• March 30, 2020

9 Photography Techniques to Try at Home

9 Photography Techniques to Try at Home

9 Photography Techniques to Try at Home 1024 683 David Taylor

You’re stuck indoors and you don’t know what to do with yourself. Don’t fret! Just embark on a mini photography project to while away the hours. Here are nine suggestions (in order of difficulty) that will help keep boredom at bay.


Shoot the alphabet

What you’ll need:

Zoom lens

A simple – but strangely compelling – photography project is to shoot the alphabet, one letter per photo. This can be done in a number of ways. You could either look around your house for pre-created letters – on the spines of books, or on tins of food. Or you could make your own letters from things you can find in your house – shape letters from string, or combine different objects to form letters.


Swap Raw files with a friend

What you’ll need:

A Raw file or two

Editing a Raw file is a very personal thing; we all have our own ideas and preferences on how images should be processed. It’s therefore an interesting experiment to swap one of your Raw files with the Raw file of a trusted photography friend. Edit each other’s Raw files and send the results back. (Include either a .XMP file or export a JPEG so the edits can be seen.) Discuss by phone or by email why you both processed the Raw files they way you did, and what techniques you used. Seeing one of your own photos interpreted by someone else can help you re-assess your own way of working, and can lead to the discovery of techniques you weren’t previously aware of.


Shoot soap bubbles

What equipment you’ll need:

Macro or close-focusing lens, or zoom lens

The iridescent sheen of soap bubbles is a pleasing and photogenic mix of colours. The simplest way to shoot soap bubbles is in a sink or small container. Fill your container with water and add enough liquid soap to create a good froth. Shoot the soap bubbles with a macro or close-focusing lens, using soft light illumination. (Either on a cloudy day, or in room with a north-facing window.) For a bigger challenge shoot free-floating bubbles, blown from a loop of wire dipped into soapy water. (Try off-camera flash at different angles to the camera for different effects.)


Pet portraits

What you’ll need:

Zoom lens

Pets make great subjects, and are generally amenable to the attention you’ll give them as you shoot. (Admittedly dogs are better in this regard than cats, as any cat owner will confirm…) Shoot a variety of images, trying to capture your pet’s personality. Try shooting when they’re playing, when they’re eating, and when they’re asleep. Shoot use a variety of focal lengths, showing either your pet in the context of where they live, or close-ups of their body, face and individual facial features.


Shoot a time-lapse sequence from a window

What you’ll need:

Tripod

Remote release

Shooting a time-lapse sequence of photos across an entire day is a good way to see how the changing light alters how a scene looks. And, as a bonus, the images can be combined later to produce a short movie. Set your camera on a tripod next to a window – if you can open the window, and leave it open, so much the better. Set your camera to semi-automatic exposure mode. Aperture priority is ideal as this ensures that only the shutter speed changes as the light levels vary. It also ensures that depth of field remains consistent through the sequence. Connect a remote release and start shooting at dawn. Continue shooting throughout the day, ideally at regular intervals, until dusk. The shorter the span of time between shots, the longer you can make a time-lapse movie afterwards. (One second of a time-lapse movie equals 25 or 30 frames, depending on whether you create a PAL or NTSC movie.)


Photograph cutlery

What you’ll need:

Macro or close-focusing lens

Light source such as a bedroom lamp

Cutlery is a great photographic subject, and throws one or two satisfying  challenges at you too. There are several approaches you could take. Compose square on with the cutlery for a more classic, formal photo. Or, use a small aperture and get in close to create more abstract and artistic imagery.  The tricky part – unless you’re using plastic or wooden cutlery – is to keep you and your camera’s reflection from appearing on the shiny metal. Using a longer lens is one way to help limit this risk. Alternatively, cut a lens-sized hole in the centre of a large piece of white card, poke the lens through the hole, and then shoot the cutlery from behind the card.


Make Bokeh shapes

What you’ll need:

Telephoto lens – ideally one with a large maximum aperture – and its front cap

Piece of black card and a sharp knife

Out-of-focus highlights take on the shape of the aperture in the lens. Typically this means that out-of-focus highlights are roughly circular. However, by creating a second aperture from card you can create out-of-focus highlights that have a more unusual shape. To create a new aperture for the lens, place the lens cap on the card and draw around it, then cut the circle out. (To make the card easier to remove from your lens later, don’t cut out the entire circle but leave a small tab somewhere on the edge.) This circle of card will need to pushed – gently! – against the front of the lens so you may need to trim it slightly to fit. Then, carefully cut out a small shape at the centre of the lens, between 5-10mm in size. Star shapes work well, as do crescents and hearts. Don’t make the shape too complex though. Fit the card onto the lens and shoot with the lens aperture set to maximum. This technique works well with point light sources, such Christmas or street lights. Place your subject between the camera and lights (ideally closer to the camera than the lights). Focus on your subject so that the light source is out of focus, and so take on the shape of the card aperture. Because most of the lens’s front element is hidden by card, you may need to use very long exposures or increase the ISO.


Cross polarisation

What you’ll need:

Two polarisers

Lightbox

Cross-polarisation reveals stress points in clear plastic objects as a rainbow of colours. To cross polarise you’ll need to fit one polariser to the lens on your camera and place the second on a lightbox. (Polarisers that fit onto lenses tend to be relatively small, so consider buying sheets of polarising gel – particularly if your chosen subject is fairly large. Place your subject on, or supported just above, the polariser on the lightbox. Point your camera directly down towards the subject – so that the two polarisers are parallel to each other. Slowly turn the polariser on the lens to change the colours to suit. At certain positions as you rotate the background will be black, which helps the colours to pop out further.


Freelensing

What you’ll need:

Prime lens (ideally 35mm or 50mm)

Tripod (not essential but useful)

A lens doesn’t have to properly mounted to a camera to form an image on the sensor. You could just hold the lens next to the lens mount of your camera. This technique is known as freelensing, and can be used to create artistically pleasing shots that, though never pin-sharp, are visually interesting. Start by holding the lens parallel to the camera to get a feel for the technique, and then try varying the angle of the lens relative to the camera. This can create interesting focus effects, mimicking the way a tilt-shit lens can be used to shift the plane of focus. For best results use a prime lens, ideally set to ∞, and use manual exposure, setting the exposure with the lens fitted. (There is no electronic communication between the camera and the lens, so this technique works well with lenses that have a manual aperture ring you can alter.)


Have fun with the above, and stay healthy.

This article was first published on Telephoto.com.

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