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Home > Photography Technique > 9 More Photography Techniques to Try at Home

9 More Photography Techniques to Try at Home

With the lockdown still in place and likely to last a few more weeks, it’s no bad thing to have new photography projects you can easily do at home. So, without any further ado here are nine more to try…

Multiple exposure

What you’ll need:
Camera with double exposure facility, or Photoshop or similar

A good number of cameras now offer a multiple exposure mode. This mode lets you blend two or more photos together – typically shot consecutively. The appeal to multi exposures is that you can create surreal or abstract photos that have a pleasing other-worldly quality. Subjects that work well include portraits and natural subjects. As a very basic rule, try combining a dark subject with a light one. Silhouettes work well as a ‘frame’ for a second subject, for example. Don’t despair if your camera doesn’t have a multi exposure mode though. You can achieve the same effect by overlaying one photo over another as a layer in Photoshop (or similar). Use the layer blend modes to affect the way the two layers interact visually.

Focus stacking

What you’ll need:
Macro lens
Focus stacking software

Shooting macro is fun but sometimes frustrating. One frustration is the lack of depth of field, which can make it hard to get your subject pin-sharp. One way to overcome this limitation is to focus stack. To create a stacked image you first shoot a sequence of photos of your subject, using a small aperture, f/11 or f/16. When you shoot the first photo, set the focus to manual and then focus at the front of your subject. Then focus slightly further back and reshoot. Continue to do this until you reach the furthest point at the back of your subject. Ultimately, your subject should be sharp at every point along its length in at least one of the photos. (There is no right figure for the number of photos you shoot. More is better, though this will mean that it takes longer to process the stacked image in post-production.)

When you’re done, import the entire sequence into the stacking software, such as Adobe Photoshop. If you are using Photoshop you’ll first need to import the sequence into one image as a series of layers. Once you’ve multi-selected all the layers, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers and select Stack Images. After a bit of cogitation, Photoshop will then create your stacked image. If you don’t have or want Photoshop you could also consider options such as HeliconSoft’s Helicon Focus and Zerene System’s Stacker.

Cloned subject

What you’ll need:
Photoshop or similar

Repeats aren’t always unwelcome, at least on TV. A satisfyingly striking effect is the multiple repetition of a subject within a scene. This works particularly well if your subject is a person or is something that’s reasonably unique, such as a toy. (The effect of repetition is less striking if your subject is mass-produced, such as a pen. It just looks as though you own lots of pens…) First you need to fit your camera to a tripod to keep it stable as you shoot. Select Manual exposure and set the correct exposure for the scene. (Or use Program/Aperture/Shutter priority if preferred and select exposure lock.) Then, place your subject somewhere in the scene. Take a shot. Move your subject to new position and take the shot once more. Keep doing this until you have a good range of shots to work with.

Import the shots into Photoshop (or other editing software such as Affinity Photo) as a sequence of layers. Create a layer mask for the top layer and then paint out everything but your subject. (Generally, this can be roughly done, unless two or more ‘clones’ overlap.) The subject should now appear twice in the scene. Select the next layer down and repeat until you reach the lowest layer in the stack. Flatten the layers and save the final shot.

Torch light trails

What you’ll need:

A torch should be in every photographer’s kit bag. They have so many uses, not least illuminating your way home in the dark. One use is to add visual interest to a still life set up by creating a light trail around your subject. Ideally the room you shoot in should be as dark as possible. (Or can be made dark once you begin shooting.) Set up the scene and compose the shot. Switch to Manual exposure and set a shutter speed of 15-30 secs, an aperture of f/8, and a fixed ISO value – in the range of 100-400 to maximise image quality. Focus on your subject and then switch to manual focus if this is not already set. Select self-timer and select 2 or 5 secs delay. Press the shutter button on your camera and, before the shutter fires, smoothly and continuously start moving the torch around the subject. Once the exposure is complete, review the shot in playback to see if you need to reshoot. The technique can initially be a bit hit and miss, but your technique will improve with practise.

Make a domestic documentary

What you’ll need:

A documentary film has a narrative structure that helps the viewer to understand a story, ideally after just one viewing. The story isn’t told through words but through the way the various clips shot over the course of the project are edited together. To maintain interest documentary makers will vary how the clips were shot, using different focusing effects, focal length of lenses, and by varying viewpoint. An interesting challenge is to shoot a short documentary about something mundane, such as making a cup of tea. Think about how to make it interesting and try storyboarding the shoot beforehand. (A storyboard doesn’t have to be high art, but it’s a useful way to think about composition or camera/subject movement before beginning to shoot.)

Shoot out-of-focus

What you’ll need:
Standard lens

You can spend hundreds – thousands! – of pounds to get the sharpest lens possible. It’s understandable. Sharpness is important to the success of a photo. Right? Actually, there’s a lot to be said for embracing softness. Defocusing a lens so that everything is reduced to blurry shapes, adds a wonderful ambiguity to a shot. To shoot this way first pick a subject that has a definite and easily identifiable shape – ambiguity is all very well, but you want the subject to be ultimately identifiable. Select manual focus and turn the focus ring until the lens is close to its minimum focus distance. For increased blurriness use a telephoto lens set to its maximum aperture.

Combine oil and water

What you’ll need:
Macro lens
Flash or adjustable lamp

Oil and water famously don’t mix, but the way that they interact is photographically appealing. First add water to a clear glass dish or jug. Set your camera up so that you’re looking down onto the surface of the water. Use a flash or adjustable lamp to illuminate the set-up from the side, to add directionality the light. To add colour to the shot place coloured card below your glass container. (For a backlit shot, raise the glass container approximately 20-30cms above the coloured card and light the card rather than the water.)

Set the camera to Manual exposure. Select a relatively large aperture to ensure that the base of the glass container is out-of-focus, and focus precisely on the surface of the water (float something on the surface of the water to lock focus onto if necessary, removing it once focus is set). Lock focus by switching to MF if it’s not already. Select a shutter speed of roughly 1/500-1/1000, increasing the ISO if required. Take a test shot to make sure that exposure is correct.

With Continuous drive selected, slowly pour the oil – with the bottle out of shot – into the water. Fire the shutter as you do so to capture the different stages of the interaction of the oil and water.

Photography treasure hunt

What you’ll need:
Mobile phone

Keeping children entertained can be a struggle when you can’t leave the house. One way to keep them occupied for a bit is to create a photography treasure hunt in your house. Using a mobile phone, go around your house and take close-up photos of a wide variety of objects. When you have a good number give your children the phone and get them to find those objects. The closer you shoot – and so the less recognisable the object – the harder it will be to identify; it’s up to you how challenging you want to make the treasure hunt. To ensure that your children have found every object you could either get them to write down a list for you to check later, or hide something underneath – a note or coin – that they have to collect. (If you do this, don’t use objects that are easily damaged when picked up!) To encourage your children’s interest in photography you could even get them to create a treasure hunt for you in return.

Shoot through a magnifying glass

What you’ll need:
Magnifying glass – ideally larger than the lens front element

There are several ways to make a lens focus closer than its minimum focusing distance. One (relatively) cheap-and-cheerful way to do this is to use extension rings. With the right amount of extension you can even shoot at 1x magnification, the same as a true macro lens. However, an even cheaper way is to use a magnifying glass held in front of the lens. (After all, it works for your eyes!) Okay, there are a few problems with this technique. For one thing the image is rarely pin sharp – particularly if you’re using a plastic magnifying glass. For maximum sharpness hold the magnifying glass parallel to front element of the lens; move both the magnifying glass and camera until your subject is sharp(ish). To add a bit of artistic softness across part of the shot, turn the magnifying glass so that it’s a slight angle to the lens.

Keep experimenting with your camera during the lockdown, and above all stay safe.

If you enjoyed this article and trying out the different photography techniques, you will probably be interested in the previous article – 9 Photography techniques to try at home. Click here to read the article.

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