to use as a sheet of paper. If you need to use a flash but hate the harsh lighting it provides, you can easily overcome this by folding a piece of paper into a softbox and placing it over your flash. This will diffuse the light and is pretty much the cheapest and easiest method around.
Macro lenses are expensive, but if you’ve got a pair of old binoculars lying around you can make your own. With the lenses from the binoculars and a little electrical tape, you’ll be all set. This certainly isn’t a replacement for a real macro lens, but if you can’t afford one and want to try out macro photography, it’s a cheap way to get the job done.
There are some remarkable apps for iOS that let you control your DSLR. DSLR Remote lets you not only control just about every function of the camera, but lets you tap to focus and look through the camera’s lens via your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Shutter Snitch is another option that lets you snap photos and wireless transfer them to your iDevice. If those two aren’t enough, you can build an infrared remote trigger and use DSLR.Bot to control your camera as well.
Bokeh, or the out-of-focus areas of the photograph, takes on different shapes based on the construction of the lens. As a result, you can create your own custom bokeh effects by manipulating your lens. Rather than having circles or simple shapes, you can create hearts and other neat things. It isn’t hard to do, and it’s a lot of fun.
Light painting is a means of creating compelling photographs by using slow exposures and a light source. Basically, you use a dark room or take your camera out at night, set your camera’s exposure time to at least ten seconds (but you’ll probably find more is better in most cases), and move your light source around during the exposure to capture the movement of the light. This can be really fun and produce some really cool effects, but be careful in the dark. Last time I light painted I accidentally backed into a swimming pool. Oops!
If you have a Canon point-and-shoot, there’sCHDK. If you have a Canon DSLR, there’sMagic Lantern. Both options are custom firmware for your camera that unlocks and provides additional features of interest. CHDK gives your point and shoot abilities that often only come with DSLRs, such as shooting in RAW format, plenty of extra on-screen info, and more manual control. You even get support for small scripts. Magic Lantern turns Canon DSLRs with video capabilities into near-professional video cameras. If you’ve wanted features like zebra patterns, better audio control, support for higher bit rates, and more, Magic Lantern is a must-download.