“Hacks.” It’s probably one of the biggest buzzwords of 2020, and for a good reason. The term hack refers to inelegant improvising or finding a creative solution to a problem. So whether you’re looking for life hacks, time management hacks or photography hacks — you’re in good company.
In this blog post we’re going to take a look at 7 easy camera hacks using items you probably have lying around the house right now. With a little creativity, practice and improvising, you can really add some neat looks to bland photographs. So, if you’re in the mood to sit back, relax and learn, check out the video below, OR keep scrolling to read about each of these DIY photo hacks.
Camera Hack #1: The Loofah
You know that fluffy, scrubby thing you use in the shower? Yeah that thing! Loofahs or Bath Sponges can be found for super cheap on Amazon if you don’t already have one. (Even if you do, it might still be a good idea to pick up some dry ones.)
The bath sponge is made up of a fine, woven synthetic material that does some really neat things when light passes through it. Try holding a layer or two in front of your lens to create a soft, hazy look, especially when you shooting directly into a light source.
Camera Hack #2: 2 Chainz
I have a few chains left around from my street photography days… Anyone?
The chains I used were actually made for hanging plants, pictures and other decor, and were taken from some of my neon signs. You can find them on Amazon as well for a few dollars if you don’t have any. Remember, the shinier, the better!
Wiggle the chains close to your lens — you’ll need some direct light such as the sun or an LED to create some glittery sparkles and flaring bokeh effects.
Camera Hack #3: CD / DVD
You can use a Blu-Ray if you’re feeling froggy, maybe even a Gamecube disc? I can yell you like to live on the edge…
This photo hack is really 2-fold: it can create spiffy light flares AND reflections. The CD hack is all about trial and error — there is really no right or wrong way to try this. Find creative ways to bounce the light into your lens, eg. hold the disc up to your lens, parallel to the ground for some interesting mirror effects.
Camera Hack #4: Disc Cover Flares
This was a really fun hack that I’ve never seen done before, and I honestly feel pretty original for coming up with this one.
Have you ever bought a big stack of CDs or DVDs? If you have, you’d likely wondered what the transparent discs on the top and bottom are for … hint: they’re for photography hacks! These clear plastic disc protectors can make incredible rainbow flares. I’m definitely giving this hack a try on my next portrait shoot.
Camera Hack #5: Tape
You need some clear tape and a little bit of patience for this one. While it can be a little frustrating to get setup properly, the soft-focus effect is absolutely worth it.
Try 1 piece of tape, 2 pieces or even 4 pieces. Don’t stick it directly on the front element of your lens, but on the outer plastic or metal areas as to not damage the glass. I personally enjoy 2 horizontal strips, but 2 vertical strips may also look good on some portraits!
Camera Hack #6: Tape & Highlighter
Remember hack #5 right above this one? Now just add a highlighter to this crazy mix.
After taping your lens, grab a colored highlighter and scribble a bit on the tape. Just be careful not to draw directly on your lens. This effect changes vastly depending on your focal length and the lighting conditions.
Camera Hack #7: Anamorphic Lens Flare Hack
This is one of my favorite camera hacks of all time. Anamorphic lens flares are a coveted staple cinematic video footage, and with a little fishing line, you can quickly add them to your own photos or videos. Yup, I said fishing line, also known as monofilament wire, which is pretty darn cheap at your local tackle shop or Amazon (link above).
This one can be a little tricky — the key here is to remember that your flares will be perpendicular to the angle of your line. So if your line is horizontally placed in front of your lens, your flare will be vertical, and vise-versa. It takes some practice and a rubber band to hold the line will make life a lot simpler.
I also find that this hack works best at focal lengths of 50mm and longer. The anamorphic hack example below was taken on my nifty fifty aka. Nikon 50mm f/1.4. If you want to go full J.J. Abrams (never go full J.J. Abrams), you can even aim a small light into your lens to really max out those Star Trek vibes.
So there are 7 easy camera hacks that you can start trying right now to add a little character and style to your photography. If you’re feeling really funky, try doubling up on hacks; maybe some anamorphic lens flares mixed with some CD reflections? It’s up to you and your artistic imagination. Just have fun!