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Five Fun Photo Filters

The holiday season has come and gone for yet another year, and if you are anything like me, it has left you with a big black hole in your bank balance and a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, including the perennial favourite, “get more adventurous with my photography.” So I thought I would put Instagram, Snapseed and Photoshop on the shelf for a spell and get hands-on creating some DIY photo filters on the cheap with stuff I have lying around the house.

If you distill it down to the basics, a photo filter is really just something that goes in front of your lens to create an effect, so the great thing is most of these should work with just about any camera, be it film, phone, DSLR or point and shoot!


You will need:

  1. scissors
  2. an empty plastic water bottle

Chop your water bottle in half using your scissors and discard the bottom half – or if you are feeling earth-friendly, poke some holes in the bottom, fill it with soil and plant a seed! Next, cut off just the very top bit where the lid screws on – you’ll want to leave as much of the tapered neck attached as you can because this is how all the magic happens. You can either dry out the inside of the bottle, or leave a few drops of water in there for added effect.

Place the large open end of the bottle over your lens and behold the blurry goodness around your spotlighted subject area! You’ll find you can easily shift the focus of your water bottle lensbaby to highlight any area you like.


You will need:

  1. vaseline – or any similar opaque substance with good stick and smoosh value
  2. a plastic transparency sheet, or similar
  3. scissors
  4. paper towel

Cut a 4 inch or 10cm square from your transparency sheet to use as the base for your makeshift filter. I repurposed a clear plastic top from the box a birthday present came in, but an old clear lens filter would also work well.

Vaseline is messy stuff to work with (and hell to clean off an accidentally smeared lens!) so instead of using my fingers, I used paper towel to smoosh it onto my plastic, leaving a small clear spot in the middle. Holding the vaseline-smeared plastic (very carefully) in front of my lens produced some dreamy, soft edges on my image. You can experiment with the amount of vaseline you use too. Try smearing a super thin layer all over your plastic to soften even the harshest of wrinkles. Aunt Gertrude will thank you when you are taking her portrait :)


You will need:

  1. a strip of clear exposed colour film negative – you know, that wasted bit before the actual negatives appear.

Even if you are a diehard digital convert, you are bound to have some of these old negatives lying about in a photo packet somewhere. Dig them out from wherever they are hiding, and I promise it will be worth the effort. Again, it is simply a matter of holding the film negative over your lens, but be sure to hold it nice and tight if you want beautiful, even, coffee wash tones. Results will vary depending on what type of film you use, and you could even try scratching it up a bit for that old timey look.


You will need:

  1. a coloured silk scarf – or any similar sheer material
  2. optional: an elastic band

This one is super easy! Artfully drape your silk scarf (I used red) over your lens and shoot. If it’s windy you can secure the scarf over your lens using an elastic band if you choose, however this will produce a more subtle, uniform result and I rather enjoyed the random, light leaky-ness result of letting it all hang out.


You will need:

  1. a wide angle peephole – the kind that you put in your front door so you can (ahem) “screen” your visitors.

Now I realise not everyone will have one of these just lying about the house (lucky for me I have a Womble for a husband who never throws anything out), but you can pick one up at your local hardware for less than $10. It’s as simple as holding the peephole over your lens – you’ll just need to do some post editing to crop out the inside of the tube.

Note: this one works best for point and shoot cameras and phoneography.

This is really just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to using everyday items as photo filters, the possibilities and variations on a theme are virtually endless. We would love to hear what sort of things you have used, and any tips you might have, so please feel free to share in the comments below.

Rhana ~The Ruby Raven

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