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Build & Shoot: Star Filters

Lesson 3 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

3. Build & Shoot: Star Filters

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Star Filters

- [Mike] I want to show you a variation on this. I'll bring the lens over back to the close studio camera. So right now, I've got kind of a circular smear. What I'm going to do is I'm going to take that and I'm just going to draw these radiating lines in the smear. Okay? You can do all kinds of fun shapes with the smear. And this will might show up in the portrait, it's hard to tell. But it will show up, like, if you're taking this outside in the forest, the trees will kind of get this radiation...radiant glow. Not radiation. And I'll maybe move it in just a little more. - [Woman] And Photo Maker, Mike, asked, can you add food coloring to the Vaseline? Will it hold the color? Have you tried it? - Photo Maker. I was actually thinking of doing that. Of adding food coloring or a lipstick. - Yeah. - I think lipstick would be cool. I forgot my lipstick today, sorry about that. But yes, all of those things could really work. And that's...I dare you to try it. In fac...

t, hey...who was it? - Photo Maker. - Photo Maker. Send a photo in to our... - Student gallery. - Student gallery. And I would love to see it and comment on it. Okay. So now we're doing radial lines. Interesting. Oh boy. I want to go vertical for this shot so I can get more of her shirt. But I'm afraid that if I do that, I'm going to lose connection. So, all right. One, two, three. All right. And we won't really see...I can already tell. You're not going to see a big difference in this photo. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to turn the camera this way, and I'm just going to take a picture of the windows, and see if we can see those radial lines. I know I practiced this in the forest. One of my favorite places. Yeah, we're not really seeing it. Oh, well. We'll just take this shot, and take this shot. Trust me, it works great in the forest. So the idea is, just experiment with the shapes. Experiment with the lines. Yeah, we're not really seeing that. But, when those...when the light kind of filters in through the trees, sometimes you'll see that shape. Another thing that I've done...again, I'll bring it back to the camera, the camera on the floor here. Another thing that I've done with this, is I've made vertical lines, and I've made them all squiggly, like this, and then I shot trees in the forest, and it made it look like a...I don't know, like a painting. It was a very painterly effect. All the trees kind of...the trunks of the trees all became windy and wiggly. So, just experiment with all of the different shapes with your finger...finger paint. It's like going back to kindergarten. Okay. So that's the soft focus lens. A lot of fun to try. So I'm just going to clean this off, get it ready for the next filter. Some people recommend using an actual cloth rather than paper towels, just because the paper towels can sometimes leave residue. But I'm like, really, we're doing soft filter stuff, so I don't know if the residue is that big a deal. Okay. So this next one, what I want to do, is I want to show how to make, kind of, a star filter. So a star pattern, okay? So the idea here is, again, we're going to take a portrait, and I just...I'm riffing as I go. To get the star, we need some, like, bright, shiny stuff behind her. So we actually have something set up for something we're doing later on, which is some holiday lights. I might pull some those holiday lights on set , and pull them in behind her, and get that ready to go. And then when we take the shot, hopefully, we'll see some star patterns behind her, using this filter, okay? So, to do that you basically need stripes or lines on the filter. And we can again do that with the petroleum jelly. All right. So, we're just experimenting here, so we'll do line, line, line. Those might be too big. Some people use an actual wire, like a little tiny wire and they tape it to the front. So, a crosshatching of wires. Okay, so, that's pretty simple. Crosshatching, and we're crosshatching. I can imagine the television narrators trying to narrate this stuff . How can we make this sound super fascinating? - Well, I do have a question for you as you're doing that? - Okay, great. - Would...this is from Kim Preston. When you go back over to the camera, would using manual focus be best when you're kind of covering up the lens so much? Does it affect the focus? - Good question. I will be swapping between manual focus and auto focus all day, because some of the filters and some of the techniques I'll be using makes it impossible to auto focus. So, yeah, get comfortable with that. In fact, let me just do a real quick show and tell. Most lenses have a focus switch on the lens. And, for like this one, the Nikon says, "M/A" or just "M." And so it' have to go to the "M," which is just manual focus. And most camera bodies also have the switch down here on the camera body. So you can just flip it to manual focus. But, again, remember what we're doing here. It's all soft focus, so being in focus isn't always the goal or the objective. All right. Let me just take a look through here. Oh, cool. Yeah, so auto focus right now is struggling, but it's working. I'm just going to take a shot of her right here, first of all. And I'm going to get a little closer. Okay, great. So, what we're going to see here in this image is, we're going to start to see a little bit of a shape. Start to see a little of the diagonal shaping coming across like this, okay? Now, the goal is to find something that really makes that shape much more dramatic. So like if she had a sparkly shirt on, you'd see these stars coming through. So what I'm going to do is, I'm going to go grab this light over here, this light bank, and put it behind her. The holiday lights...and see what that looks like. So we rigged this up ahead of time. This is DIY as well. They're just simply a string of lights. Simple. Power strip. Turn this on. Cool. Let's see what that comes that comes out. Oh yeah. I'm happy I made this decision. This is great. It looks good. All right, Renatta, here we go. One, two, three. Cool. All right. So let's talk about how we can improve this. It's a cool looking shot, but honestly, I want her face to be a little bit sharper, right? It's like totally blurred out here. So, I'm going to grab my rubbing alcohol, and wipe off a little hole in the front so that it...that part is clear. I'll turn it this way so you all can see it. Grab a napkin or towel. Yeah, that's pretty cool. That is so, so simple, and the look is quite compelling. We got the Hollywood look for $12. Oh, I think I put too much on there. There we go. All righty. I'm just going to wipe out some stuff in the middle. And how big? I don't know. Remember I was talking about your sensor size. This is a full-frame sensor, so I might need to take a little bit bigger circle out of the middle. Again, it's always, take a shot, look at the result, take another shot. Okay. How you doing? Doing okay? All right, good . Oh yeah, more better. Ah, took out too much. Interesting. So I took out what I thought would be the appropriate amount, and you'll see here on the screen, well, I took out too much. Okay, no problem. And we're wiping, and we're wiping. It's amazing how small the hole...I'll call it small the petroleum jelly aperture has to be. Okay. Here we go again. Oh yeah. One, two, three. Cool. Yeah, now we're getting it back. So, this is what I would call a star filter, and there's lots of...if you're really skilled with finger painting, you can do other kind I can see doing like six, like, one, two...or three. Three lines. One, two, three. And so the star becomes much more of like a natural star. In fact, I might try that real quick. I just might...I've got the diagonals going. I might actually go, like, horizontal. Horizontal, and then another vertical. So, hopefully, now, those will be eight lines. I'm hoping. All right, one, two, three. Oh yeah. And this looks much more like your...oh, boy...non-denominational holiday cross thing. So we got, you know... especially you can see it like down here. We got vertical lines and diagonal lines. How fun is that? You guys need me to move my camera off a little bit so you can see it. Sweet. Now, in this case...remember earlier, I was talking about doing the, kind of, the squiggly, vertical lines. I might try that again too real quick. Just to give you a feel for what that'll look like. So I'm just going to go all vertical, and kind of squiggly. Still trying to keep that middle section a little bit clean, a little bit clear. Okay. Tiny little hole in the middle. And I'm at f/2.8 for this. f/2.8. So, I might try another aperture here in a minute, and see how that aperture impacts the photo as well. All right, great. And, this one, not so impressed with. This one didn't...there we go. The vertical, squiggly lines didn't really play out. And the reason why is because we're dealing with pin pricks of light, versus actual, like, tree trunks, so... Let's just for, grins and giggles, let's try a different aperture. So this was f/2.8, you know, and this is part of the experimentation process. Sometimes when you try an experiment like this, you don't get the result you want, and a lot of times it's because the aperture that you choose. You know, your aperture actually changes significantly what the scene looks like. Small apertures we use to create sun stars. I don't know if you guys have ever tried that before. Like for landscape photography. If you want that sun to turn into a...kind of a sun star, you have to use something small like f/22. So let's try that. Let's just see what happens. I want to get back to my crosshatching because we know, already, we know that works. So I'm just going to do my diagonal crosshatching. And now I'm going to switch it up, and I'm going to go to...let's try f/16. And this is a little bit longer exposure, so it's good that I'm on my tripod. This is working out to be 1/15th of a second. All right. One, two, three. Ah, interesting. So we got even more of a star effect by changing our aperture. Yeah. You're going to hear me say this all day today. Just try different things. Try different ISOs. Try different apertures. Try different shutter speeds. For some of the stuff I do today, we're going to have to be, like, up at ISO, you know, 6400 or even 12000. And because it's experimental photography , you shouldn't be afraid of going there. Right now, I'm at ISO 1600. I'm at 1600. So that's even...that's a much higher ISO than most people are comfortable shooting, but that's okay. So, what do you think? Cool? - Cool. - Cool. All right. Any other quick questions or thoughts from the live viewers? - Well, we do have some fun thoughts that are coming through. This is from Francis, who suggested putting glitter on to the Vaseline, which could be... - Glitter? - ...again, really fun. And another one is...Francis is also suggesting, you know, moving her further forward from the lights, different depth of field, you know, getting different effects in that way too. - Yes. Yeah. Perfect. I like that one. Well, I like the glitter one. I have never actually thought of glitter. That's pretty cool. But, what she was also suggesting was moving the model further away from the lights or closer to the lights. And, yeah, all of that will impact the photo as well. The farther away she is from the light means, maybe the lights will become more of a star effect. So, farther away from the background, they're even more out of focus, maybe they'll burst even more. I like that call.

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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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