Your dSLR is an incredibly creative tool, which when used correctly can give you dramatic results. A lot of techniques can be achieved with your camera body and a lens, such as panning, zoom bursts or bokeh. With some more equipment, you can really hit the ball out of the park. In this article, you’ll discover what that equipment is and some of the techniques that equipment will allow you to practice. So read on and discover the ten best pieces of creative photography equipment.
This is almost always one of the first additional pieces of equipment a photographer will purchase, and with good reason.
A tripod allows for a lot of creativity, and you’ll want to get a good tripod. Avoid getting a cheap tripod that has unsteady legs, and instead, invest in a heavier sturdy tripod. If you’re traveling and need a lighter backpack you can compromise a little. You still want a strong tripod, and preferably a hook on the central tripod pole that allows you to add more weight to the tripod once it’s set up.
Now, let’s look at some of the techniques a tripod will allow you to try:
- Digital blending – Digital blending requires a set of bracketed images for best results. While it’s possible to do this handheld, your results will be improved a lot by using a tripod.
- Cloning – You can layer several photos together showing yourself or someone else.
- Light painting – Use your own light sources, or external light sources such as car light trails to light paint across your photo.
- Astrophotography – Even longer exposures will be needed for astrophotography, together with a lens that has a large aperture.
- Long exposure – Long exposure also does interesting things during the day. Experiment with moving water, or perhaps on a windy day moving clouds.
Strobes are a great piece of creative photography equipment. They are a little intimidating to learn, with many people preferring natural light. The advantage of learning to use them is great, so push yourself out of your comfort zone. The first step for many will be placing a strobe onto your camera, and bouncing light off a ceiling to produce a well-balanced exposure. Strobism requires more commitment than that though. Look to invest in radio triggers and receivers so you can practice off-camera flash with multiple strobes. Experiment with modifiers like snoots, umbrellas, softboxes and color gels.
The following are a couple of techniques you’ll need your strobe for:
- Water droplets – Capture a water droplet mid-air by photographing it with a strobe. The idea is to bounce the light off a background behind the droplet, and the light will shine through the droplet.
- Low-key – Use snoots and a darkened background to create low-key photos. This will often be portrait photos. The bright flash will light your main subject, allowing you to underexpose the background to be black.
- Stroboscopic – Get repeated images in the same photo by using a high-speed pulse of multiple flashes. A tripod is also needed for this technique.
3. LED light stick
There are lots of ways you can create light paintings. The LED light stick is a game-changer for this genre. This is an immense piece of creative photography equipment. This is long exposure, so of course, a tripod will also be required. You can now use this gear to create more abstract light paintings, or use it for portrait work.
The great thing about these devices is they’re fully programmable. You can design the exact light you want to paint, how much color, stripes, pictures or patterns. At the moment the two main LED light sticks on the market are the pixelstick and the magilight.
The lensball acts as an external lens optic, possibly one of the most creative lenses you’ll own. The price is right as well. How many lenses have you bought for less than $50? At first glance, this piece of creative photography equipment might not look that useful beyond a few landscape photos. How wrong you’d be, though. It’s like saying a 50mm lens can only ever be used for street photography. So look through your glass sphere, and try out a few of these photography styles with it.
- Floating ball – Capture the ball in mid-air, this requires some photoshop work, and you’ll need to learn how to set up the three photos you’ll need to create this type of image.
- Portrait – A little trickier to achieve. You’ll need to exploit techniques that avoid showing the background if you want to focus in on the ball, so the portrait appears within the ball. Alternatively, use the ball as more of a prop within a regular portrait photo.
- Landscape – Use the lensballs’ fisheye like properties to capture a unique lensball landscape, and give locations that have been photographed many times before a creative twist.
Is there a need for filters when post-processing is so powerful? The answer to that is certainly “yes” since the aim is to get as much of the photo you wish to achieve in-camera. You can add filters to the front of your camera that modifies the light coming into your camera, usually by reducing it, but there are other effects as well. Filters can be used for the following forms of creative photography.
- Infra-red – Filter out all light except for infra-red. Doing so will likely mean you need to use a long exposure, and you’ll then need to post-process your results. The photo will appear red, so you’ll need to adjust the color channels so that the red areas of the photo become white.
- Long exposure – The use of a strong neutral density filter will allow you to take daytime long exposures, with some very interesting effects.
- Adding color – You can use filters to make your photo sepia or add more color to the sky during sunset. This is an area where post-processing offers an improved solution though.
- Starburst – These filters make points of light into a starburst. The same effect can also be achieved by using a smaller aperture.
- Softening – Portrait photos can be enhanced by using this type of filter, giving them a Hollywood glow. Alternatively, you could stretch a stocking over the front of your lens, and it will also soften the photo by diffusing the light.
Like the lensball, the prism alters the light coming into the camera through refraction. Other than holding this glass object in front of your camera lens that’s where the similarities end.
A prism is nevertheless an interesting object that can be used for creative results. You’ll be doing two things for your photographs with a prism. The first is redirecting the light to create interesting double exposure-like images with a single exposure. The second is projecting a rainbow spectrum of light onto a surface of some description, maybe even someone’s face.
Fractal filters are to prism photography what LED light sticks are to light painting. They come as a set of three different filters, each offering slightly different results. So this is a handheld filter and one that works very well for portrait photos.
7. Wire wool
Wire wool allows you to light paint with an urban industrial twist.
You’ll use the wool to create lots of flying metal sparks that light paint across your photo as they hurtle through the air. This is a really fun technique to try out, but the issue is safety. You’re creating 1000’s of red hot metal shards, and each of these has the potential to start a fire. You’ll need to exercise an abundance of caution when taking this type of photo. Avoid locations that could start a forest fire during the dry season.
The technique can also be used for portrait photography. Once again, ensure the safety of those involved in your photoshoot by making sure water is on hand just in case.
So how do you use wire wool to create these sparks? Check out this guide and learn how to do it.
8. Metal tube
Another piece of creative photography equipment you can hold in front of your camera lens is the metal tube! The diameter of the tube you’re holding will affect the result you get. The typical pipe to use is the copper pipe often used in household plumbing.
The idea is to photograph through this, and you’ll create a ring of fire within your photo. This ring of fire is in fact flare, and you’ll be able to use it to frame something or someone in your photo. The most obvious application of this photo is for portrait work.
This is a popular item for portrait photographers and can be used as a prop. There are several different ways you might use this with a model. If you’re photographing their whole body, the umbrella will take up a small part of the frame. Alternatively, you can use the umbrella as the entire background of your frame, with the model’s head and shoulders featuring in the photo. Not all umbrellas are designed the same.
The best options are the rainbow-colored umbrella, the traditional paper umbrellas, or the transparent umbrellas. The transparent umbrellas also offer the option of an object you can hold in front of the lens, with the spokes acting as a frame for your main subject.
Is water really creative photography equipment?
Taking water to the location you’re going to photograph makes it equipment. To do that, you’ll need to fill a bottle of water and take it with you to your location. Why might you decide to do this? The most obvious reason is to create reflections in your photo.
In order to do that, you’ll need to find somewhere that creates a natural puddle, and in a location that forms an interesting reflection. Not much water will be needed for this. A good wide-angle lens can make the most of a small reflection puddle.
Water has other uses as well, the following are some ideas you can try:
- Splash – Use water to add dynamism to your portrait work by throwing it at your model, with their permission of course!
- Droplets – In droplet form get your macro lens out, and see the little worlds within the droplet caused by refraction.
- Ice – Take photos of object frozen in ice, to give your still life photos a different feel.
Which creative photography equipment will you use?
There are many items you can use to boost your creativity. Perhaps you use a magnifying glass or a mirror to add something to your images, or even an empty picture frame. There are lots of ways you can curate your photo by adding creative photography equipment to the scene. Have you tried any of the items listed in this article? What’s your favorite item to use, and are there items you use that are missing from this list? Please share your ideas and photos in the comments section of this article, so everyone in the digital photography community can enhance their photography.