Today I’m pleased to present the first guest post ever on this blog, by one of my favorite photography teachers, Michael Zelbel, author of the bestselling ebook The Art of Boudoir Photography with Speedlites. If you’ve ever seen his videos, you know Michael is a colorful character full of passion for his subject. To get the full effect of his personality, you should read the following with an enthusiastic and slightly zany German accent. — Phil
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Hello! For many beauty photographers who are just starting out on this awesome artistic journey, introducing variety to their pictures can be a daunting task. A limited skill set and a shoestring budget can be legitimate obstacles to expanding your creative horizons.
Now, usually I tell you how to shoot some beautiful images using only a few bare necessities: essential lighting gear, a camera, some kind of interior space, and your imagination.
However, there is another great option you should look into—putting together excellent home-made alternatives for costly and fancy equipment!
Today I want to tell you how to manufacture a bubblewrap filter for your lens that would put McGuyver himself to shame! So if you’re interested, read on…
First things first: why would you even want a Do-It-Yourself filter? Well, gradually, as you tap into different creative techniques, you will want to have a massive collection of lens filters for every purpose imaginable: polarizers, warming/cooling filters, neutral density filters, and many others.
They can help you put a new spin on an otherwise unremarkable photo—and the best part is, you don’t even have to do anything! All you need to do is install it and then start taking pictures. For artists who don’t enjoy post-production or who simply want to add a stroke of novelty to an image this is a godsend and a must-have.
So the short answer is—filters are cool! The only downside to them is their cost and fragility, which can be an obstacle to aspiring beauty photographers on a budget.
But why bother buying a manufactured lens filter—why not make one? Now, don’t fret—I’m not going to force you to blow glass and then coat it in various substances. I mean, it would probably be hilarious for both of us, but I can only teach you the things I know and have tried myself!
Just for fun, let’s make a super-simple filter out of bubblewrap that you can put on the lens hood of your camera and use in beauty photography shoots. Everyone has a bit of bubblewrap left over—and even if you enjoy popping it (a pretty soothing activity, isn’t it?), it will still make for a perfectly decent filter!
Let’s get to it, shall we? Here’s what you are going to need for this particular DIY extravaganza:
- some bubblewrap;
- a rubber band;
- a lens hood;
Once you’ve got everything necessary for making a bubblewrap filter, follow these three simple steps:
One. Place a piece of bubblewrap over and around the lens hood, on the end you don’t attach to the camera.
Two. Fix it in place with a rubber band. Clean up the loose ends of the wrap, lest they get into your line of sight.
Three. Cut an odd-shaped hole in the middle of the bubblewrap. The magnitude of “oddness” is up to you—the hole should be fairly sizeable though, so it would accommodate the main subject in the foreground and leave some of the background intact.
It’s pretty much impossible to mess up, so after step three you should end up with a perfectly usable bubblewrap filter. Now it’s time for that awkward moment when you look in bewilderment at the masterpiece of your making and ask, “What do I need it for again?”
Let’s see how this nifty little filter can add to your arsenal of photography techniques and make your pool of shooting ideas that much deeper!
With a bubblewrap filter, you can take virtually any picture and give it a softer, more romantic touch. Transparent bubblewrap acts as a really blurry foreground, mimicking the way sunbeams bounce off glass. In fact, those blurry dots you see are indeed sunbeams, caught by the wrap and focused into the lens.
A logical question to ask would be, “But what can a few faint beads of light add to my pictures?” Well, sometimes an image benefits from a blurry foreground — for instance, if there is a lot of empty space around your model that you would like to fill with…something. Now this trick of light can help you fill that space, without having to change the physical set where you are shooting.
As with any other technique that is meant to enhance photos, don’t overdo it. A filter should be used as a finishing stroke, a cherry on top of a solid “lighting + composition” combo, just to make things more interesting. Occasionally it can be used to salvage otherwise unimpressive images… but not very often.
Also, it goes without saying that a bubblewrap filter is, in a way, a lighting effect – so please don’t pile it on a photo that already features a distinctive and imposing lighting pattern. It will look out of place in it.
Other than that, feel free to experiment – see how far this DIY piece of equipment will get you. I think you will be surprised at how much you can do with such a deceptively simple instrument!
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Phil here again. What I like about Michael’s bubblewrap filter (aside from the price) is the way it provides a secretive, voyeuristic look, as if we are spying on a tender scene through a curtain of beads or from behind a screen. And it’s so simple!
Even if that is not the look you need, I hope this post inspires you to get creative and look around you for ways to use everyday materials and a little imagination to enhance your photography.
One last thought: I know that Michael has a private Coaching Club for photographers, which he RARELY opens to new members. He’s going to be opening it briefly soon, but the only way to get an invitation to join is by purchasing his affordable ebook The Art of Boudoir Photography with Speedlites. The book is awesome, instantly downloadable, and I highly recommend it whether you are interested in his Club or not. It’s among the best boudoir books I’ve seen, at an unbeatable price.