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5 Essential Camera Hacks

Photography Tips > 5 Essential Camera Hacks

The nature of photography encourages creativity and innovation, and as such, intices photographers to explore methods, techniques, and ways of increasing the usability and functionality of their equipment. We've compiled a list of 5 or our favorite photography hacks and tips for shooting better pictures and unlocking the full potential of your camera.

1. Steady your shots - Use your timer!

Camera Timer

If you're having a hard time visualizing how using your camera's timer could possibly lead to more stable shots, envision this. You line up that perfect shot, click your shutter button, and are amazed to find the shot blurry and unusable upon review... Chances are you had your shutter speed set low enough that the minute amount of movement transferred to the camera by pressing the shutter button created motion blur. This can happen even when using a tripod, which can be extremely baffling. Next time you're shooting with a shutter speed low enough to produce some blur, try setting your camera's timer. The recommended setting would be whatever the lowest setting your camera allows is, as we're just looking to eliminate the jarring of the camera when you click the shutter, and this only lasats for a fraction of a second. This trick can lead to amazing results in the field.

2. Use a tennis ball to stabilize your camera

Stabilize your camera with a tennis ball

Here's another tip to stabilize your shots and eliminate blur... Many items can be used as a makeshift tripod in a pinch, and a tennis ball makes a great example. The elasticity of the tennis ball grants some shock absorbing properties, allowing it to serve as a great makeshift tripod. You can simply prop a corner of your camera up on the ball, or you can spend a few minutes making an actual tool that will attach to your camera and greatly steady your shots.

1. Take a regular tennis ball and cut a small slit in it.
2. Stick some weight-adding items into the tennis ball through the slit you just created. 3. Take a tripod adapter (probably came with your camera! If not, they can be purchased cheaply.) and remove the screw from it, mounting this to the tennis ball. Alternately, just glue or rubber-band the tripod adapter to the tennis ball.
4. Attach the tennis ball tripod to your camera by screwing it onto the bottom of your camera.

This quick modification can give you a reusable tool that will let you take pictures leaps and bounds above those you can take by hand. Additionally, it can be easily carried in your pocket and deployed as needed.

3. Remove backgrounds easily with an instant green screen

Stabilize your camera with a tennis ball

If you've ever taken a photo of an object and later tried to isolate the subject in post-processing with Photoshop, you know this can sometimes be no easy feat. Green screens have been used for decades in the movie industry to easily facilitate background removal, and you can quickly and easily use this to your benefit by photographing objects against a simple makeshift green screen.

Here's a few methods:
1. Use your computer monitor. Fill your screen with green by simply changing your desktop wallpaper color and right clicking then hiding icons.
2. Print out a solid green backgrund on a piece of paper.
3. Use a green sheet of construction paper.

After shooting the photo of your object with the green background, simply remove all greens in post-processing with Photoshop (or a specialized green screen software) for a flawless result. One such software which I can HIGHLY recommend, having used it personally, is Green Screen Wizard. If the object you are photographing contains greens, simply use a "green screen" of another color - one which the subject does not contain.

4. Create a flash diffuser from a piece of paper

Homemade Flash Diffuser

If you're having problems with your flash 'washing out' your pictures, you can easily change the intensity of your flash as well as diffuse the flash to cover a broader area as opposed to being directly focused. Simply take a sheet of blank white printer paper and affix it to your flash lens. You can increase or reduce the amount of diffusion and flash intensity by adding or removing sheets of paper, or using paper of different thicknesses. Try experimenting with different shapes and sizes of DIY diffusers to explore the possibilities.

5. Hack your camera with custom firmware

Custom Camera Firmware

Perhaps the best hack of all is that of installing custom firmware on your camera. Your camera's firmware is the internal program which provides available camera functions and features. By applying custom firmware to your DSLR or point and shoot, you can unlock LOADS of potential which the manufacturer does not give you access to. For Canon Point-and-Shoots, there is a program called CHDK. For Canon DSLRs, there is MagicLantern. Though two examples are given, custom firmware exists for many cameras. Simply search for "[Camera brand] custom firmware" and be amazed.

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