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Build & Shoot: Soft Filters

Lesson 2 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

2. Build & Shoot: Soft Filters

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Soft Filters

- [Mike] So the first thing I'm going to talk about is do-it-yourself filters, and we're going to create some really interesting effects with petroleum jelly, okay? So petroleum jelly, I'm going to wipe that on lens stuff. So, obviously some cautions here. You don't want to wipe or put the petroleum jelly on the front of your actual lens. That would be really bad. Don't do that, okay? So what we want to do is have a filter like this. And that filter is just a clear filter, a clear UV filter. I encourage you if you're going to buy these, just buy el cheapo filters, the cheapest least expensive filters you can find. The lens that I have here is a nice Nikon Pro lens. It's a 24-70 f/2.8 and as you can see that filter is just going to screw right on the front. So, just some nitty-gritty details here. This is a 77-millimeter front element and so you need to get a 77-millimeter filter. If you're shooting with other lenses, just make sure that your filter matches the lens diameter, right? All...

throughout the day you know, I'll talk about where to buy these stuff and I'll also talk about how much it cost. These I bought on Amazon and they're called Amazon Basics. The Amazon Basics filter. Amazon has all these great photo equipment for those of you watching, and it's all very inexpensive, unbelievably inexpensive. So I bought a number of these just for the class and I think they were probably maybe $7 to $10 a piece, maybe $12, something like that. So that's not a bad price to pay for something you just play with and not worry too much about munging up if you get too much, I don't know, maybe a scratch it or something like that. Big deal. Just use that as one of your DIY filters, a scratched filter. So the concept here, the first one I want to show today is what's called a DIY soft filter. There's all this talk in the industry typically around portraiture where you want your lenses to be as sharp as possible. You'll go on the internet and you'll see, oh this guy's got a study of this lens and it's SQFNPDLOQ graph looks like this and you know someone is talking about sharp, sharp, sharp. Well, in this case, we're going soft. It's all soft. So, we're going to use this filter, we're going to smear it up and then we're going to take some pictures. And so, let me talk, I'll do the smearing up right now and then in just a minute we'll call our model on scene and we'll start taking some pictures and then show you what that looks like. All right, so the first one is a soft filter. So here's my Vaseline or my petroleum jelly. I'm just going to put some on my finger here. And when you start out, you don't really want to put it on too heavy. You want to put it on fairly light and so I'm just... And I'm going to keep the middle part of the filter unsmeared, okay? Unsmeared. So it's sharp in the middle and it'll blurrier out towards the edges. All right? So I just kind of wipe this on there. And when you're doing it, it just looks very odd. You're like, "Who would do this?" And notice what I did is I just really just touched my finger into the petroleum jelly canister. Just got a little bit on there and now I'm smearing it all around. All right. Now, it's good to have a set of paper towels on set because now I have to go and put that on my camera, I have to hold my lens, and I just don't want to get that all smeared up. Another thing that I usually do is I'll have rubbing alcohol with me and that allows me if I make a mistake with my Vaseline, I can actually just wipe that off and start over again. So, rubbing alcohol, that's like, what is that, $1.50 at your local convenient store. So total price for this setup, we'll call $2 for this, $10 for the filter and $1.50 for that. So $15 you got yourself a really inexpensive soft filter. All right, so that's going to go here, it's going to mount on the lens, and then we're going to mount that to the camera but before we do I want to pull up our model, Renata, come on, come on over. Everyone I'd like to introduce to you to Renata, give her a big hand. Thank you. So, she is a very brave soul. I talked to her this morning and I told her this is kind of a crazy day. You aren't going to get one sharp in focus photo of you all day long because it's all kind of super creative stuff and she's fine with that. So, thank you. - [Renata] Yeah, no problem. - So, I'm just going to have you grab a seat and just hang out for a second as I get my technology going over here. All right. I'm not going to do live view on this one, rather I'm just going to do a tethered shoot into Lightroom. So here I've got, yup, I'm connected. That makes me happy. I've got a camera that's connected into Lightroom. I'm going to take the kit lens off of this. Throw on my 24-70 with the soft focus filter. I shouldn't have turned it off. That's always a mistake. Never turn off your main camera when you're connected to live view or to tethering. All right, we'll just quickly take a shot and see if it's going to register. All right my friend, here we go, shot number one and it still says no camera detected. It's a good way to, oh, we're in, we're in, we're in like Flynn. Woohoo! All right. I'm just going to... I think what I'll do is I'll take this off and I'll walk in a little bit closer. Okay, here we go. One, two, three, and again one, two, three. Cool. So let's look at these photos. I'll go full screen on this. There was an error working with the photo. You know, you test all the stuff out ahead of time. All right, so this one it didn't quite transfer all the way, but we can at least see that her face is sharp and I know it's hard to tell down here, it's hard to tell if it's getting blurry. So this is part of the experimentation process. So while I'm taking a look at that photo, I'm noticing that the blur isn't as pronounced as I'd like it to be. No problem. You know what the solution is? Yeah, more smear. One of the things that you'll notice I did is I didn't get very much of the petroleum jelly in the middle. So I'm going to actually put more petroleum jelly towards the center so that the hole is very, very small. I'll call it the petroleum jelly aperture. All right, cool. So now we're shooting through a much smaller hole. So, here we go. Next one. Now, look in here. Oh yeah. That's some soft, that's a soft photo. Excellent. Here we go again, nice smile. Cool. Yeah, fantastic. So, there we go. So we're getting some haze and that's kind of cool, right? It's kind of a neat look. Now that I've got a different camera, this camera is a full frame camera, so what is seeing is it is seeing much more of the blurry part of the filter. So as I take the shot, I'm thinking, maybe I didn't want so much towards the middle. So we were talking before this class about some of the cameras we were using. Keep in mind that if you have like a DX camera, something like a Nikon D7200 or a Canon Rebel type, it sees a smaller portion of your lens so you may have to move the petroleum jelly, you may have to move it closer whereas if you're in a bigger camera like a 5D or a Nikon D800, your petroleum jelly may have to be a little bit larger. So your sensor size impacts how much petroleum jelly you put. I never thought I said that before. Your sensor size dictates how much petroleum jelly you wipe on the front. I'm going to say all kinds of weird interesting stuff today. All right my friend, one, two, three. Okay, so I got a little bit closer. And now what I'm going to do is I'm going to go back...oh yeah. Look at that. It's just like in a dream. Now I'm going to go back and I'm going to wipe a little bit off and make it a little bit sharper in the middle. I'll just show this again to the camera so you can see what I'm working with. So, I got a fairly small hole there in the middle and I'm going to make it a little bit bigger now and I'm going to use my rubbing alcohol. So why? You know, why are we doing soft filter? Well, because it's different. It's just a different effect. It's something different than all the other photographers are doing and it's fun. It's fun to experiment with this. - [Woman] So Mike, I do have a clarification question from online. - Yeah. - Wondering of when you're putting that back on to your lens, is the petroleum on the outside versus the inside? - Definitely on the outside. - Great. - Yeah, I suppose it wouldn't actually... it won't impact or hit the lens if it was on the inside but I just don't want to take the risk. Okay, yeah, it's all DIY, so it's smeary anyways. Now the cool thing about this rubbing alcohol is it does evaporate very rapidly. Okay, so, we'll try that again. So my goal here, my purpose is to get the center so it's sharp and the edges so they're blurry. It's a technical term. All right, here we go, one, two, three. And I'm going to move a little closer for another example. How about camera settings. What am I shooting? Well, I'm just in aperture priority. Thank you. That was a beautiful smile. Thank you. You've done this before. Love it. I'm just in aperture priority. We're shooting all available light, I'm not doing anything special even though I have a flash on here. I'm not using the flash and I got a window over my shoulder and it's just providing really nice ambient light. So aperture priority f/2.8 and here you can see now the difference is that her face is nice and sharp, which is kind of what we want and then it just gets all kind of blurry out that way and that's cool. I like that look.

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...).

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