If you’re looking for new challenges, experimental photography is for you. Here we show you 10 photography techniques that will give you a powerful motivation boost. D ost examples can be implemented without additional equipment. All you need for experimental photography is your camera, everyday objects and Photoshop.
What is experimental photography?
Experimental photography refers to using your camera and post-processing your photos far from the usual stylistic devices. It’s about using your photo technology beyond the norm and creating unique tricks. You have no limits. Experimental photography is about fun and crazy pictures – you can’t go wrong.
If you search the web for “experimental photography” or “experimental portraits”, you will be overwhelmed by beautiful, but also confusing photos. Some of these pictures require a high level of technical understanding. But even as a beginner, you can achieve impressive results – just be creative and try it out.
10 motion blur
IBM stands for Intentional Motion Blur and is the first technique of experimental photography that we introduce to you. You move your camera to blur an image. A long exposure time gives you a movement effect by moving your camera in different directions with the shutter open.
If you place your camera on a tripod with a 100-400 mm lens, you can loosen the lens somewhat. Then move the camera slightly while the shutter is open. If you have good coordination skills as a photographer, you can also set a two-second timer and throw the camera in the air. But be sure to catch them again.
Motion Blur on Warriewood Beach in Australia (@Holger Link, unsplash.com)
The Zoom Blur is a subset of the IBM. To do this, mount your camera on the tripod and set an exposure time of 5 to 30 seconds. This method works best at night. This technique also works during the day, but then it makes sense to use a gray filter . Important to note: With a two-second timer you have enough time to prepare for zooming. Then when the shutter opens, gently zoom in and out. This gives you different effects.
9 Light painting
Light painting uses a light source (e.g. a flashlight) to get traces of light in the picture. All you need is a dark environment. Mount your camera on a tripod and set your exposure time to 30 seconds. When the shutter is open, move your light source through the frame. If you move quickly, you will lose sight of the light. But be sure: the light will leave its mark on the picture. If you have a static person or an object in your picture, you can use Light Painting to create a dynamic background. Here is our light painting tutorial with a flashlight or other light source.
Photos of burning steel wool are particularly popular online . This is where experimental photography really starts to be fun. If you want to do something like this, choose a place where no fire can catch fire. Have a fire extinguisher ready if something goes wrong.
A light painting circle in Greenpoint, New York (@Jeff Fielitz, unsplash.com)
8 Impressionist focus
Photographers take a lot of time to find the right focus point for their photos. A photo without focus can sometimes be more interesting and serve to convey a certain mood. A photo without focus softens the object. What remains – instead of focusing on the object – is a holistic impression. A wide aperture (like f / 2.8) can create images where a large part of the section is out of focus. With the impressionistic focus, the entire image can be out of focus. For example, Monet also painted his water lilies :
For impressionistic focus, put your camera in manual focus mode (turn off auto focus) and experiment with blurring. You can try to keep your object a little visible. But that’s up to you. You can also create totally abstract experimental photography . Fireworks, for example, can be much more exciting with blurred lights.
Fireworks in Chicago, photographed with Impressionistic Focus (@Andrew Seaman, unsplash.com)
Focus on experimental portraits
You can also use the impressionistic focus on gentle portraits . These photos focus on the nature of a person or illustrate the body shape in a unique way. This can mean that you sometimes have to ignore or even break traditional rules for portraits.
7 Projected image
Projected light, shapes and colors on a surface give you the opportunity to add different dimensions to your photo. However, you are completely free to choose your surface. It can be a background, an object or a person.
Some photographers also place green backgrounds (green screens) behind their objects. In post-processing, the screen then becomes a fantastic background backdrop. With the use of projection techniques, experimental photographs in the form of abstract portraits can also be created. The photographer Eric Burke, for example, uses projectors to transfer shapes and text areas to his models. A very special form of body art .
6 alternative filters
Our photo equipment
Are you wondering what equipment we take photos with? You can find our equipment here.
Filters can be much more than gray or polarizing filters . Anything that can be held up in front of the lens can be a filter. For example, you can wrap your lens with a film or a transparent fabric. Or you are looking for an opaque surface: an old window with distorted glass, a plastic bottle or running water. One thing is certain: alternative filters will create unique effects on your images.
Rainwater on a window screen as an alternative filter (Denise Johnson, unsplash.com)
You can also create amazing bokeh effects by cutting a shape into an index card and holding it in front of the camera. Just look around the house. You will find many things to try. You will like some, not others. After all, that’s what makes experimenting fun. If you like this part of experimental photography, you can take a look at Lens Baby . Lenses with unique effects are offered there.
5 double exposure
Another possibility in experimental photography is double exposure . Double exposure is the overlaying of two images. For example, a landscape is placed over a close-up of an animal or a flower. A city landscape layered over a portrait. This can add texture to an image. Film photographers discovered the technology. Double exposure occurs when the shutter is clicked without advancing the film. Many digital cameras can be set to take double exposures.
Double exposure in photography.
If your camera does not have this function, you can also use Photoshop. Create two layers with two different images. There is usually a primary photo and an overlay. In most cases, it makes sense to reduce the opacity of the overlay and then try out different blending modes until the two photos fit together.
Fascinating what you can achieve with double exposure for effects.
Another way to create double exposures in the camera is to look for reflections. So you can create a double exposure by taking pictures through a glass window. In this way you record both the reflection and what is behind the glass.
Mirroring means copying and mirroring an image in Photoshop to create a reflection. You can use reflections, for example, to create reflections in water that did not exist in reality. To do this, copy the photo in Photoshop and flip the copy vertically. To make the scene look even more realistic, you can insert wave filters.
Mirror what it holds – there are no limits.
You can also use the mirroring technique to create shapes that don’t even exist in the real world. For example, by mirroring buildings with special architecture.
3 internal camera effects
Many digital cameras can already create image effects inside the device. For example, effects such as a toy camera, selective colors or posters. These functions change the look of your photos to experimental photography. Some insert a color filter, while others create a painterly effect in the image. If you select an internal camera effect, your camera will add the selected effect to every image. Just take a look at the menu of your camera. You may have dozens of effects just waiting to be tried.
Experiment with camera settings.
Montages are photographic collages. Different images or elements of images are combined to create a new scenery. In technical terms this is called “composing”. Some photographers can layer images so seamlessly that a unique world is created. Others deliberately leave a space between the images in order to give the viewer the opportunity to view the images separately as well as connected. This montage, for example, contains elements from two different photos. Firstly, the landscape with the trees and bushes. On the other hand from the swimmer who is in a swimming pool. The two pictures are so cleverly superimposed that the assembly is hardly noticeable and astonishes the viewer.
Two photo elements merge into one picture. The result is impressive.
Basically, montages can be used to maintain textures and depths in images. To do this, you cut a photo into its individual elements in Photoshop and place each section on its own layer in Photoshop. Then you change the blending modes and opacity.
1 Photoshop filter
If we haven’t shown you enough experimental photography options yet, here is one last one. It’s about Photoshop filters. We would now like to introduce you to two popular Photoshop filters. Of course there are many more.
If you’ve seen circulating images online and asked yourself how it works, we have a simple trick for you. Add Photoshop’s Polar Coordinate Filter to your image. To do this, select the functions FILTER – DISTORTION – POLAR COORDINATES. You can then choose between rectangular and polar and between polar and rectangular. Just play around with it until you like it.
Apply Photoshop filter.
You can also try turning your picture upside down. This also allows you to achieve different effects. Some images work better than others.
Many portrait photographers use the liquefy filter in Photoshop. The filter lets you change the face, eyes or nose in terms of shape and size. However, if you go too far with this tool, you may get experimental portraits based on Dali. You can use the Liquify tool to add all kinds of distortion to your images. To do this, select FILTER and Liquify in Photoshop and start using it selectively. In this case, I “liquefied” the background of this eagle picture.
Liquefy selectively with the Photoshop filter.
If you are not using Photoshop, you can take a look at the tools of your photo editing software or try something new. The free Adobe Capture application is particularly well suited – especially with regard to experimental photography.
Conclusion on experimental photography
These 10 techniques of experimental photography will help you develop creative ideas. Play with alternative equipment, such as a pinhole camera, toy cameras or infrared cameras. Or you can concentrate on alternative processing techniques.
Experimental photography is everything beyond normal. The aim is to discover what is possible with your camera and to find out how “photography” can be defined. Just have fun and let off steam with your camera and observation software. Your creativity knows no limits.
- Rediscover your camera with experimental photography
- Blurred motion due to long exposure and camera movement
- Light painting uses a moving light source with a long exposure time
- Impressionistic focus: blurriness in the image creates tension
- By projecting light and shapes onto a surface, you get new dimensions in your image
- Reflections can enhance a landscape photo
- try out your camera’s internal effects
- Photo montages create new realities
- Double exposures either with your camera or with Photoshop
- Photoshop filters open up many new possibilities
- experimental photography has no limits