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How to Make Your Pictures Look Soft with a DIY Photo Filter

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/5/2010

It's easy and cheap to make your own soft focus lens filter for your digital camera, and the results will be better than using a standard image or faking a soft focus look with photo editing software.

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    Introduction

    You too can take glamour style pictures, and it can be really cheap.

    The dreamy, soft celebrity portraits and studio shots are just that — soft. They are usually taken with soft focus lens filters, which cost about $30, or touched up with photo editing software. But there are two practically free ways to make your own soft focus lens filter and quickly accomplish the same goal, with better results than photo editing software or computer tricks.

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    How to Make Your Own Soft Focus Lens Filter

    How do you make your own soft focus lens filter for your digital camera?

    1. The most convenient method would probably be to create your own lens filter to add or remove on a whim. Just take an old UV filter and smear a small amount of Vaseline on the lens. Of course, this assumes you already have a cheap, old filter you don't mind ruining. It will take a lot of time to clean off the Vaseline, and you'll likely scratch the lens.

    2. To keep it really simple, attach pantyhose or plastic to your camera lens. Just take a rubber band and attach thin, light-colored pantyhose to your lens. The color will depend on the effect you want. Off-white is probably the best general color. Another option is to use the rubber band to attach some cellophane or plastic wrap to the lens. Just make sure there are no wrinkles or holes in the plastic. If using clear plastic wrap, you can then smear on a thin layer of Vaseline on the plastic. Take some extra layers of plastic so you can experiment with different amounts of Vaseline in different shots.

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    Why Make a Soft Focus Lens Filter?

    Why would you do this instead of using photo editing software for the same effect? There are a few reasons.

    1. Know what you're shooting: With digital photography, everyone pretty much expects to see photos instantly. If you're taking your sister's senior picture, she doesn't want to hear you say "don't worry, I'll mess with the pictures on my computer and erase the blemishes." It's also good for you to know exactly what you are shooting, and not just hope it looks right after some digital editing.

    2. Maintain your integrity: Digital photography experts know if a photo has been edited. That's why the experienced photographers at major newspapers never get away with cheating. You'll never edit a clear image to look exactly the same as an image that was originally shot in soft focus.

    3. Save money: Finally, free photo editing software certainly won't fool anyone. It's not versatile or detailed enough. To do the job properly, you'll need Adobe Photoshop or another good photo editing program. Those cost a lot more than a pair of pantyhose or a roll of plastic wrap.

    Finally, if you want the costumes and backgrounds from the glamour photo studios, you're on your own.