NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2010
Use creativity to expand picture taking capabilities
without flattening your wallet

By Constance Brown, President,
Canton Alliance Massillon Users Group, Ohio August 2010 issue, The Memory Map

constanceb (at) camug.com (click to email author)

Ever since the cost of photography was drastically reduced with the development of affordable digital cameras, it has been possible for the hobbyist to use creativity to expand picture taking capabilities without flattening his wallet. Often things we have around the house can be used to provide special effects in color and lighting.

If you like to experiment, you will want a camera that allows you to add filters. For example, my camera does not have an interchangeable lens. However, the lens is threaded, allowing me to add filters or a threaded adapter ring on which I can screw filters. With a cheap UV filter, I can make my own fog or blur filter simply by smearing petroleum jelly on the filter, a light coat for fog and a heavier coat for blurring. I can wash it off when I am through with the photography session.

Caution: Do not use petroleum jelly on your camera lens!

Do you have red cellophane lying around the house? Try covering your lens with it and fastening with a rubber band instead of purchasing a red filter. Experiment with different colors of cellophane. Is the color too intense? Scribble on clear cellophane with a permanent marker for a subdued filter. Want an airbrushed appearance? Stretch a piece of fabric from an old pair of pantyhose over the lens and secure with a rubber band. For more ideas on creating homemade filters, visit http://painting.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_make_homemade_filters_for_cameras

I enjoy using shiny gift bags to provide special lighting effects although it requires two people or one person and a tripod and the use of the timer on the camera. Warm up a basket of flowers or intensify the reds in your Christmas arrangements by turning a red bag to reflect the light. The effect of sunlight shining on an object can be obtained by use of a gold bag. Light up your crystal angels by using a combination of green, red, and gold. You can also use the shiny windshield reflectors. The silver bags or reflectors give a steely harshness and exactness to the composition.

Do you need to photograph small jewelry items or watches for insurance or eBay purposes? Often the best way is to use your scanner. Just lay the item on the scanner and cover it with piece of heavy black or white cloth. Lower the scanner lid if possible and scan at picture resolution.

Do you have a worn out pair of jeans lying around the house? How about some dry beans? Cut a section from one of the legs of the jeans, sew one end closed, add beans and sew up the other end. Now you have a bean bag tripod, one of the steadiest and most portable tripods. Set it on top of a fence post and snuggle your camera into the beans. It won’t go anywhere! It is a great way to steady a powerful telephoto lens or take timed exposures. The size of the bag needed depends on the size of your camera.

“A tiny rangefinder camera will rest comfortably on a 3” X 6" pants pocket filled to a thickness of less than an inch; a massive 500mm lens attached to a motorized 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) camera body might require a large bag as much as 6 inches thick. If you’ll be resting your makeshift tripod over the windowsill of your car or truck, as my friend the wildlife photographer does, give it some floppy ‘legs’ to hang down either side of the door. And when maximum stability is your goal, think big.” http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1985-05-01/The-Incredible-Edible-BeanbagTripod.aspx?page=3

Want to make sure your pictures are taken with the camera at the level? Pull the miniature bubble level out of your tool box and use some double-sided tape to mount it on your camera.

Want to soften your flash photos but a softbox isn’t in the budget? Make your own using stiff picture mounting card, glue, heavy duty packaging tape and some type of translucent paper such as tissue or baking grease proof paper or drafting film. Visit http://www.fredmiranda.com/A18/ for detailed instructions on how to measure your flash to determine the size. When you are finished, you will have a softbox that performs as well as or better than anything you would buy.

As you become comfortable with the idea of improvisation, you will find that more and more of your needs can be met with a minimum of expense and a little time. Some research on Google will yield you instructions on how to create a light box, a professional lighting studio, bicycle and vehicle mounts and much more. So be creative and escalate your skills to the next level!

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