12 Ways to Add Randomness and Creativity to Your Photography

12 Ways to Add Randomness and Creativity to Your Photography


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!

1. Move your Camera


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:

  • panning – a technique often used in sports photography.
  • rotate – ever whirled a child around you? why not do it with your camera and take a shot mid whirl.
  • camera throwing – not for the faint hearted – this technique involves a long shutter speed, setting the self timer, throwing your camera in the air just before the shutter is released and a safe pair of hands. It’s ‘extreme photography’ and can result in stunning shots (like the one to the right which was a camera throw shot in front of a computer screen) – as well as the need for a new camera.

2. Zooming While Shooting


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.

3. Creative Focusing


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.

4. Shoot from your Boots


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.

5. Over expose your shots

Copyright brianschulman

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.

6. Slow Sync Flash


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.

Learn more about Slow Sync Flash in our previous tutorials – Slow Sync Flash and An Explanation of 2nd Curtain Sync Flash. Also check out these amazing Slow Sync Flash images.

7. Get Up High – Monopod extenders and Kite Aerial Photography


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!

8. Multiple Exposures

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.

9. Go Grainy


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.

10. White Balance

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.

11. Master the Bulb Setting

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.

12. Infrared


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.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Barney Delaney - Landscape Photography May 11, 2012 11:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing Darren. i've recently started shooting landscapes with long lenses, out of my comfort zone not going wide but the compression gives it a different feel all together.

    thanks again!

  • Lensman kc July 22, 2011 07:37 pm

    Thanks for really creative tips....
    Now time for the practical :)

  • Michele Morgan July 22, 2011 12:05 pm

    Darren, thank you so much for your site. Your site has helped me understand a bit more about exposure and shutter speed, etc, although I must admit that I have to refer back to that tutorial several times. For some reason, it just doesn't penetrate my brain. I do keep in trying though.

    I just submitted by first photo for critiquing. I think I'm ready.

    Also, the above article is awesome. I am actually going to do more of that "grainy" type of picture. I think that's very cool. Very dramatic!

    Again, thank you for having this wonderful web site....


  • pikesan July 19, 2011 09:59 am

    Love this website! I have a few photography tips at MyRideisMe for taking shots of cars. I'd like to reference this story in a new post. Is it cool to list the 12 topics then link to the story?

  • Louise Bishop July 18, 2011 09:40 pm

    I really enjoyed these ideas- good to keep in mind for uninspired days. I won't be throwing my camera though!
    Just a thought - the grainy black and white shot here is gorgeous, but I would stick to b&w - colour digital noise is just ugly (not grainy) in my experience

  • Melissa July 18, 2011 03:03 am

    Great list of techniques/tips here! I onced used the panning technique by accident when i was playing with my Canon 5D; To me it was ART, even people around me could not understand what's nice about a blurred picture.. :p At least now I know it helps to stimulate the creative process.. Keep coming up with great post Darren! ;)

  • Glyn - Photography Nottingham July 16, 2011 07:18 pm

    Hi all,

    I've just come across this and judging by the date of the first comments, it's quite old, but I guess that's one of the great things about the web... It's still here!

    It's a great article and has helped to refresh my creative approach.

    However, I must say that some of the pictures here are in truly excellent locations, and would probably make excellent pictures without the added creative element.

    So for me, I prefer the 'Go Grainy' and 'slow sync flash' ones. Shows how the creative element makes a ordinary photo into a special one....

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for the inspiration (to get creative and to go to great locations!!)

  • Yeelen July 16, 2011 04:50 am

    Sorry, but 3 & 9 just make me think of those typical 'emo-self-expression' shots that you see floating around the interwebs, which I hate :) Great article nevertheless, I find myself looking at my shots thinking: "Well, it's sharp, but where's the eyecatching element?"

  • kirit solanki July 15, 2011 10:06 pm

    enjoyed reading the article "12 ways to add creativity".
    i have started photography buisness from home.1)how to get better photos with fujifilm finepix s 9600,vivitar 285 flash.no studio lights.painted wall as background.
    have old nikon fg20 +50 mm lens+70-200 cosina zoom.
    donot have a film developing color lab in ajmer.all digital.
    2)how to learn photoshop.
    age 63yrs.male. retired rly engr.
    have sufficient computer knowledge.living in ajmer rajasthan india a small city.5 to 6 lakh population.

  • Dewan Demmer July 15, 2011 06:27 pm

    I decided to experiment a little, and this article did help put me in the right frame of mind, I am enjoying the challenge behind getting the idea to work.
    Here is one example so far:

  • jemmaphotography July 15, 2011 04:09 am

    diggin' the infared portion, will have to see if my DSLR can do that :) oh and BTW, really like the tips that you email out...very informative and great ideas!

  • Bob Allen July 15, 2011 03:47 am

    Actually great infrared can be shot in the middle of the day. The brighter the sunlight the more contrast is created in the infrared image. Gives you something to do while you are waited for the "perfect light"!

  • Fuzzypiggy July 15, 2011 02:34 am

    I used have an almost paranoid fear of grain and noise but recently I have been trying to force myself to confront my fears and just use, even exaggerate it!

    I headed down to the beach recently, on a blue sky day, and tried out the swinging-panoramic blur on my tripod. Took about a dozen goes to get it right but it really makes a superb abstract for wall hanging!

    Sometimes it's good to step outside your comfort zone and go with the flow, you never know what might happen!

  • Fuzzypiggy July 15, 2011 02:33 am

    I used have an almost paranoid fear of grain and noise but recently I have been trying to force myself to confront my fears and just use, even exaggerate it!

    I headed down to the beach recently, on a blue sky day, and tried out the swinging-panoramic blur on my tripod. Took about a dozen goes to get it right but it really makes a superb abstract for wall hanging!

    Sometimes it's good to step outside your comfort zone and go with the flow, you never know what might happen!

  • Kay_Z July 15, 2011 02:12 am

    Thanks for the inspiration. Really helpful.

  • Cathy Deschamps July 15, 2011 02:12 am

    Love the shoot from your boots! I like to get down in the grass for dog & kids shots.

  • Cathy Deschamps July 15, 2011 02:11 am

    Love the shoot from your boots! I like to get down in the grass for dog & kids shots.

  • Olya July 15, 2011 02:00 am

    Here is my example of being creative:) http://www.yumsterlife.com/2011/07/date_night_calgary/
    scroll down to the bottom of the post - "Steven teaches guitar, as soon as I found that out, I made him bring his guitar to the shoot. And I had the genius idea of taking a picture of Steven playing guitar on a chair in the middle of the Center st. in Calgary, with the Calgary tower in the background. Of course that required stopping traffic and risking everyone’s lives. At first, everyone, me included, was a bit nervous…but after running around we felt like we owned the street!"

  • Celesta July 15, 2011 01:37 am

    This is a truly great article, thanks so much! Got tons of ideas for the upcoming weekend as well as my next vacation.

  • John Cruz July 15, 2011 01:36 am

    Here's a grainy shot I did last winter, I shot it at a quick shutter speed then turned up the fill light in Adobe Camera Raw to get the grain effect.


  • Dewan Demmer July 15, 2011 12:37 am

    I have never been good at creating grainy shots, I think I spend so much time making sure I dont have any grain bits in my photo than I absolutely have to the idea of adding grainy hurts my brain.

  • Gavin Smith July 14, 2011 06:04 pm

    Great ideas there Darren. I might have to go out and give some of these a try.

  • Gavin Smith July 14, 2011 06:03 pm

    Thanks Darren for some great ideas. I will have to go out now and give some of these a try. Might start with the moving your camera one i think.

  • Caetano July 14, 2011 12:21 pm

    I tried to be ''creative'' in the last DPS london photowalk. Here are the results: http://www.flickr.com/photos/caetanosmc/sets/72157626093947098/

  • KerriH July 14, 2011 10:00 am

    Thanks for some wonderful tips! Will be trying some of them out in the next few days :-)

  • scottc July 14, 2011 05:31 am

    All are great techniques, and there are several I need to try.

    I also think a variety of subjects and angles can add some spice, especially with travel photography. From Venice:


  • Jean-Pierre July 14, 2011 01:55 am

    High ISO really is cool in creating grain-like noise. Not as good as the real thing but still useful. Here's one of mine, ISO 3200ish for the effect (f5.6ish on a 1.4 lens).


  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 14, 2011 12:50 am


    Great article - I cant wait to get my camera converted to InfraRed. If you are curious about InfraRed, I suggest you look up Beth Sandidge. She is a published author on the subject and just a really nice person. Here is an example of what I think would look great in InfraRed, this is using a low angle perspective, Fish Eye and Black and White coversion using NIK Silver EFEX Pro plug in for Lightroom.


  • James January 31, 2011 10:43 pm

    First of all, thanks to Digital-Photography-school. Fantastic information!
    I have a rather out-dated Fujifilm digital camera (S5100). I want to learn as much as I can while using this camera, before laying out the big bucks for something more advanced and up-to-date. This site is helping me do that very thing.
    Keep up the great work!

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer October 28, 2010 06:56 am

    Love the infrared shot. Also, I may try the black and white grainy effect. Are there times where it works better than others?

  • Ben August 24, 2010 08:38 am

    Sounds like a Freeman Patterson workshop to me!

  • Jack B July 6, 2010 01:51 am

    Camera throwing, you guys are crazy! Some really great ideas. Detailed description of how to get a good panning shot here: http://ohyeswecam.com/2010/01/10/fun-technique-panning/

    [eimg url='http://ohyeswecam.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/dsc0389.jpg' title='dsc0389.jpg']

  • Lee Rock April 7, 2010 10:41 am

    Can someone tell me if i take a photo using the Bulb setting will it damage my camera if i take a photo for a very long time...say an hour??

    someone told me that it heats up the sensor and could burn it out!

  • Mike T. April 7, 2010 08:05 am

    The only problem I have with shooting infrared is that when most people see it, the first thing they say is "Photoshop". As opposed to realizing that infrared is mastering filters.

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  • graphic design classes online January 17, 2010 10:22 am

    Great tips these really can help turn a bad picture into an amazing one!

  • Mirma October 18, 2009 09:08 am

    Hi, The page is great and the images are quite good. Often the creativity is necessary to artists to enriche your work. So, experiment with a method to find a new point of view many times cause a relax and more productivity.

    I have a web page in collaboration with a friend. www.lalux.com
    We are pleasured that can enter to our page and recommend us in your site and with all friends.

  • Ashley Adams : Postcard Printing August 26, 2009 04:40 pm

    Hey, thanks for the in-camera techniques that you have talked about to make the photographs more appealing Darren.. I mostly rely on photoshop to add the finishing touch to my photographs.. hence it was great learning this in-camera techniques.. I enjoyed the article and looking forward to hear more from you.. :-)

  • linkz May 19, 2009 08:39 am

    The pic under number two makes me a little dizzy.

  • employee time management May 19, 2009 05:00 am

    Some decent tips but the overlay newsletter subscription request is annoying. At least they put all the tips on one page though

  • Claire March 30, 2009 01:41 am


    ^product of camera throwing. i got some really good shots like this.

  • scott webb March 27, 2009 10:24 pm

    solid collection and I want to explore monopods and extenders

  • Honour Chick March 24, 2009 11:16 am

    excellent compilation... thxs!

  • WPCrowd March 23, 2009 03:39 am

    Thanks Daren for cool photos

  • Jacquie Janzen Yee March 22, 2009 07:22 am

    It's always helpful to get reminders about how creative one can be with the camera and not get stuck in a rut. I just did some photography (in front of the camera) and now look forward to trying out some of these ideas for our next shoot. So much to learn, so many teachers out there! Thanks!

  • Noobpreneur March 22, 2009 04:49 am


    This is my first time visiting your DPS blog, and I must say this very post is top notch in quality. I'm not a photographer, but this post inspires me to do in a digital manipulation way for my graphic design purposes.


  • Paris Vega March 21, 2009 03:51 pm

    2. Zoom while shooting... Great tip!

  • Kerri Gagne March 21, 2009 08:22 am

    Thank you thank you for this wonderful website! I am gaining so much information and valuable knowledge and appreciate all of it. You are doing a great thing for anyone with a camera looking to consistently improve!

  • margaretha toerien March 20, 2009 09:37 pm

    I love DPS.... thank you, Darren, on behalf of this budding amateur who recently splashed out and bought herself a kick-ass Nikon D90, and spends every night glued to the manual. I have been blessed with an eye for composition, and my wall space at home is rapidly filling up.... now I just need to know how to do full manual! I spend hours reading up old tutorials on this sight, and devour every Friday's new newsletter... please keep it up!

  • Anukul March 20, 2009 09:34 pm

    Extremely useful & handy Tips.


  • Tuomi - blog.dinkalender.se March 20, 2009 09:00 pm

    Really nice collection of tutorials, will forward this to my photography interested friends!

  • steabe March 20, 2009 06:43 pm

    Great tips…..

  • Zahid March 20, 2009 05:37 pm

    I am a fan of shooting from below and overexposed images. They can be as creative as you want them to be. You can catch some of these on my flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zhj.

  • Dave Brown March 20, 2009 12:50 pm

    Camera throws:? You got insurance, right?

  • Edwin March 20, 2009 11:47 am

    Great tips....

  • Dee Langdon - BloggerNewbie March 20, 2009 10:31 am

    Your photographs and your explanations are amazing! I envy your talent

  • Nate @ Debt-free Scholar March 20, 2009 09:33 am

    Great picts! I'm not so sure that I would like to send my only camera up in a kite...maybe if I got better at kite flying. :)


  • Sudheer March 20, 2009 09:16 am

    Very informative. Dugg it :)

  • Kikolani March 20, 2009 08:59 am

    I always thought those perfect photographs of trees and landscapes in pink were photoshopped. I think it is awesome that you can do that with your camera. Now if I only had an infrared filter.

    ~ Kristi

  • Darius A Monsef IV March 20, 2009 08:43 am

    Great list. I recently got exposed to Kite Aerial Photography from users contributing Photosynths with all KAP photos... http://tinyurl.com/cztkfs Pretty great stuff. (You'll need silverlight installed to see the link)

  • amir March 20, 2009 06:18 am

    great post !!!

  • gerard March 20, 2009 04:51 am

    Of course you could do the same with a film camera but ,think about how much it will cost,the beauty about digital is that you can practice as much as you like and it cost next to nothing.

  • Christopher Hennis March 19, 2009 08:28 pm

    Fantastic article.

  • RaSh March 17, 2009 05:18 pm

    Amazing post!

    I don't have a SLR, but I'll still try some of these (whichever my tiny cam lets me!)

    I really liked your point about not following the conventional methods. Sometimes, blur captures motion much better than sharp images. (Check the 3 dance pics I clicked a while back: http://irrashonallyurs.blogspot.com/2009/03/photo-waves-summer-2009-in-5-pics.html )

    Keep posting!

  • Yuliya Geikhman March 17, 2009 02:32 pm

    Some of these made me get out my camera and try them as I was reading, thanks!

    But my real reason for posting a comment is to share this infrared tutorial: http://kalimero2.deviantart.com/art/Infrared-30672889 It's the best I've seen. Maybe it'll help someone. :P

  • MeiTeng March 17, 2009 11:00 am

    I enjoyed this article and so far, I have tried out the panning and zooming effects. Thanks for sharing!

  • Emil Avasilichioaiei March 17, 2009 08:33 am

    Great Post.

    I've got a nice out of focus example. (Actually it's controversial. I like it very much, some don't like it..)



  • Light Stalking March 17, 2009 07:35 am

    Sure, most can be done on film as well as digital, but it's stlll a great list.

  • dcclark March 17, 2009 01:34 am

    True, these rules aren't all digital-specific (although fun with white balance is MUCH easier on digital cameras!), but they're great to know anyhow. After all, this is a school about photography, and we happen to use digital cameras.

    Here's another one that generalizes a lot of the things in this article: break the rules. Be unbalanced, forget the rule of thirds, shoot straight into the sun. (Here's an example where lens flare actually helped a photo: an old Quincy Steam Engine, on a hot summer day.)

    But as always, in order to most effectively and thoroughly break a rule, you have to understand it first. Then you can really show it who's boss. :)

  • LisaNewton March 17, 2009 12:37 am

    Another one I might add is capitalize on your mistakes. I shot this, Hollywood the first time I took out my new camera out at night.

    I liked the look even though it was totally by accident. Now I've included it in my header image.

  • Ilan March 17, 2009 12:26 am

    Well... Most of the tips here are not really related to Digital photography. Most of this stuff can (and was) made in Film era as well.
    I still very much enjoyed the examples :)

    Here is my example for "Go grainy" - http://www.ilanbresler.com/2008/12/vlada-2.html