8 unexpected ways to add creativity to your photos

  • child singing into a fan by April Nienhuis

8 unexpected ways to add creativity to your photos

Lenses with cool effects are fun but they’re not the only option to add creativity to your photography.

Embracing some new techniques and using some household items when shooting is a fun and free way to spice up your work.

The possibilities are endless but here’s 8 that I’ve used and recommend to others when struggling with their creativity.

1. Freelensing

Tilt-shift lenses and Lensbabies are fun lenses that will help give you extra bokeh with a slice of focus. They may be priced out of your budget though. If you can’t or don’t wish to spend the money on a new lens, consider giving freelensing a try.

With freelensing, you are disconnecting the lens from your camera and then tilting it ever so slightly to get a small amount of your subject in focus. This is an especially tricky technique and will take a lot of practice but when you nail it, it’s worth it.

Holly Donovan shared her tips on how to freelens here that I highly recommend.

freelensed picture of boy with backlight by April Nienhuis

2. Dappled light

Dappled light can come from window blinds, curtain patterns, trees, and much more.

When you begin learning about photography you are told to stay away from dappled light at all costs. While it is helpful to refrain from it when beginning to study light, it is not true in the long run.

Dappled light can create beautiful interest and help draw the viewer’s eye exactly where you want it to go. The secret is to make sure your focal area is in the light and not the shadows.

For example, if you’re taking a portrait and the face is your subject, make sure the face and particularly the eye is highlighted by the light and not being blocked by the shadows.

Related: 9 secrets to working with dappled light.

child laying in dappled light photo by April Nienhuis

3. Fan

I love wind and how much it can bring into a frame. But, it’s not always windy, not even here in Oklahoma.

If wind isn’t present and you want wind-like motion, make it. You can use a fan, hair dryer, or I’ve even seen people use leaf blowers. Fans are particularly fun with kids since they naturally gravitate toward them and bribing for photos is less likely to be needed 🙂

Remember to adjust your shutter speed based on if you want to freeze motion or embrace it. If you are planning on using a slow shutter speed, consider breaking out your tripod.

child singing into a fan by April Nienhuis

4. Anything reflective

Capturing reflections is a favorite of mine. You can spot a reflection in a mirror, window, puddle, lake, etc. I love to frame this type of image so that I include the real subject and their reflection.

How much of a reflection you include is up to you and can be adjusted by moving your camera up, down, or side to side. Just preposition yourself to alter how much is reflected.

girls reflection in a puddle of water by April Nienhuis

5. Glass of water

Every evening there’s about 15 minutes where the lower sun shines harshly through my front window.

Often this is undesirable for my photography but what that harsh light does as it shines through a glass a water on my coffee table is quite interesting. Light, glass, and water is the magic combination for distortion and shaping light.

Sometimes I’ll wait for that time of day to set up an object to photographic in that very manner and then there’s others, like below, where I create it with my Ice Light by shining the light through the glass of water to create that narrow strip of light to highlight an item. This isn’t really effective with people but sure is fun with still life.

herkimer diamond ring by April Nienhuis

6. Thin fabric

Whether you use curtains, a scarf, or a lacy top like I did below, placing a thin piece of fabric in front of your lens is a fun way to add a subtle element to your pictures. What would normally be a sharp as a tack image becomes softer which can work in certain situations. Below I had the lace layer of a shirt pressed against my lens but pulling it away would help to show it which can work, too (think of a bride’s veil). As well, if you chose something with color it would help to add a cast to your photo which can be pleasing and aid in your creative vision.

Related: The unexpected ways to use curtains in your photography.

boy looking out a window picture by April Nienhuis

7. Glasses

I love manipulating the light with a prism but you don’t necessarily need one to do so.

If you have a bunch of old eyeglasses lying around like I do, grab a pair and then twist and turn them right in front of your camera lens to distort and manipulate the light. You won’t get the same refraction of light that you get with a prism but it’s still fun.

girl laughing with beautiful sunflare by April Nienhuis

8. Fog

Being a glasses wearer in Oklahoma, I’m no stranger to fog covered lenses. Walking from a wonderfully cool building into the heat and humidity of the outdoors will cover my spectacles into a thick layer of fog. Your camera lens will do the same.

When that happens, embrace it. I use a soft lens cloth to wipe the fog from a corner and frame my subject there. The fog will create a fun element of blur that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

If you don’t experience much of a heat/cool transition, just blow on your lens like you would when warming your hands in the cold to get it (you do this to the outer lens and not the part that connects to the camera).

two girls sitting in the driveway photo by April Nienhuis

Want to learn more about creative and fun photography? Join me for my Exploring Creative Photography workshop where we’ll study techniques and tools to take your work to the next level! Learn more and sign up here.

About the Author:

Lover of thunderstorms and despiser of socks, April lives in rural Oklahoma with her firefighter/EMT husband and their 3 homeschooled kids. She spends her days remodeling her home, caring for her hobby farm and photographing as much as she can. Visit April Nienhuis online.
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4 Comments

  1. Emily M. Nov 03 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Great tips, April, thanks! 5 & 7 (prism/glasses and glass of water) are both new to me–going to have to try them out!

    • April Nienhuis Nov 03 2015 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Yes, try them out! They’re super fun and I’d love to hear/see how they work for you 🙂

  2. Lisa Benemelis Nov 09 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Loved this, April! You’ve given me lots of inspiration to try some new things that I had not previously thought of. Thank you!! 🙂 Your images are gorgeous!

  3. Becky Gardner Jan 08 2018 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Love these creative tips- thank you, April.

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