- Arts and Design
Fun Photography Ideas & Tricks | DIY Photo Projects and Technique Tutorials
Creative Techniques to Try With Your Camera
Photography is a brilliant hobby and creative outlet, and there are many different techniques you can have fun experimenting with. On this page, I've compiled a list of tutorials for new & interesting photo-capturing methods, plus impressive photos showing off the end results.
Most of them are within the capabilities of beginners with just a point-and-shoot digital camera, and a lot of the techniques have room for you to experiment with your own variations, which could perhaps end in you inventing a brand new technique - who knows?!
I hope you are inspired to try some of these out to vary your photography, and if I've left a good method out, let me know :-)
Options For Changing Up Your Photography
Since the invention of digital cameras, the possibility for experimentation has become huge because you can take as many photos as you like at no extra cost - so if an idea doesn't work then it doesn't matter. In addition, the number and range of settings on cameras has greatly increased, and of course Photoshop and other editing software programs have appeared on the scene. This means there is massive scope for creative expression for both in-camera and off-camera techniques. This page focusses on in-camera methods which you apply and use before uploading your photos to your PC.
Photography is normally about recording life and objects as they are, albeit as the best they can be. The inventive photography tutorials I've listed on this page are for creating art with your photos so that the end result is not exactly what you see in front of your eyes. You can use any camera, whether it's a point-and-shoot or a DSLR, to manipulate light and images to create interesting effects, abstract artistic pictures and other cool styles. You're much more likely to create a unique and eye-catching photo if you put your own spin on it, plus it's a lot of fun!
You can really get to know your camera much better by experimentation because you'll find functions you may not have realised you even had access to, and you'll better understand how your camera works and what it's capable of. The world will be filled with more possibilities once you learn a few cool tricks!
Creative methods to use in your normal everyday photos include:
Changing filters on your camera e.g. by using the black-and-white or sepia functions, or you could use physical filters if you have a DSLR to add color and other fun effects - my personal favorite filter is a starburst one which turns any bright light source into a star shape. You can also try out different angles to get unusual perspectives on your shots - for instance shooting from a low angle by kneeling down or lying on your front if necessary! Another you might recognize if you've ever visited the Tower of Pisa in Italy is 'forced perspective' where you creative illusions within your photo e.g. making it look like you are holding up the Tower of Pisa (by posing in just the right place), or perhaps making it look like you are holding the moon between your finger and thumb.
You will find that the photographic techniques often fall into a certain category depending on what photography feature you are focussing on:
- Experimenting with movement is popular and involves either the subject moving, or the camera moving, to create some form of blurred motion which gives the effect of movement within a still picture. A few ideas include camera tossing (where you literally throw the camera in the air after setting a slow shutter speed of a few seconds), panning (used in sport photos and involves you focussing on a moving object), taking photos whilst rotating your camera to get a swirl effect, or zooming in and out whilst taking a photograph to get an effect which really draws the eye to the center of the image.
- Experimenting with sunlight is another way to go, with techniques such as lens flare (where the camera is pointed directly at the sun to make a hazy effect with circles of light stretching from the sun), and silhouettes (made by putting a person or object between your camera and the sun). Lighting is so important in photography and be used and manipulated in different ways to create interesting outcomes
- Experimenting with low light conditions, where slow shutter speeds are used to capture as much light from the surroundings as possible. A tripod is definitely necessary for night photography otherwise you get blurry shots. There are a lot of artistic opportunities for making use of artificial lighting at night, including: 'Slow sync flash' is a method which combines slow shutter speeds with the use of a flash, to produce a clear main subject in low lighting, with a blurry background. 'Painting with light', which is a favourite method of mine, consists of using a slow shutter speed whilst moving artificial lighting such as sparklers/sparks/torches/glow sticks in front of the camera, often in a certain way to mark out the outline of a shape such as a heart/star etc. Light stencils are also a possibility and allow you to insert lit-up shapes, words or images into a night scene. Other ways to use artificial lights in darkness include making light trails with moving car lights, or making starburst light trails by zooming in or out during a shot of a static light (such as a street light).
- Experimenting with aperture: Out-of-focus backgrounds are popular for macro shots, and are created by selecting a wide aperture (low f-stop number).
- Experimenting with distance: You can use the macro setting on your camera, or a macro lens, to enable you to be able to capture very close and small details, which is handy for flower photos for instance. With a long zoom you can get a close-up of something much further away, which lets you capture things you wouldn't be able to if you were positioned nearby - especially animals.
- Experimenting with exposure: You can choose to over-expose or under-expose a photo on purpose to produce different lighting effects i.e. for over-exposure you purposely let more light into the camera so that the lighter areas of the image you are shooting become even lighter and often disappear entirely.
- Experimenting with long/slow shutter speeds: As talked about above, this feature is usually used for night and low light situations, however you can also use it in daylight hours e.g. you can turn waterfalls and other moving water into 'smoky water' with slow shutter speeds, which is one of my favourite effects and makes water look soft and silky.
- Experimenting with short/fast shutter speeds: This is essential for capturing a single moment in a very quick event e.g. a balloon bursting, a water drop splashing, an explosion, or a very fast moving car. It's a tricky technique to master, but the results can be very impressive.
Other fun ideas include taking underwater pics using a waterproof camera case, or experimenting with vintage film cameras (which you can use to make 'double exposures'), Polaroids and pinhole cameras.
Click here for a great list of 12 ways to 'add randomness' to your photos.
With a DSLR camera you will have more options available to you, including more functions and the ability to use different specialized lenses like telephoto or fish eye lenses, but most of the methods on this page can be carried out with a basic point-and-shoot.
I hope you find this page inspiring and I hope you give a few of the ideas a try!
Top-Rated Creative Photography Books
Water Drop Photography
Painting With Light
Best Photography Tutorial Websites
- Digital Photography School
Brilliant tutorials and tips.
Browse through to find amazing photo techniques & projects.
- DIY Photography
Creative techniques for experimenting with.
- Photography Instructables
Tutorials for photo techniques, hacks and projects.
- Amateur Snapper
Advice for photographing different subjects.
- A camera was thrown over a lit-up Christmas tree for this effect!
- Through the Viewfinder
Retro effect using TtV photography.
- DIY Pinhole Cameras
Free instructions for 23 cameras.
- About Pinhole Photography
Information and tips.
- Fisheye Lens for an SLR
DIY lens hack using a pair of glasses.
- Fisheye DIY for any Camera
Video tutorial for a $5-10 hack.
- Painting with Light
Help and info on this artistic technique.
- Time Machine
Using old photos within new photos.
- Augmented Reality
Using drawings, objects and photos within new location photos.
- Make a 3D Camera
To produce stereographs.
- Zoom Effect
Adding a simple starburst effect to photos.
Long Exposure - Light Trails
Photo of car lights on Brooklyn Bridge by Laverrue.
Creative Photography Methods
- Motion Blur
Everything you would want to know.
- How to Capture Motion Blur
More technical advice.
- Aerial Balloon Camera
Take photos from a different perspective.
- Water Drop Photos
How to photograph a water drop in a bubble.
- 88 Forced Perspective Photos
Examples of fun shots you can do yourself.
- Holiday Souvenir Photos
Bring your landmark souvenirs to life!
- Photo Chain
To make a photo within a photo within a photo...
- Heart Shaped Bokeh
Really pretty background lights effect.
- Artistic Lens Flare
Taking photos into the sun.
- Time Lapse Photography
Making a stop-motion video segment with photos.
What is Bokeh?
One of my favourite effects in photography is 'bokeh'. Bokeh is a term that refers to how the out-of-focus (blurry) area of a photograph looks. Usually this is ideally soft and not at all distracting, since often the purpose of having much of a photo out-of-focus is to draw the viewer's attention completely to what is in focus; the main subject of the photograph.
For instance, if you take a photo of a bird in a tree, the bird is the main subject so you can keep it in focus and 'blur' the background by using a shallow depth of field . Blurring a background reduces any lights or light reflections to circular shapes that look like orbs (click here for an example). These are circle in shape because the aperture inside the camera lens is circular (or very close to circular).
The aperture is the opening inside a camera lens which allows light to travel through, and the shape of the 'orbs' - which are often called 'blur discs' - can change if the aperture shape is changed. This usually-circular shape can also be altered by creating DIY bokeh filters, which have been mentioned elsewhere on this page. This is where a black filter is placed over the camera lens, and this filter has a shape of your own design cut out of it e.g. a star. When the filter is in place, the normally-circular reflections then change to star shapes as the shape of the aperture has effectively changed to a star. This means that the out-of-focus areas of your photo are now filled with stars..cool, huh?!
How does it work?
If you want to learn more about depth of field, what causes blur and why multiple circle shapes appear in the out-of-focus area, click here for diagrams and information.
Photography Tutorial Videos
More Fun Photo Ideas
- High Speed Photography
Great for capturing bubbles & water balloons bursting.
- Camera Toss
I would personally use some sort of safety net for this!
- Capturing Water Droplets
Step-by-step instructions for catching the perfect water drop splash.
- Water Drop Technique
Impressive shots of water drops.
- Make Your Car Sparkle
Use sparklers to outline your car in a photo.
- Capturing Light Trails
Of cars and moving lights as they go by.
- Bokeh Shapes
Create blurry background hearts or stars.
- Defying Gravity
Create funny scenes horizontally.
- Spinning Children Photos
How to get the classic blurred motion background.
Assemble many photos together to create a panorama.
- Photography Round-Up
Great list of techniques including infrared.
A Variety of Things to Try
How to create clones of people for a mind-boggling effect.
- Taking Clone Photos
A clear tutorial using the layer mask technique.
- 35 Surreal Examples of Multiplicity
Lists like this are excellent for providing inspiration.
- Double Exposure
How to combine 2 photos in one.
Photographing light after it's been refracted through glass.
- Slow Sync Flash
Fun method for adding a blurred background.
- 'S' Shaped Bokeh
Step-by-step instructions for the technique.
- DIY Hacks
Including waterproof, fish-eye and soft focus photos.
- 50 Cent Macro Lens
For point-and-shoots without one already.
- Aerial Kite Photography
Aerial photos which are certainly cheaper than using a helicopter or plane!
- DIY Sparkle Reflector
Experiment with different sizes and shapes of mirror tiles for cool light effects.
- Capture Silhouettes
10 Tips for taking effective, moody and bold silhouette images.
Long Exposure Sparks
This wall of sparks was created using the burning steel wool technique. Less than a handful of the steel wool was put in a (kitchen) whisk and a keychain was a attached to the top of the whisk handle to allow you to spin it around.
The wool was set alight and the whisk was spun around above the opening of this bridge so that sparks were thrown outwards by the spinning force. The sparks last for around 10 seconds and this is all captured with a very slow shutter speed (long exposure).
Please exercise caution with this idea!
Photography Project Ideas
Great For Practising Your Skills & Trying New Things
Rather than take random photos, a project makes you concentrate your efforts on one goal for a longer time, which allows you to hone your skills, encourages you to photograph more, and is lots of fun!
Some ideas include:
- 'A Day In The Life': This is where you spend a day (or longer) documenting everything that happens to you in a day, even the trivial little things. Take lots of photos even if you think what you are doing is boring. Imagine if you had done this before - maybe when you were at school or in your first job - and think how much more interesting it would be to look at that time in photos now. In 10 years you'll be happy you did this kind of documentation of your life :)
- Street fashion photography: Get out in a public place and ask fashionable people if you can take their photo - be brave!
- Interesting people: You could wander around your hometown or a new city and ask random people if you can photograph them and then perhaps ask them all a question to tell you a little bit about them. This could be anything that's not too personal, like 'where's the best place you've ever visited?' or 'what's your job?' You can note these answers down and write them on or next to the photos at a later date. Everyone's different after all, and everyone has a story.
You could also do this for people you know well instead, and write 3 facts about each person, or 3 memories, or 3 things you like about them.
- Architecture: Buildings offer a lot of inspiration for photography, especially detailed buildings or those with lots of angles or reflections. I think architecture can look particularly dramatic in black-and-white.
- Alphabet collection: Try to illustrate the alphabet. You can interpret this a few different ways: a) Photograph something beginning with each letter of the alphabet (e.g. apple to represent 'a'), b) Hunt out letters themselves in our surroundings (in signs/posters/graffiti), or c) Make the shape of each letter with props.
- Make a stop motion clip using household items or anything you find lying around.
- Time-lapse photography: This is where you take photos of a slow-moving process at set time intervals. For instance, you could photograph a sunset once every 20 seconds for half an hour. You would then use editing software to string the photos together as a video clip. You would use a normal video rate such as 30 frames-per-second (fps) to greatly speed up the action. The result is a mini movie which looks like it's in fast-motion.
Ideas for what you could film include stars moving across the sky, a flower blooming, a building being constructed, or a sunrise over a city skyline.
- Time passing: A popular project that I've seen people display on the web is the '1 photograph a day for 1 year' project. Simply take a picture of yourself from the same distance away every day, preferable with the same colour background but this isn't vital. Then at the end of the year you can string all of the photos together to make a fun video clip of you ageing! I've seen examples of this where someone has taken a picture of their kid from a baby until they were 20 years old - impressive and amazing results!
I've also seen an example where a photo (or short video clip) has been taken to represent what you were doing or where you were each day for a year - this is an alternative if you're camera shy! This can make you appreciative how much you actually do in a year, and all the millions of things you see.
More Video How-Tos
Inventive Ways To Use Your Camera
- Homemade Photo Filters
Add a tone of any color to your photos using acetate and pens.
- Learn To Fly
Levitation method to make it look like your subject is floating!
- Double Exposure Ideas
How to blend two photos into one using a film camera.
- DIY Water Bokeh
Inventive way to create a bokeh effect with a plastic lid and water.
- Spooky Ghost Photos
Use Photoshop and old-fashioned costumes to make ghostly portraits.
- 10 Photo Filters on the Cheap
Pantyhose, a magnifying glass and sunglasses are amongst the filter ideas.
- Pringles Grid Spot and Snoot
Stop the light from your flash spreading out as much using Pringles tubes and drinking straws.
- A View of NYC from a Bicycle
Take photos from a different angle by attaching a camera to a bike.
- A Toddler's City View
Photos taken from an interesting viewpoint; a toddler's stroller.
Even More Creative Techniques
- Making Light Stencils
How to make stencils for awesome long exposure photos.
- Another Light Stencils Tutorial
Demonstrates a very effective way of combining old and new photos.
- Light Stencil Animations
Examples of what can be done using light stencils.
- Bubbles & Frozen Bubbles
Info from an expert plus a bubble recipe.
- Sunprint Effect
Use your photos to produce blue tone sunprints.
- Daily Levitations
Just something you can do to add a fun element to daily photographs.
- Printing on Mulberry Paper
A beautiful effect is produced by printing on handmade paper.
- More Bokeh Fun
I particularly like the cloud bokeh idea.
- Making Cinemagraphs
Quite an eerie effect created with photos and video.
- DIY Abstract Wall Art
Deliberately blur photographs of colourful subjects.
- Mirror Reflections
Extend images and scenes by cleverly using a mirrored surface.
Click here to browse more photos by Michael Hughes.
Cool Technique Ideas
- Underwater TtV Photos
Did you know vintage cameras can go under the water?
- Using a Disposable Camera
20 creative ways to use a disposable film camera.
- HDTR Photo Gallery
Where both day and night are seamlessly combined.
- Holiday Backdrop
How to create a Christmas bokeh background for photos.
- 360 Degree Photos
How to create a circular panoramic photograph.
- R/C Car Camera
Attach your camera to a remote control car to get a different viewpoint.
- Drawing With LEDs
Use LED lights to mix doodling with photography.
- Spinning Drill Photos
Put a camera on a cordless drill to create blurred circle photos.
- Add Texture to Your Photos
2 ways to do this - before or after the photo is taken.