Special effects photography is used to create images that “trick the eye”.
Special effects photography is used to create images that “trick the eye,” creatively using the camera, props, and other equipment to make seemingly unbelievable photographs.Read on for a description of the various techniques used in special effects photography. Mastering these types of shots will expand your body of work and ultimately make you a better photographer, with a portfolio that will wow even the most seasoned professionals.
“Painting” with Slow Shutter Speed
A simple trick of slowing down your shutter speed while moving the camera can turn a typical scene into a wonder of swirled colors. This technique is relatively easy to master, though practice and luck is needed to make a truly indelible image.
To get this effect, first set your camera to wide angle lens and add two filters: a neutral density filter and a polarizing filter. Set your shutter speed to one second and focus in on your subject. Something with lots of bright colors will produce the best effect. Press the shutter button and rotate your camera from left to right while zooming in. The result? A beautiful, abstract work of art. Experiment with different shutter speeds for varying effects.
Convey Action and Motion
A slow shutter speed can also be used to show action in motion. Often, sports are photographed with a very fast shutter speed, which results in a clear image that may look posed or cardboard. Using a slow shutter speed, you can take a dynamic image that invokes the speed and excitement of the action you’re portraying.
Set your shutter speed at 1/15 of a second. Then, focus in on your subject and pan with it as it moves. When done correctly, your subject will be in focus and the background blurred. If 1/15 results in an image that’s too blurry, you can slow it down in increments to as much as 1/60 of a second.
Get a Reflective Image with Mylar
Picture the shiny, silver material that is used for birthday helium balloons. This material, called Mylar, is available in rolls at your local craft store. Mylar can be used to produce a variety of special effects, for very little cost. For example, place shiny material like pennies onto the silver part of the Mylar for an abstract, reflective effect. You can also make a tube with the material and shoot your subject through it for an interesting image. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to be creative; the possibilities are endless!
Focus on Water Droplets
Unless you’ve looked very closely, you probably haven’t noticed that a drop of water hanging on the tip of a blade of grass has a tiny, reflected image inside it. Special effects can help you capture this unique image. First, use a macro lens; you’ll also need a tripod for this effect. Though it might be difficult to capture the exact second that the water droplet swells from the flower or branch, you can easily fake this shot inside. Simulating the effect of a water drop in nature is relatively easy, and you can take many shots until you get just the right one.
Get a Starburst Effect
Do you want to fragment the light in the photo you’re taking to get a unique, “starburst” look? The easiest way to do this without any extra equipment is to shot the photo through a women’s nylon stocking. This works best during a low light or nighttime shoot. When shot through the nylon, every light source in the photo will look like it’s exploding into the images. This is a very cool effect with very little preparation and cost involved.
Try a Mirror and Water for Interesting Reflections
This technique is easy to accomplish with nothing more than a mirror and a spray bottle full of water. Position your subject in front of the mirror, then spray the water onto the mirror so that it’s misted with tiny droplets. Shoot the photo into the mirror for a weird, abstracted result that will turn any subject into a work of art.
Experiment with Color
Do you want to add interesting hues to your images, but don’t want to spend money on a variety of lenses? You can easily create this effect with colored cellophane from your local grocery store. Stretch the plastic over the lens, and then shoot your subject. Add a red tone for a surreal desert look, or experiment with blue to create a nighttime vision during the day.
For most of these effects, the only equipment you need is inexpensive household items, a camera, and your own creativity. The special effects we’re emphasizing here are purely mechanical in nature; however, many of these effects can also now be simulated using a software program like Adobe Photoshop. If you are an aspiring photographer, it makes sense to experiment with both manual special effects and software. Think of both methods as tools in your photography arsenal.
Creativity and experimentation are the most important part of working with special effects. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the exact result you want the first time around. Think of your practice as part of your growth as a photographer.