9 Weird Photography Tricks That Actually Work!

1. NO TRIPOD?  USE A LAMP!

Want to take a group photo but don’t have a place to set the camera?  Just whip the lamp shade off a lamp and screw your camera onto the lampshade-holder.

The thread size of the bolt on a lamp shade is exactly the same size as the filter thread used on tripods, so your camera will easily attach.

Not only will your party and indoor pictures look better, but you’ll look like MacGyver in front of the group.  Not bad.  This tip doesn’t come in handy every day, but you’ll like the coolest photography nerd on the planet when the situation arises.

2. HOTSHOE PEZ DISPENSER FOR KIDS

Shooting photos of kids can be quite the feat.  It seems like they are interested in looking at everything BUT the camera.  I have two kids of my own, and I know that the only way to get them to smile and look at the camera is with a good bribe.

The perfect solution is to buy a simple PEZ dispenser on the hotshoe of your camera!  The base of the PEZ dispenser is a tiny bit wider than a standard hotshoe, so you’ll have to trim it just slightly with a kitchen knife before the shoot.

Then, when the kids are being good and looking at the PEZ dispenser, you can have them come up and grab a little candy periodically during the shoot.  It’s pure genius.

3. DAY TO NIGHT IN A FLASH

Sometimes you’re out shooting  portraits on a bright sunny day and the light just looks too… natural.  I often find this is the case when shooting a wedding or engagement when I’m shooting at a park or other outdoor location and I get bored with the same lighting in every shot.

One trick that I really enjoy is to turn up the power on my flash to the max.  This will, obviously, make the subject extremely bright.  If you change your camera settings to expose for the subject, it will make the background look extremely dark because the flash didn’t hit it.

This makes it look like it’s night time even if it’s the middle of the day.

4. REMOVE THE LENS FOR MACRO

This is the coolest camera trick I’ve seen in a long time.  If you take off your lens and hold it in front of the camera, you get a macro lens!  I was really skeptical about this, but I just tried it and it worked like a charm.

There are four things you need to know about using this trick: (1) Your camera won’t take a picture with the lens off unless you’re in manual mode.  (2) The best focal length seems to be around 50mm, so either a 50mm prime or an 18-55mm kit lens would be perfect! (3) Obviously, you lose autofocus since your lens isn’t attached to the camera.  Focus is achieved by simply moving closer to or further away from the subject, and (4) The camera can’t open up the aperture, so you’ll do it with your hand.  On the back of the lens (the side you mount on the camera), move the little plastic slider piece that controls the aperture.  If you look in the lens while doing it, you’ll see the hole open up.

If you want to take this a step further, you can buy a reverse lens mount for $5 or $10 which should sharpen up the images quite a bit since it will hold the lens more solidly.  Also, be sure to use a tripod when doing this or any other macro photography.  With such fine detail, even a tiny movement can destroy the sharpness.

5. DELETE TOURISTS FROM TRAVEL PHOTOS

This is an awesome trick for travel photographers.  Sometimes you’re at an amazing location, but there are people in the way of your shot.  If you want to take a picture of a landmark and people are in your shot, you will likely spend the rest of your adult life cloning people out of the shot unless you try this technique.

Step 1: Set your camera on a tripod.

Step 2: Take a picture about every 10 seconds until you have about 15 shots, depending on how fast people are walking around.

Step 3: Open all the images in Photoshop by going to File > Scripts > Statistics.   Choose “median” and select the files you took.

Step 4: Bam!  Photoshop finds what is different in the photos and simply removes it!  Since the people moved around, it fills the area where someone was standing with part of another photo where no one was there.

UPDATE: The “statistics” script mentioned here is only available in Photoshop Extended or in the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop; however, as someone mentioned in the comments, you can get a somewhat similar effect in recent versions of Photoshop Elements by going to Enhance > Photomerge > Scene Cleaner.

6. SHAPED BOKEH OUT OF PAPER

We all love to see beautiful bokeh in the background of our photos, but what you may not know is there is a really simple way that you can change the shape of the light bursts in your bokeh.

All you have to do is cut out a piece of black paper the size of the front element on your lens.  Then, use a sharp kitchen knife or razor blade to cut a shape on in the middle of the paper.  The shape should be slightly larger than a thumbnail or about the size of a U.S. nickel.

Keep in mind that you’ll only see this effect work if you are shooting with a large aperture, so a 50mm f/1.8 would be a great choice for this project.  If you’re shooting at f/5.6 on a kit lens, you likely won’t see the effect at all.

7. REFLECTOR AS STUDIO BACKDROP

Sometimes when I’m shooting outdoor portraits, I see a pose or an expression for the model that makes me wish we were in the studio so I could photograph them on a white background.  Sometimes a white background is the best way to focus all attention in the photo on the model, and it gives the photo a bright and clean look.  When I’m in this situation, I often grab a simple $25 reflector and use it as a studio backdrop on the spot!

The trick for making this technique work is to use positive exposure compensation.  The camera will try and dim down the white background to a dull gray because it thinks the white is overexposed.  About 1 stop of exposure compensation will make the reflector background look bright white.

8. CAMERA STRAP GND FILTER

This is my all-time favorite landscape photography tip because I use it all the time and most people have never heard it before.  When shooting landscapes, the sky is often much brighter than the rest of the landscape so you need something to darken down just that top part of the photo.  A graduated neutral density filter does exactly that.

A GND filter is a piece of glass that is darkened at the top and which gradually tapers off to clear.  The photographer simply holds this filter in front of the lens to cover the sky and it darkens the sky without affecting the landscape underneath.

Call me forgetful, but I often forget to bring my GND filter with me when I’m shooting landscapes, and it can ruin the shoot if I can’t darken down the sky to balance the exposure.  One trick I’ve learned is that you can simply use anything dark (a black piece of paper, a camera strap, etc) to hold in front of the lens for part of the exposure and the same thing is accomplished.

This makes it so the top half of the picture only sees light for half of the time, so it is much darker.  And no, you won’t see the camera strap in the photo since it’s black.

9.  INSULATION REFLECTOR BOARD

I debated whether or not this counts as a “camera trick” or if it’s really just a super-awesome reflector that costs basically nothing.  Call it what you will, but it works so well that I have to share this tip.

Circular reflectors are excellent for improving the lighting in your outdoor portraits.  By holding them to reflect the sun’s light, you can fill in shadows and put beautiful highlights on the face of the person you’re shooting.  However, most circular reflectors only work for a head-and-shoulders shot and only for one person.  You can purchase a large full-body reflector, but they usually cost around $70.

One trick I learned from a photographer who shoots celebrities is to simply purchase insulation board for $5 and then cover the back and edges with white duct tape.  You’ll find insulation board with reflective silver backing at any home improvement store.  It comes in several sizes.  I chose one that is 4 feet (1.2 meters) in height.

This simple solution gives you a very large reflector that is lightweight, and you can use one side to reflect silver and the other side to reflect white.

Thanks to ImprovePhotography for the tips.

Flash Memory Camcorders vs Hard Drive Camcorders

Are flash memory camcorders better than hard drive camcorders?  Well, that depends on what you want out of your camcorder.

 Flash camcorders come in High Definition (HD) models as do hard drive camcorders.

Flash camcorders compress their video whereas hard drive camcorders do not, so hard drives preserve a higher quality video. However, what I’ve read in reviews, you’d hardly be able to tell the difference in quality between the two.

Hard drives have moving parts, which make them more likely to break if the camera is dropped or treated roughly.

Flash memory camcorders, on the other hand, are one solid unit with no moving parts, which makes them more rugged and shock-resistant than hard drives.

Hard drives also won’t work above a certain altitude, usually around 10,000 feet above sea level. So this is a major consideration if you plan to go hiking or mountain climbing with the camera.

The primary advantage of the hard drive is that it can hold more footage. However, once the hard drive fills up, that’s it. Unless you can download the footage off your camera onto a computer or external hard drive, you’re out of luck. However, with a flash memory card, you can swap out the card with another empty card and keep shooting. The problem is that flash cards can be pricey.

Importance of Quality Lenses

When comparing hard drives and flash memory, there are other considerations.  Lensesplay a big part in capturing quality video footage. A flash camcorder with a good lens will probably look better than a hard drive model with a poor lens.

TIP! When buying a high definition camcorder, make sure to check what kind of recording format it uses and make sure it’s compatible with your computer video editing software.

For example, camcorders with hard drives and flash drives use a format called AVCHD, which is not compatible with HDV editing software, a tape-based format. So, if you have edited in the past using mini-dv tapes and you are looking to purchase a hard drive camcorder, be aware that your video editing software may no longer be compatible.

Hard drives provide higher quality and more recording space for less cost that flash drives. However, hard drives are more prone to getting damaged and are useless at high altitudes.

 

Five Rules For Storing Photographs

Before you can devise a good system for organization that works for you,  you need to make sure you’re storing pictures and photos properly to preserve them for the future.

That’s because photos are actually rather delicate, and since they’re often irreplaceable you need to take care to place them in storage or on display in ways to keep them looking their best.

Here are the five rules to remember to keep your developed photos (we’re not discussing digital photos in this article) in tip top condition:

Rule 1: Store Photos In The Proper Conditions

Photographs are developed or printed onto paper, and contain ink and pigments, and both the paper and pigments can degrade with time or in adverse conditions. For that reason the conditions the photos are stored in make a big difference in how well they will age over time.

Ideally, when choosing the spot you’ll keep your family’s pictures, you’ll think about these three conditions: (1) humidity; (2) temperature; and (3) light.

Humidity

The ideal conditions for storing pictures – keep photos in an area with higher than 15% relative humidity and less than 65% relative humidity.

In extremely dry environments photo paper can become quite brittle. But normally the issue is making sure you don’t keep the photos in an area with too high humidity. If you’ve got your photos stored in your damp basement, for example, it encourages mold growth and can also cause the pictures to stick to each other as they get moist and the ink and pigments run and fade. Higher humidity also can cause more insect infestations of paper, which can destroy your photos.

Temperature

Temperature is also something to consider. The lower the temperature, typically, the better, because this slows down degredation of the paper and ink, and also discourages insects.

Definitely store your photos in an area that consistently stays below 75° F at all times. That means, for example, your hot attic is not a good place for the photos.

Large temperature fluctuations actually are not good either, so most garages are also out of the question for photo storage, since they vary from cold to hot as the weather changes.

It is best to store pictures in a climate controlled environment, which will typically control for both temperature and for humidity simultaneously.

Light

Storing photos in a dark location actually helps preserve them, because it keeps the ink or pigments from fading. Light in general, but especially UV and fluorescent lights break down images with time.

We’ve all seen sun-faded photos before, such as those that have been out in frames for years, so you know that fading is a real issue. If you’ve got a favorite photo you’d like to display (and who doesn’t) just make sure it is a duplicate and keep the original or at least one copy in the safer darker environment so that you can simultaneously enjoy the memory the photo provides on display while preserving a copy for the future.

Rule 2: Store Pictures In Safe Places

Because of temperature and humidity issues we’ve already determined that the attic, garage and basement are not ideal locations for storing your photos. But you also need to think about other issues when it comes to photo preservation when you decide where to store them.

The biggest things to consider include protecting your photos from insect or rodent damage and from excess water.

Insects and rodents love paper, so keep pictures out of areas which contain these pests.

As mentioned previousy, damp and moldy photographs can also be a big problem, so keep photos from any areas that are prone to flooding or leaks, and also keep them up off the floor in case of a small flood to keep your family memories from getting damaged.

Rule 3: Properly Handle Your Photographs & Negatives

When handling your photos, and also negatives, you should have clean dry non-lotioned hands.

Still, even with these precautions always hold photos and negatives by the edge, and never put your fingers directly onto them. Your fingerprints contain oils and other chemicals that can permanently leave a mark on the photos or negatives.

Rule 4: Choose The Right Containers For Your Photos

When organizing and storing your photos it is important to choose the right container for them, and the two main types are photo albums and photo boxes.

Unfortunately, in the past people purchased all types of cute or cheap albums or boxes for their photos, added them, and left them for years at a time, and now years later they regret it.

I cringe when I think about all the photos I added to magnetic and self-adhesive albums when I was a child, or all the photos I glued directly onto construction paper for scrapbooks.

We now know that many of these things actually harm your pictures, such as non-archival quality papers which contain lignin and other acids, or adhesives which become yellow and brittle with age, and plastics that degrade and cause the photo to stick, sometimes permanently, to the album.

The important thing to look for are items that are archival quality, and that are photo safe, acid, lignin and PVC free.

Here are additional recommendations for how to NOT store your pictures:

  • Do not use tape or glue to affix photos into an album or scrapbook
  • Do not mount or affix photos to anything but archival quality paper
  • Do not hold photos together using paper clips or rubber bands
  • Do not store photos in envelopes, especially if the envelopes are not made from archival quality paper
  • When possible refrain from writing on photos, since often this leaves indentations on the photo, but in addition the ink can smear or get onto another image in the stack. If you’re going to write on a photo (as opposed to writing information on a separate scrap of paper next to the photo) use an archival safe photo pen, and still don’t press very hard.

Rule 5: Properly Load Your Photo Containers To Preserve, Not Damage, The Pictures

Finally, even the safest photo storage containers, that are archival quality, do not work properly if they are not filled properly.

Do not overfill an album, since this can cause the pictures to get bent or creased, or to more easily fall out and get damaged.

Further, photo boxes are a great way to store photos generally, but they need to be neither overfilled, nor underfilled.

Overfilling a photo box can cause many of the same problems as an overfilled album. An underfilled photo box means that the pictures move all around, and can curl on the edges or get frayed or damaged. If you do not have a full box, use something photo safe in the box, such as archival quality dividers, to keep the photos from shifting around too much.

Further, when filling photo boxes it is typically fine to stack the photos on top of each other loosely as long as you’re not in a humid or high temperature fluctuating environment which might cause the photos to stick to one another.

Some photo boxes allow you to “file” your photos on their side, with dividers. This can also work, but be sure then that the box is adequately filled so photos stand up straight without bowing and leaning, which can cause them to then not lay flat.

If you follow these five rules for properly storing pictures and photos your family memories will be much more likely to last over the course of many generations, just the way you’ve always wanted and envisioned.