The Five Elements of Trick Photography

Trick Photography is not a new phenomenon, despite what the Photoshop generation might have you believe. It is as old as SLR cameras themselves, because essentially there are only four elements that need to be manipulated on the camera itself in order to create special effects photographs.Young Photographers at Work

1. Changing the Shutter Speed

The shutter speed of a camera is how long the sensor of the camera is exposed to the light. This is a key ingredient especially in light painting effects(which manifest themselves as photographs that look like lightning is being struck or where objects are made to appear as though they are translucent).

This is also a big component of long exposure special effects, where you can manipulate how an object in a photo appears to be based on small changes in the shutter speed. A common example of a long exposure effect is where traffic on a road is made to appear as a colored blur heading off into the distance.

2. Changing the Aperture Settings 

The Aperture Settings on a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Camera is a bit like the pupil in your eye. This is a setting that determines how wide the hole in the lens is where the light travels through.

  • If the aperture settings are very wide then more light will get through.
  • If the aperture settings are narrowed then less light will get through to the sensors on the camera.
  • In special effects and trick photography this has a big impact on the brightness of an image and the elements in it, as well as the depth of field that the photograph will have.
  • In other words it can look more or less expansive based on the settings that you give.

Landscape Photo

3. Changing the ISO Settings

This is a setting which determines how light or dark an image will be, because it is directly correlated with the sensitivity of the sensor on the camera.

This works well with changing the aperture settings, but you do need to be careful about setting an ISO setting that is too high, because otherwise it is all too easy to end up creating too much background noise on an image.

 4. Changing the White Balance 

The white balance is a measure of the color settings on the camera. Changing the way this works has a direct impact on the hue and saturation of an image. It is particularly useful in trick photography because it enables the photographer to set an image to look like it is fluorescent, cloudy, and incandescent or numerous other color variations.

This allows light painting to work better in all types of different conditions, and also means that you can change the balance and composition of a photograph more easily.

Like all the other “on-camera” elements, it is very much a balancing act as to which settings to use of each of these four to achieve certain special effects.

 The Fifth Element – Photoshop No Photoshop on Screen

This is clearly NOT a setting on the DSLR camera itself! But it is nevertheless a fact that Photoshop has added a whole new tool to the toolbag of the photographer who wants to manipulate photographs or accentuate certain elements of them.

Photoshop is really the fifth leg of the chair when it comes to creating trick photographs, and while it is by no means totally essential, it does allow for certain special effects to be produced that would otherwise be impossible.



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