15 Simple photography hacks for creative photo effects

Every now and then I have these moments. It’s a real pleasure for me when an idea works out and it’s worth the effort!

I had many of these moments with photo ideas from this article.

Today I’m going to show you 14 little items that you can use to create ingenious photo effects. It’s often very simple tricks that turn an average photo into something special!

I’m sure these tricks will make you feel euphoric, too! &

In the article you will also find an approximate price for each item.
There are mainly everyday objects in it. Even though they’re not free, I’m going to tag them that way anyway, since they’re probably already available at your house.

This article is part of my Collection of creative photo ideas. Have a look and get inspired!

Let’s go with the extra portion of creativity!

1. A modified PET bottle

Draws the eye to the subject [free]

What makes a good image composition? The composition draws the eye to the subject and thus enhances its effect.

And here comes the first object into play: an old PET bottle!

If you cut off the bottom and the top, you can photograph through them and "aim" at your subject. The effect is impressive: The tube draws the eye to your subject, but still lets the surroundings shine through.

The effect is even better if there are drops of water in the tube or sunlight coming in from the side.

So rummage around in your trash can, you’re sure to find it! &

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - plastic bottle
14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Plastic Bottle

2. A glass prism

Project parts of the environment into the picture [5 – 10 Euro]

With a prism* you can refract the light of your surroundings and create interesting reflections. Just hold the prism very close to the lens and you will notice the effect immediately. Turn and tilt the prism until you are satisfied with the effect.

The special thing about a prism: Due to the three-sided construction, you mainly reflect things that can be seen to the side of your photo. Try projecting colored lights, neon lights or whole people into your image!

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Prism
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - Prism

3. An old CD

Creates interesting reflections [free]

What the comet was for the dinosaurs, the Internet is for the CD.

CD`s are nowadays unfortunately threatened by extinction. If you still find an old one somewhere, you can offer it a new job as a photo prop.

Just hold the CD close to the lens and use it as a mirror surface.

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - CD

4. ND filter

Enables long exposures during the day [10-50 Euro]

The effect of an ND filter* is simply ingenious! It lets only a part of the light through and thus also allows long exposures during the day.

Sooner or later, every photographer should get an ND filter and experiment with it. There are so many creative applications!

This way you can make cloud movement visible, smooth out waterfalls and lakes, or turn entire cars into ghostly apparitions.

Before you invest in the second or third lens, you should get yourself an ND filter. Must buy!

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - ND filters

5. Putting distractors in the picture

Enhances your composition with foreground [free]

When I shoot landscapes I’m always fanatically on the lookout for a nice foreground. However, you don’t always find what you’re looking for and for those moments, here’s a trick to use!

Just find a sheet, preferably a colored one, and hold it very close in front of the camera lens. The leaf inevitably becomes blurred and creates an interesting foreground. Now photograph your subject or. the landscape and cover an unattractive or boring area of the image with the leaf.

And you can even use this trick for portrait or macro photos. In the following picture I used an orange leaf to create a foreground for a macro photo of a butterfly.

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - disturbers

6. Bokeh effect through water splashes

Create light spots in the backlight [1 Euro]

You’ll need three things for this trick:

  • a small atomizer with water (z.B. A mini spray bottle from the travel section)
  • A UV filter on the lens for protection
  • an absorbent cloth / handkerchief

Attach the UV filter to the lens and spray the lens several times with the atomizer until small drops of water have formed. Then wipe half of the filter with the cloth.

Now photograph your subject in the backlight. In the final photo you will see many small luminous water drops that create a great bokeh effect.

It is important that you remove some of the water drops from the lens, otherwise you won’t be able to see anything anymore. The drops should only complement the subject on the side or in the foreground.

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - Bokeh by water splashes
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - Bokeh by water splashes
14 Photography Hacks for ingenious photo effects - Bokeh by water splashes

7. Mirror splash

Use a broken mirror for reflections [free]

The splinters from a shattered mirror are great for creating a foreground.

Take a padded box with you and place it on the floor in front of your subject. When you shoot just above it, they reflect your subject and duplicate it into the foreground.

The mirror shards can be used especially well in urban photography.

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - mirror splinters
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - mirror splinters
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - mirror splashes

8. Macro ring

Turn any lens into a macro lens [about 15 Euro]

A macro ring* changes the closest focus of your lens. This way you can get much closer and take real macro photos with normal lenses.

If you want to learn more about macro rings, check out these ingenious helpers in my article: Ingenious Close-ups Without a Macro Lens – A Macro Ring Makes It Possible!

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Macro Ring

9. Photography hack with a cell phone display

Use the glass in your pocket for symmetrical compositions [free]

You can always use this trick, since we don’t leave the house without our cell phones and are hardly able to live!

How it works? very simple: hold your phone very close to the lens and tilt it back and forth until you recognize your subject in the reflection. Because of the smooth mirror surface, you can use it to create a symmetrical composition and mirror the sky into your image, for example. This is a great way to conceal less attractive areas of your image and use them for an effect.

And the coolest thing: Everything "out-of-camera" – completely without Photoshop!

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - mobile mirroring
14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Cell Phone Mirroring
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - Handyspiegelung

10. Spray bottle

Use an atomizer to bring water drops onto the subject [free]

You can also use the atomizer above for macro photos!

So you can moisten flowers, leaves or insects with an atomizer and create small water drops. The moisture makes the colors pop while the drops create a great surface.

The atomizer also gives you full control over the size of the raindrops.

14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - water drops

11. Photo effect with the bokeh stencil

Change the shape of the bokeh [free]

The effect of a bokeh stencil has always fascinated me!

You can use it to change the shape of light spots in the bokeh. For example, a round, glowing ball becomes a glowing heart.

How the whole thing works? Actually quite simple:

  • Cut out a cardboard template in the size of your lens diameter
  • Cut a motif of your choice in the middle of the template
  • Put the stencil in front of the front lens

Now shoot something, open the aperture as wide as you can and bring highlights into the background. The effect works best during the Christmas season, when there are lots of colorful lights shining in the darkness.

The exact implementation and further tips I have explained in my article: How to use bokeh stencils to achieve fascinating photo effects

heart bokeh at christmas market

This time with the heart bokeh stencil

Hand pointing at stars bokeh


Print template for bokeh stencil

Even more complicated shapes are suitable for the photo effect.

12. Glass ball photography

Mirror the world in a glass ball [15 Euro]

Glass ball photography* has been a trend for quite some time now and it seems to be never ending.

With this photo effect the glass ball is your subject.

Go with the sphere into an interesting environment and capture the world around you in it. There are many tips for glass globe photography in the rest of this article: Discover the fascination of glass ball photography!

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Glass Ball Photography

13. A bottle of water

Create your own puddle [free]

The next trick is so simple, but simply ingenious!

I prefer to take pictures after it has rained or in a light drizzle, because the wet ground reflects the lights and colors and contrasts appear much stronger.

But what can you do when there is drought and no rain at all??

Very simple: create your own puddle!

Just pack a bottle of water and head out with your camera. When you find a great subject, go into frog perspective and wet your foreground with the water you brought with you.

Especially at night the ground shimmers through lanterns and cars and creates a special foreground.

Here you can see a before and after comparison:

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Water Puddle
14 Photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - water puddle

14. The smartphone camera

Picture within a picture with your smartphone [free]

With this effect you present your subject through the display of a smartphone. Activate your phone camera and hold your phone away from you towards the subject. Now take a picture of the phone in your hand with your "big" camera.

Focusing on the phone blurs the background. In the cell phone you see the surroundings but still sharp. With the example picture it becomes clearer what I mean.

An additional tip:

Often the phone screen will be pretty dark and you can’t even tell what’s on the phone screen. Therefore, it is a good idea to take a photo of the scene in the cell phone and then superimpose this image on the screen in the cell phone afterwards.

This can be done quite easily with the transformation in Photoshop (Ctrl+T). This is how the picture above was taken.

14 Photography Hacks for Ingenious Photo Effects - Display in the Picture
14 photography hacks for ingenious photo effects - display in the picture

So if these photography hacks don’t have anything for you!?

Now you have plenty of fodder for creative shenanigans.

One more thing: think out of the box and develop the ideas yourself!

See these objects rather as a creativity injection and look around in YOUR environment, with which tricks and objects you can spice up your images. You can also combine several techniques and items to create something completely crazy.

If you’re interested in more even more creative photo tricks, check out my book, "The Guide to Urban Photography". There I have explained, among many other topics, 15 photography and image editing techniques. This way!

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