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One of the wonderful things about digital photography is the creativity that you can engage in once you’ve got your image on your computer and in Photoshop. All kinds of effects can be achieved to make your shots look any number of ways.
But what about in-camera techniques for more creative and artistic shots?
Here are twelve fun in-camera hacks to experiment with to get more abstract and artistic shots – the results are only limited by your imagination!
Every good photography course drums into it’s participants the importance of keeping your camera absolutely still while shooting to ensure fantastically sharp images.
Of course sharp isn’t always what you’re after and one way to add motion into your shots is to experiment with moving your camera while shooting. Here are a few ways to experiment with:
Another way of getting a sense of movement into your images is to keep the camera still but to zoom in or out with your zoom lens while actually taking the shot.
While panning (above) injects a vertical movement into shots – zooming gives your shots a dynamic 3D look and feel.
Combine this with slow sync flash (see below) and you can achieve some pretty special results. Read more about the Zoom Effect.
One of the most common problems that I see in readers photos is poor focusing with photographers either focusing slightly in front or behind of the part of the image that needs to be sharp.
Why not take your focusing problems and make them worse by some creative focussing where you don’t just get it slightly wrong – but make your shots obviously out of focus.
This technique is especially effective when you either have a plain background which means nothing in your shot is in focus – or when there’s a secondary element of the image that you leave in focus with the main focal point out of focus enough for it to be obvious but in focus enough to still know what it is.
Putting your camera on the ground and taking shots of your subject from that low angle introduces a completely new and often random point of view for your shots.
You (and the viewers of your images) will see the world from a new perspective, add interesting foregrounds to shots and even capture a few surprising subjects along the way.
This might mean you need to get down low (and get a little dirty) to frame your shots – or you might want to be a little more random than that and introduce luck into the equation and just hold your camera low and see what you get.
Experiment with different exposure levels.
Bump up your exposure compensation to the max and you’ll end up with brightly burnt out images.
This can be particularly effective if you’re photographing brightly colorful objects as you can end up with them on a background of bright burnt out parts of the scene.
Check out these examples of Overexposure for a little more inspiration.
This is a great technique for lower light shooting conditions where there is ambient light that you want to capture in addition to a subject that you’d like to light up with a flash.
Experiment with front or rear curtain flash for different impacts.
On the other end of the spectrum to getting down low (above) is to get your camera up high and shoot down on situations. One fun way to do this is to attach your camera to an extended monopod (or a tripod), a long shutter release cable (or a wireless one if you have one) and start shooting.
This will help you to both photograph things up high (street signs for example) as well as to help you shoot down on scenes that you’d never have been able to see from above before.
This is particularly fun with a wide angle lens (a fish eye can be even more fun)!
Another more extreme technique is one called Kite Aerial Photography where you attach a camera to a kite and take shots from up high. The beach image to the right was taken with this technique!
I used to love experimenting with multiple exposures on the same frame with my old film SLR. Many digital cameras don’t have the ability to do it – but if you’re lucky enough to have one that does you can achieve some fun results.
One way to do it is to take pictures of the same scene at different focal lengths or holding the camera on a slightly different angle. I find this is particularly effective on shots with a repeating pattern.
If you don’t have the ability for multiple exposures on your digital camera you can always get similar results in Photoshop using layers.
There’s something about shots with lots of grain that adds an element of mood into an image.
Override your cameras ISO settings by boosting them right up to the maximum number available. The higher you go the more noise or grain you’ll get.
This can be particularly effective in black and white shots – especially when you blow them up for display.
Experimenting with different white balance settings on your camera can inject different color casts into your images.
White balance settings are meant to be used to help you compensate for different types of lights (each type of light gives off different subtle colors). However, if you know what you’re doing you can really warm up or cool down an image quite a bit and get some lovely and creative images.
At the slow end of many digital camera’s shutter speed settings is one often labeled ‘B’ or ‘Bulb’.
The bulb setting allows you to keep your shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter release. This opens up all kinds of possibilities for creativity – particularly in low light situations.
The Bulb is great for capturing light trails (moving traffic at night, a friend drawing out a message with a torch or fireworks) but to get the most of it you’ll probably want to secure your camera with a tripod (unless you want to add camera movement into your shot as well).
At the extreme end of bulb settings astro photographers will leave the shutter open for long periods of time (hours) to capture star trails. To do this you’ll need a small ISO, small aperture and should be aware that on many cameras it’ll drain your batteries significantly.
Infrared photography is an art of it’s own (it deserves it’s own tutorial – as it’s something I’ve not done much of I’d be open to someone writing me one) and can create some amazing shots (black skies, white trees, dark eyes etc).
Not all cameras can capture infra red light (although many can) but check your manual to see if yours is one of them. If you’re in luck grab yourself an IR filter which cuts out non IR light and start experimenting. Because these filters block out a lot of light you’ll need to use longer shutter speeds, probably will want to use a tripod and should select faster ISO settings.
The start and end of the day is a great time to shoot in IR.
Get more free tips like this from our weekly email newsletter. Also check out our Digital Photography School forum for a community of digital camera users who love to experiment with this type of stuff.