Manipulating the image

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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 required.  “Hold it, one, two, three,” and you’ve got that record shot.  Not something to blow up and use as wall art.

However, injecting some ‘art’ into your photography is not all that difficult, and the results may just surprise you.  The answer here is ‘filters’ and you do not have to buy one of the expensive kits either.

The first thing to do is to standardize all your lenses.  Using stepping rings which you can purchase in good camera shops, you bring all the lenses to the same diameter at the front of the lens.  This way, one filter can be used on all your lenses.

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.  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 a clear piece of glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square.  Put the 1 baht coin in the center of the perspex and then gently wave 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!  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.  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!