Cheap filters

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There is more to photography than just ‘record’ shots.  These shots are those you take of your wife at the beach with her sister and your brother-in-law.  You know what I mean, and you have taken lots of them in your lifetime.  Photographically, we call these ‘record’ shots as all they are doing is recording an event.  No ‘art’ or even artistic input by the photographer.

Here’s a simple (and cheap) way to put some art into your photography by using filters, without having to buy expensive filter kits.  Filters can be used with any camera, film, digital, compact or SLR, but digital will certainly give you an instant result.  I also believe in not spending too much on filters, and when I say cheap, the first one costs 1 baht (and is recoverable) and gives you a center-spot soft focus filter.  It will enhance portraits, particularly of women, giving a soft dreamy look to the photo.  Using this filter this just means the center is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred.  This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph.

You will need one can of hairspray, a one baht coin and a clear piece of glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square.  This piece of perspex needs to be as thin as possible to keep it optically correct.  One supply source can be hardware shops, glaziers and even picture framers.

Having cut out your square, put the coin in the center of the perspex and then gently wave the hairspray over the lot.  Let it dry and gently flick the coin off and you have your first special effects filter – the center spot soft focus.

Now set your camera lens on the largest aperture you can (around f5.6 or f4 is fine).  Focus on your subject, keeping the face in the center of the screen.  Bring up your magic FX filter and place it over the lens and what do you see?  The face is in focus and the edges are all blurred!  You’ve got it.  Shoot!  Take a few shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject.  Try altering the f stop as well, as this changes the apparent size of the clear spot in the middle.  Simple, cheap and easy art.

Here is another, the Super Sunset Filter.  This one will give you that wonderfully warm “tropical sunset” which will make people envious that they aren’t over here to enjoy such spectacular endings to the day.  To produce the warm glow, just take off your sunglasses and place one side over the lens.  It’s that simple!  Just look at the difference yourself, with and without the sunnies.  The camera will see it the same way.

Soft romantic effects can be produced super inexpensively as well.  The first is to gently breathe on the end of the lens just before you take the shot.  Your warm breath will impart a “mist” to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that early morning mist look for landscapes.  Remember that the “misting” only lasts a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focussed and ready to shoot.  If you have control over the aperture, try around f4 as well.

Here’s another.  Use a piece of stocking (pantyhose) material.  Stretch it over the lens and tie it on with a rubber band.  Cut a small hole in the middle and go ahead and shoot romantic portraits.

There are also other ways of bending, refracting or just generally fooling the camera’s lens system.  This you do by holding transparent materials in front of the lens when taking your photographs.  I suggest you get small pieces of glass or perspex (around 10 cm by 10 cm) and use these as the final filter.  You can even use semi-transparent material like shower screen glass.  The concept is just to produce a “different” effect, one that the camera will pick up.  It is very difficult to predict the outcomes in these situations, but you can be pleasantly amazed at some of the results.  The main idea is to give it a try!