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Build & Shoot: Ethereal Filters

Lesson 4 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

4. Build & Shoot: Ethereal Filters

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Ethereal Filters

- [Mike] Sandwich baggies, okay? Sandwich baggies. So we're going on a picnic. And at the picnic, you're sitting there and going, "You know, this huge sandwich baggie could really create a neat effect for my portraiture." Maybe it will. And yes, you're right, it will. Let me put this top on this alcohol. Alcohol in the studio is not fun either. I don't want it to fall over. What I have here are a couple different types of filters that I'm going to use. And I've got a water bottle, and I've got some sandwich baggies. And the thought here is to do something fairly similar to what we've already done with the filters, but this time just use a really inexpensive sandwich baggie. And we're going to get a very similar effect with kind of a blurry surrounding. So, I think for this, I'm going to switch lenses. I'll take off this one. And I'll go with, what do you think? A Fast 50? Yes, that's what I was thinking, too. Going with the 50-millimeter. You know what? Why don't we do live view? I thi...

nk that'll show it pretty cool. You guys can kind of see what I'm looking at in real time. Okay, so I'm going to activate live view here. Cool. And that box on her face is a little annoying, so I'll turn off auto-focus. Let's go info screen. Get rid of some of this stuff. So, I'm going to focus manually here. And now, here's how this works. Actually, I pre-made this one. So, let me grab another baggie. Most baggies have a bottom, right? So, you just need to rip a hole in the bottom. You can do it with a pocket knife or scissors. Doesn't have to be too high-tech. Cool. And I'm going to shoot through the bottom side here. So I put this on. If you just shoot through the baggie by itself, you can see that it's all blurry and all mushy, and not so hot, not so cool. So, what we're going to do is we're just going to bend the baggie, so that the edges are the appropriate amount of blur. And you can see, as I move my camera around I get different light, depending on where the ambient light is pointed. And so, this is a really dynamic non-reproducible photograph. The one that you get, you're like, "Oh, that's cool." But then you're unlikely to get exactly that arrangement again in the future. All right, so I'll take a few photos this way, and to do that, I'm going to have to use my tethered one. But at least now, you guys can kind of get a feel for what we're doing. There we go. You get a feel for what I'm doing. So now, what I'll do is I'll switch this other camera, which is hooked up to Lightroom, and I'll just start taking some pictures that way. And I'm also going to pull-up this background light off because it's not the right effect for this photo. All right, you want to stand? Why don't you stand? Yeah, walk over this way just a tiny bit. Cool. For this photo, what I'm going to do is, we're going to go over there and take a shot or two as well. I need a lens. That would be good. So, for this one, I will focus. I'm going to have you come a little bit closer. Right on. - [Renata] Right here? - Yep, perfect. And increase the height of this. Get more up to head level. Hopefully, I'm still connected. Let's make sure that its tethering is good. Yep, we're connected. All right, let's just try some stuff. And if you want to, you can move around a little. I'll just be shooting photos. You can look away from the camera, towards the camera. Work your model magic. Oh, I'm still at f/16. Don't want to go there. Go back up to f/2.8. All right, cool. Go ahead and turn your right shoulder towards me. Nice. Put your hand on your hip. Cool. Come a little closer. Right, perfect. I'm going to focus on her eye. I'm going to shoot at f/2.8. Oh, nice. Cool. Go ahead and turn the other shoulder towards me. Excellent. Nice smile. And let's have you look at the TV. Okay, right on. Let's take a look at some of these photos. You like that one the best? Yes. - [woman] This is the expression I wanted. - Cool. So, these, they take a little bit of time to render and load. There we go. The colors are looking good. It's interesting, just interesting effect. Now this one, I actually thought about using a colored pen on the edges. So like pink, and purple, or yellow. And I only have a black sharpie here today. But you could still do stuff like that, even lipstick or something colorful on the edges would give you this nice little flare. So that's a nice interesting look. Now, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to have you come over here and maybe just have you stand like right here. We don't worry too much about the background. The reason why I'm going to shoot this way now, come here, come forward a little bit, is because the light is different here. The light is totally different. And I want to show you how that impacts this type of filter. Now the light is going to be hitting the plastic baggie from the side. So, it may make it worse, it might make it better. Who knows? All right, cool. Nice. All right, throw this baggie on. Yeah, much more pronounced flare, much more flare. This would be great. All right. I'm going to have you turn your torso a little more towards the light. That's great. Oh, nice smile. I'm obscuring her face. Oh, that was a great smile. That was perfect, I like that one. All right, because that went so good, we'll call that one a wrap. Okay, you can hang out there if you'd like. It's just different, and it's fun. It's fun to experiment. Now that I see what the little baggie does to the look of the image, I might want to color it somehow. So at Christmas time or holiday time, or Easter time or whenever, a lot of the little sandwich bag manufacturers make colored little baggies for the kids, you might grab a few of those, and get the green and the red and try those as a different type of filter. I don't know, what do you think? - It's great. - Kind of fun? Pretty fun. So that's the sandwich bag ethereal filter. All right, cool. I'll have you go back to the stool. Yeah? - Michelle Hammer had asked, "No flash on these?" And I'm not sure if that's just because you have the flash on the camera. If that wouldn't be used for... - Michelle, you totally read my mind. Actually, you reminded me that I was going to shoot some of these with flash. Why don't we do that? - Great. - Fantastic idea. I had actually just totally forgot that I was going to shoot some of these. The reason why I put that flash there was so I wouldn't forget. And got so excited with this, I forgot. All right, so let's shoot flash. And I'll just talk real briefly about how I've got this arranged. You can stay right where you're at. So, this is a DIY class. And I just want to point out that you don't necessarily have to have something this sophisticated. I did another DIY class for CreativeLive, where we made studio soft boxes out of cardboard paper and tape, and LED lights. You can even do it with that type of stuff. For here, I've just got us a regular soft box, a flash on a light stand. And I'll just kind of keep it as simple as that for the description. I love soft boxes. I really, really like soft boxes because they give you a lot of control. You can really control the light and decide where the lights going to be, what the catch light looks like in the subject's eyes. I'm going to stand over here next to you and make sure it's in an appropriate spot. It looks good. Maybe a little higher. And again, just another encouragement to you to try all different types of things, different aperture, shutter speeds, lighting, pens, lipstick. Okay, turn this one on. Make sure it's on remote, and it is. And this system, turn this on. I'm just going to do a quick light. Sorry, I didn't warn you. Are you okay? - I'm good. - Okay. Good. We're just going to do a quick test. I have no idea what the lighting is yet. I haven't done any pre-tests on this. It's all live, folks. All righty. And I'm doing this without the bag just to check lighting. One, two, three. Didn't go, did it? One, two, three. That went. Let's just checked the exposure. We're getting most of the catchlights from the ambient light in the house. So, I want to try to exclude some of the ambient light. So I'm going to reduce my ISO, and I'm going to increase my shutter speed. And so, I'm just going to go to manual mode. And I'm going to go, let's say, about f/5.6. I'm going to reduce my ISO down to 400. And I'm going to set my shutter speed at about a 200th of a second. And again just another test, one, two, three. Let's see if that worked. Okay, cool. Dramatically different look and I think I'm okay with the brightness on that. Yeah, it's good enough for Mike work. So, now, it's time to bring in the baggy. We're going to bring in the baggy. Now, this is an interesting quandary, because we want the baggy to provide some, like lens flare type of action. But what do you notice about where the light is, versus where the baggy is going to be? Interesting. So, we may not actually get flair in this type of configuration. Let's just see what happens. One, two, three. It came through. All right, it came through. It's a little soft around the edges. That's awesome. I like it. Let's try and mix things up. Let's pull the flash back a little bit, and see if we can get the flash to hit both Renata and the plastic. One of the issues with pulling the flash back is we lose some of the nice quality of light. That's okay. Pull this over here, so it triggers my remote. All right, experimentation, I love it. Okay, one, two, three. Okay, yeah, we're getting more flare. This is where I want that flare to maybe have a different color associated with it. But you know, white. Try gain. One, two, three and another one, and one more. And what I'm doing each time is I'm just moving the baggy around like that. Yeah, to be honest. For some reason, I don't care for that look as much. I think the baggy almost becomes too prominent. So there, I would use some type of pen or glitter or something. Maybe glitter with Vaseline, and then that would all go sparkly. That could be kind of cool. All right, so that's the baggy approach. Kind of fun, kind of cool. Let me show this one now. This one is made with a water bottle. And again, this is back to the soft focus idea. You can see what I've done here, is I just cut the top of a water bottle off. You have to cut the cap off, and then make sure the water bottle that you use is the right diameter for the lens that you're using. For example, this lens that I have here. This is a 50-millimeter f/1.8, and this will work over that. And if you're lucky, it'll actually even slide on there, and you can let go. This one is just not quite the right diameter for it, so it falls off. So, you're going to have to hold it. And when you hold it, I'll show you some of the problems with this. Sometimes when you hold it, your thumb goes kind of in front and gets some weird skin color blurriness in there. But before I take this photo, I want to show you in our presentation notes. I have a photo that I took in the real world using this specific setup. It was a outdoor photo, yeah. So, this boat. This is in my hometown of Gig Harbor, Gig Harbor, Washington, and I just literally use that lens and this filter, and you can see it created a nice blur around the edges for the old-timey effect. I can imagine this looking really good converted to black and white. Or maybe even Sepia tone, do that conversion inside of Lightroom, or Photoshop, or using some type of plug in or some type of filter. This also works really good with portraiture. So, let's see how it works with portraiture. Cool. Pull this off. I think for this one, we'll do an ambient light shot and then we'll do another one where we come over here. So, the diameter again matters. You're going to see this. I may have to do another one with the diameter a little bit smaller. We'll just see how that works out. Make sure I'm still tethered. I am. So, this one I'm going to have to hold with my left hand. And now here's something else to remember, is the lens that I have, when it auto-focuses, the front focusing ring rotates. So when I push this up against here, sometimes it twists, the filter twists. So, again, it's all DIY, and you're just making this stuff up as you go. So, your mileage may vary. We'll see how this works. Get it framed up first. Oh yeah, I'm set up for my flash photo. Hold on. ISO 1600, I'm going to go back to aperture priority mode and go f/2.8. Okay, here we go. One, two, three. Great. Nice smile. Beautiful. Fantastic. Okay, let's just get a feel for what those look like. Real similar to the Vaseline or to the petroleum jelly. Very similar. This one especially would work with a colored pen. I think that would be neat. You see some flare coming up in the lower-left. I think that looks kind of cool. Let's go back through a couple of the shots. You can see as I'm moving the filter around, we're getting a slightly different effect on each one, and none of it is repeatable and that's kind of the fun part. Each of these shots is unique, in and of itself. Okay, let's try this out in maybe an environment more like an outdoor environment. We'll use this window light and we'll see how that window impacts the flare. Yeah. So just go ahead and come on over here. Excellent. Step that way just tiny bit. Too much. Right there. Perfect. Turn your shoulders towards the light. Nice, and we'll end up looking at the camera. - Look at the camera? - Yeah, you'll look at the camera and then I'll do a few. Have you look away. Look at it. No more of those lazy eye photos, I promise. Okay, just a quick test to see what our photo is going to look like without the flare. All right, nice. Cool. All right, now we'll throw the flair on there. Okay, one, two, three. Nice. Excellent. Okay. Just go ahead and stay there. What I'm noticing is that the hole in this is a little bit small for what I want to accomplish, she's fairly close to the camera now, so I need the hole to be a little bit bigger. So, I'm going to cut this, cut the end off a little bit and make it so my aperture, basically, on the end is a little larger. Always have scissors. Scissors and pocket knives. Scissors are safer than pocket knives. So, maybe go with scissors and don't run with them. Promise me you won't run with your scissors. - We have Tae Sus [SP], who is suggesting you could put a small piece of Scotch tape that would hold the bottle piece in place perhaps, too. - I like that. - Or using Gaffer tape, I don't know. - Good job, Tae Sus. In my case, because my front focusing ring rotates, that would be hard to do on this specific lens, but if let's say I did it on this lens, that would be perfect. So, this is a kit lens, and you're right. That would work there. Let me actually show you. I'll take another picture here in a minute. I'll show you why this is hard to do if your water bottle is too small. Well, I don't have to show it, you can see it. It just doesn't really fit on there. And when you take your photos, your fingers get in the way. So, you kind of want your fingers to be back behind the little DIY filter. Okay. Try this again. I made the hole ever so slightly bigger. Oh yeah, more better. Refocus on her eye. Nice. All right, we'll take a few. One, two, three. Cool. Good. Nice look. One more. Okay. Thank you, my friend. Oh, we got the lazy eye. I promised I wouldn't let that happen. - It's okay. - Those we can hit delete. Let me cycle through these. Yeah, it's a real pretty look. And for those of you watching at home, you have this nice color-corrected view. It's beautiful. Nice portraits, nice kind of haze around. Another use for this, another reason to do this is if you're in a cluttered studio, kind of like we are here today, you can use this to obscure and hide that stuff. Maybe you're shooting in your living room or in your kitchen, and you still got dishes in the sink, you want to hide that. Sometimes these types of filters will help give you a creative look but also hide the clutter, hide the chaos. So, all right, ethereal filters, cool?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY How-To Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

It's a fun course, with a lot of interesting ideas presented in a way to help spark the creative juices in anyone wanting to branch out and experiment with different ideas. Mike's presentation style is fun and easygoing - perfect for this type of discussion. If you're not afraid to color outside the lines and see where the road takes you, this is a very enjoyable bit of inspiration.


Love it!! Very creative and full of inspiration. Mike Hagen explains the different effects in a great way, he is precise yet easy-going so he makes learning fun. I recommend this class to all who wants to take their creative photography to the next level without spending money on expensive accessories.


Mike has an easy-going, pleasant & fun personality. He explains things clearly. Rolls with whatever happens. And, he's very good about answering audience questions in an understandable, positively reinforcing and non-judgemental way (which can be rare for some established pro photographers...).

Student Work