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DIY photo filters with everyday objects

Here are five household items you can use as do-it-yourself lens filters to add a different look and feel to photos.

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Photographers have always loved using filters. Whether it's boosting contrast by pairing a red filter with black-and-white film, or simply adding a polarizer to cut glare, there is a filter for almost every situation.

The following DIY filters are all about distorting light in a creative way, without needing to invest in any extra photography equipment.

While these tips are ideal for interchangeable lens cameras and dSLRs, you can achieve many of the same effects with almost any other camera. Just take a bit more care if you are using items with a compact camera or smartphone.


The humble transparent sheet is great for crafting, but it's even better as a photographic tool. There are a number of different ways you can use cellophane with your camera -- to simulate light leaks or to add a coloured filter to photos.

Grab any colour cellophane you like. Cut off a small segment to fit around your lens. Attach with a rubber band and look through the viewfinder to position it where you like in the frame.

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Depending on the effect you desire, you can cover half the lens, a small portion or the entire thing if you want a coloured gel look. You can even experiment with different coloured strips of cellophane taped together to cover the lens for some fun effects.

Play around with the amount, positioning and thickness of cellophane around the lens to get different looks. Also consider using transparency film and adding colour with markers, then holding this in front of the lens.

Bear in mind that by covering the lens with any object, you will lose some image sharpness.


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A spare pair of stockings can make for a DIY soft-focus filter. Simply slip the stocking over your lens and pull taut, then secure around the barrel with a rubber band. You'll want to make sure that you still have access to the zoom and focus rings for any fine-tuning.

Unless you are looking for a deliberately abstract effect, choose a stocking with a denier of 15 or below so you can actually see through it when it is over the lens.

The stocking can act as a great diffuser in bright light situations, or create a hazy and nostalgic effect on an overcast day.

Wine glass

Take an everyday wine glass and fill it with water. Thanks to refraction, anything you look at through the glass will be inverted and flipped upside down.

Shooting through a wine glass makes an ideal photography project. Simply grab your glass and put it in front of a subject. Choose where you want your point of focus to be within the glass and switch your camera into aperture priority mode. Open up the aperture (by using a small f-number) to blur the background and create a shallow depth of field effect.

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Then, you can rotate the entire image 180 degrees in post-processing to turn the refracted image right way up, and the background is turned upside down.


Don't have a polarizing filter at hand? A pair of sunglasses can achieve a similar effect by cutting down on the glare entering the camera and altering the properties of the light.

Depending on the size of your lens, the sunglasses can either completely cover the scene or provide a secondary inset view like in the image below.

Lexy Savvides/CNET


Remember the old "vaseline lens" trick? Create a vintage and ethereal feel in your photos with a touch of petroleum jelly. But, don't go smearing vaseline directly on your lens. Use a piece of cling film pulled tightly around the barrel and attach with a rubber band, then dab vaseline on the edges.

Depending on the placement, you can make it look like a foggy day even when it's just overcast, or add a dreamy feel to portraits. It's even possible to get a tilt-shift effect with two streaks either side of the centre of the lens.

For this effect you can also use a cheap skylight or UV filter so you can rotate the plastic film, or if you're really daring and don't mind cleaning up later on, smear the Vaseline on the filter itself.


Lexy Savvides/CNET

With a spare stash of glowsticks, add a colourful rainbow effect to portraits and general photos. Simply activate the glowstick (smaller works better) and attach across the lens in whatever configuration works best.

Make sure to attach the sticks using a non-marking, easily removable tape such as duct tape so you don't damage your lens. Ensure all zoom and focus rings are free to move, then take photos at your leisure.

Sure you might get some funny looks when using these tools, but it's all in the name of having fun and experimenting with your photography. Go out and enjoy!