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How to Create Special Effects with a Compact Digital Camera

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/18/2011

Even if you don't have a high-priced, top of the line digital camera you can still produce some dramatic special effects. Using almost any compact camera, plus some simple aids which are easily available, you can create some special effects to boost your imaging skills - here's how.

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    Creating Special Effects

    You’ve seen all those amazing special effects in photo magazines, websites and advertising photography both on and offline. Jealous? Do you wish that YOU could create some unique special effects digital images of your own? Okay, so lighten up already – help is here. You can, in fact, create some unique special effects even with a point-and-shoot digital camera. Here, we’ll explain how seven simple, but interesting, digital camera special effects are done.

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    1. Starburst Image Special Effects

    If you’d like to have some starburst lights added to your images here’s a simple photographer’s “trick" special effects technique to do it. Just shoot your low light or night time images through a woman’s sheer nylon stocking. You can pull the stocking tight over the digital camera lens or mount a stretched piece of stocking in a lens filter attachment and presto – every light source such as street lamps, light bulbs, candles, etc. – will be a “starburst".

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    2. Abstract Reflections

    IMG 6509 

    (Click on any image to enlarge)

    How about trying some neat reflections for some startling digital images? You’ll need two high-tech pieces of equipment, probably from the kitchen or garage. One is a spray bottle filled with water. The other is a large mirror, even a large hand-held size one will do, but a bit larger will work even better. Got your two pieces of high-tech equipment ready? Great! Now just spritz the mirror and shoot your digital images reflected in the mirrors droplet-cover surface and – BAM, instant special effects you and photo editors are going to love. To input more color into an abstract scene, try coloring the water (use food coloring). Green, yellow, red, pink blue, orange and purple can turn ordinary, hum-drum, simple photo subjects into stunning abstract reflections that will draw cash from eager editors and photo collectors.

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    3. Color Cast Alteration

    Take any low-impact scene and jazz it up into something truly special by altering the color cast of the digital image to give it the pizzazz that will lift your spirits (and profits) during any time of the year. How? Try shooting the scene through a colored sheet of glass or transparent cellophane. Any stationery store will carry sheets of transparent cellophane in at least a dozen or more different eye-catching colors. Shoot special effects like turning winter snow scenes into moonscapes, beach scenes into stark desert scapes and changing some of your plainest digital images scenes into something worthy of an advertising manager’s wet dream.

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    4. Miniature Vignetting

    Those special fish-eye views and miniature vignettes are great when you spot them in the latest digital image photo journals, websites and advertising photos on billboards and in magazines. Hey, don’t sweat it or eat-your-heart-out, take your own miniature vignettes anywhere and anytime you’d like. The procedure is so simple, I’m embarrassed to tell it to you. But okay, I will anyway. All you need is a perforated sheet of metal, wire screening or even opaque construction paper will do in a pinch. Use a tiny paper punch to make a series of closely-spaced holes in a section and shoot your images through this. Oh, did I mention that perforated metal sheeting or plastic work just fine too? Get the camera lens up close and use the viewing screen, NOT the viewfinder to compose and shoot your test images to find the special effects you like best.

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    5. Creepy, Scary and Weird Portraits

    All right, so Halloween is over - for this year. But there are many more to come. Besides, maybe you can use some “creepy" or “scary" looking portrait images for other times of the year like Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July or your little sister’s birthday (you know, the BRAT). Set up for a head to chest view portrait in very low lighting or nearly completely dark. Then using a flashlight, candle or even a colored spotlight as your main lighting source, position it slightly in front of and BELOW the person’s face. The “reversed" lighting from below will give the portrait an eerie, weird appearance special effect that will likely startle those who are unfamiliar with it.

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    6. Warped Abstract Images

    For a unique, different series of “abstracted" digital images try this simple, but effective special effects technique. Shoot your digital images through a series of transparent and colored objects like tumblers, vases, containers, plastic sheeting or a variety of clear, colored, curved and transparent shapes. If there’s a pattern on the item, so much the better, but try using “plain" transparent materials too.

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    7. Come Closer, Yes Closer – Now, Just a Wee Bit Closer ...

    IMG 5076 Shooting reflections of very shiny or highly-polished surfaces from close up can yield a plethora of unique digital images. The objects used can span a broad range of possibilities as well. From shiny cups, containers chrome car parts, utensils, bric-a-brac and whatever else might be handy can come a portfolio of digital images to help flesh out your photographer’s portfolio or online digital photo album to your own personal photo blog. Don’t say “NO" to anything. Try every inkling of an idea and you’re bound to come up with a number of special effects winners.Frost on the car window 

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    Create Your Own Special Effects With Your Digital Camera

    Now I hate to say “I told you so", but see, I told you so. You don’t always need mega-budgets or truckloads of “fancy" digital camera equipment to get high-priced-looking digital photography special effects. What are you waiting for? Get out there and get going now.