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Photography & Special Effects

Updated on August 19, 2014
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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

Photography techniques for creating mood & special effects

Photography projects, creating special effects is a seldom explored photographic arena. With some practice and determination, it can be a well worth it project.

Have you ever looked upon the works of such famous impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre Renoir? They were master artists who could evoke emotion with a few simple stokes of the their paint brush.

I know that the only time that I have a brush on my hands is for when I am going to shave. However, I do know how to use a camera and I also know how to create photographs that are impressionist in style by using a few simple tricks and photographic know how.

Your first task is to choose a subject whose colors and setting will make a good impressionist scene, muted colors work well for this such as pale yellows, light blues etc. and flower blooms make especially good subjects.

Choose a subject that is relatively in the middle of the group or scene, get your lens close to the front subjects, focus on the middle subjects or a single subject and use an f-stop of 2.8.

The shallow depth of field will render anything in back of the main subject as a blur as the subjects in the front of the shot will be blurred also by being out of focus.

Example: in a field of flowering blooms, get the lens very close to the front flowers(almost touching), focus on the middle flowers, and use and stop of 2.8 or lower. For added drama, use a slow shutter speed.

Another example is to take photographs while traveling,when you, the photographer are in motion. Try this, on a moving vehicle focus on what's directly ahead of you, but use a shutter speed of about 1/8 to 1/15. The subject in the middle will be relatively sharp while the subjects on the side will be blurred. Another good project is to shoot a moving subject while following it, at a shutter speed of about 1/8 to 1/15, this is also called panning.

Creating a "double mirror" image is not difficult if you use Photoshop like taking an image that features people and using layers add the same image in a mirror effect. Better if you transform this mirror image into something unreal.

Flying subjects, such as birds and butterflies can result in impressionist photos too. Shoot the subject at a shutter speed of about 1/8 to 1/15 against its background. Due to the slow shutter speed your subjects' motion will render it as a blur while keeping the background sharp. It will appear as a streak of color or you can also use panning to render the subject a little sharper.

A project that I did several years ago involved shooting a flowering tree against a background of windswept taller grass using a slow shutter speed. The tree was sharp overall but the grass appeared as a moving mass of green. This can also be done using moving people instead of grass.

To show or recreate the sense of speed in photographs, like the old cartoons that used lines emanating from the subject to create a sense of movement and speed, follow/pan the subject at a shutter speed of about 1/15 or a little faster, depending on the subject's speed.

Everything in the shot will be rendered a a blur of lines with the exception of the subject, thus creating a sense of movement and speed. This is similar to shooting moving water with a slow shutter speed, except with no panning.

Another technique which is not used much today due to the introduction of digital photography is to "sandwich" two or more slides(positives) together, project them and photograph the projection. Or you can have a professional lab do it for you.

One of my favorites is to sandwich photos of flowers, faces of loved ones with a photo of a full moon, with my chosen subject seemingly being in the center of the moon. Another one is to take face portraits and sandwich them with photos of kisses.

For this use a clear pane of glass, place the glass directly on top of a portrait photo, plant a kiss (use red lipstick) wherever you want it to appear and shoot. Be mindful of reflections on the glass. If you are digitally inclined then Photoshop can be used to combine two images into one. Follow link for a tutorial.

Here is another seldom used technique. Shoot a subject which is moving directly towards you while you slowly zoom away from it, use a shutter speed of about 1/8 to 1/15. Alternatively, you can shoot a static subject while zooming away from it, again use a slow shutter speed. Other techniques involve placing a contoured/engraved/etched pane of glass on top of photographs and then re-shooting.

Keep in mind that some practice & experimenting will have to be done as you get used to the techniques and that variations in shutter speed, f-stops the conditions of the shot and other factors will produce different results.

Want more topics, ideas, and photography projects?


Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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