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Digital Photography Hacks
By Derrick Story
May 2004
More Info

How do these hacks stand up? Comment on a hack from the book by choosing the associated "Discuss" link below. You can also view the code from any of the hacks by clicking on the "Listing" or "Code" links. A number of hacks have been selected to be featured online in their entirety; you may view those hacks by clicking on the hack titles that are linked.

Jump to: Digital Camera Attachments  | Daytime Photo Secrets  | Nighttime Photo Hacks  | Magic with Flash  | The Computer Connection  | Photoshop Magic  | Camera-Phone Tricks  | Weekend Photo Projects

Digital Camera Attachments

HACK
#1

Pocket Tripods on the Go
Yes, your full-size tripod is important, but when you want to travel light, a pocket tripod is great for getting into your own group shots and capturing twilight landscapes
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#2

Travel Tripod: A Happy Compromise
When tabletop supports are just too small, but you can't afford to pack a full-size tripod, you might want to consider a travel model that folds flat and fits in the smallest of suitcases
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#3

Walking-Stick Mount
A trusty walking stick is helpful for fording streams and navigating slippery trails. But why not use it to steady your camera, as well as your footing?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#4

Convert Your Monopod into a Makeshift Tripod
Monopods are lighter and far more portable than tripods. But they're also not as versatile—unless you add a little extra support
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#5

Steady Shots from the Comfort of Your Car
Not everyone is John Muir, roaming the wilds with just a walking stick and a broad-rimmed hat. Some folks would rather shoot without leaving the comfort of their automobile
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#6

Attach Your Camera to Bicycle Handlebars
Put your pictures in motion by attaching your digicam to the handlebars of your bike
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#7

Flash Brackets for Pro Lighting
If your camera accepts an external flash, you might think that will solve your problems with red eye. Well, almost
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#8

A Flexible Arm to Hold Accessories
How many times have you wished for an extra hand when you're shooting? Here's one you can attach to your camera's hot shoe or tripod socket
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#9

Bubble Levels to Keep Things Straight
Many digital photographers have a difficult time keeping their horizons straight while peering into their digicam's LCD monitor. Here's how to straighten things up
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#10

Battle the Sun with an LCD Hood
Your camera's LCD viewing screen is one of its most exciting features—except, that is, when you're standing in bright sunlight and can't see the pictures on it
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#11

Convert Your Digicam to a Digital SLR
Shading the LCD monitor for easier viewing during replay is one thing, but why not go all the way and use the monitor as a virtual SLR viewfinder for shooting images too?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#12

T-Mounts and Other Threaded Tricks
Digital SLR users can connect their camera bodies to a variety of bargain optical attachments by using one of the most enduring adapters of all: the T-mount
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#13

Double-Strapping on the Trail
Tired of your camera bouncing around during your hike? Strap it into place, for comfort and for fast access
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#14

Stay in Charge of Your Batteries
The Achilles heel of digital cameras is that they need power—lots of it. But what do you do when you're in the middle of nowhere and you want to keep shooting?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#15

Gaffer's Tape When All Else Fails
Sometimes, there just isn't an adapter to hook things together elegantly. Does that mean you don't get the shot? Hardly! That's when you reach for the gaffer's tape
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Daytime Photo Secrets

HACK
#16

Pantyhose Diffusion Filter for Flattering Portraits
Razor-sharp optics are great—unless, that is, you're photographing the love of your life. In those instances, you might want to borrow her pantyhose
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#17

Capture Kids Without Going Crazy
Sure, kids are cute in real life. But when it comes to capturing them with your digital point-and-shoot camera, they can be as elusive as leprechauns
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#18

Use Sunglasses as a Polarizing Filter
Chances are, you have a high-quality polarizing filter with you at all times, right under your nose. (Actually, it's sitting your nose.)
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#19

Get the Big Picture with a Panorama
They say two heads are better than one. When it comes to showing the "big picture," many heads—er, shots—are definitely bigger than one
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#20

Secrets of Whiteboard Photography
Never rewrite anything you can digitize. If you've ever been tasked with copying a full whiteboard after an intense brainstorming session, you know what I mean
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#21

Make Your Own Passport Photo
Don't spend money for a terrible passport picture that you'll be embarrassed to show to strangers all over the world. You can take your own shot, and make great first impressions instead
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#22

Get Super Close
Digital cameras have macro capability built right in. But what if you want to get real close? Here's how to get a bug's-eye view of the world
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#23

Multiple Exposures, Digital Style
If you're looking for the multiple-exposures setting on your digicam, forget about it. It probably isn't there, unless you own a Fuji pro SLR camera or one of a handful of other models with this capability. So, what's the creative digital photographer to do?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#24

Go Low-Rez
There's much more to digital photography than megapixel brute force. And if you're artistically minded, you might try your hand at going low-rez, Jam Cam style
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#25

Painless Infrared Photography
What kind of eerie world makes the sky go dark and trees turn white? It's the stunningly beautiful realm of infrared photography
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#26

Create the Maximum Depth of Field
Imagine the kind of pictures you could take if everything were in focus from one foot to infinity? Here's the inside scoop on one of the oldest secrets in photography
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#27

Create Soft Background Portraits
Do professional portrait photographers use special lenses and accessories to soften the backgrounds in their portraits? No, they don't. They manipulate the depth of field, and this hack will show you how
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#28

Analyze Metadata to Improve Your Shots
In the days of film cameras, I seldom recorded exposure settings that would have helped me better analyze my pictures. Now, digital cameras handle all that work for me, and I can use that information to figure out what went right or what went wrong
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Nighttime Photo Hacks

HACK
#29

Nighttime Portraits with Scenic Backgrounds
Sometimes, capturing the background of a nighttime portrait as just as important as capturing the subject itself
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#30

Street Shooting at Night
Because of their compact size, pocket digicams are excellent street-shooters, enabling you to capture the grit and the glory of urban life at night—that is, if you know how
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#31

Capture the Nighttime Mood and Leave the Red Eye at Home
Shooting with flash indoors against a dark, boring background often produces overexposed subjects with red eye. But it doesn't have to be that way
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#32

Take Flash Shots of People Who Blink
Every family has one: the person whose eyes are closed every time you use the flash to take a picture. Here's how to get those eyes open
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#33

Auto Headlamps and Other Streaming Lights
You can energize your night shots by including streaming lights, such as cars passing through your composition. Just make sure you're not standing in the flow of traffic at the time
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#34

Starlight Effects for Candles and Lights
Add extra sparkle to your candle and chandelier images by using an inexpensive starlight filter. You can even make your own, if you don't mind scratching a little glass
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#35

Light Painting and Colored Gels
With an inexpensive swatch book of theater lighting gels, some nightlight bulbs, and a couple of LED flashlights, you can create ethereal color effects. And the best part is that you don't need Photoshop or even a computer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#36

Secrets of Fireworks Photography
Don't let any smoke get in your eyes for this assignment. Stand upwind, bring your tripod, and capture some truly spectacular images
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#37

Night Landscapes and the Moon
The moon is a beautiful but often elusive element for nighttime landscapes. If your previous attempts have resulted in sheer lunacy, take a look at these helpful tips
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#38

Colorful Star Trails
For most people, stars are decorative points of light that decorate the night sky. But for you, they can also be fascinating streaks of light that add dazzle to your compositions
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Magic with Flash

HACK
#39

Outdoor Fill Flash
It might seem crazy at first, but one of the best times to turn on your flash is when you're taking outdoor portraits on a bright, sunny day
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#40

Prevent Red Eye
The plague of point-and-shoot flash photography, red eye, can turn your children into demons and your pets into monsters. Here's how to exorcise this curse from your life
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#41

Add External Flash to Point and Shoots
Just because your digital point and shoot has a built-in flash, that doesn't mean you're stuck with using it exclusively
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#42

Bounce Flash for Softer Light
One of the best techniques for using (and reasons for purchasing) an external flash is to bounce its light off the ceiling. This creates softer skin tones and a journalistic look
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#43

Pro Portraits with Just Two Flashes
You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on expensive lighting to get professional-looking portraits
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#44

Eliminate Glare in Reflective Surfaces
You've probably felt the frustration of trying to take a picture of a reflective object, such as a framed painting, and getting glare. The secret is to add another flash
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#45

Freeze Action with Electronic Flash
The hand is quicker than the eye, and your electronic flash is faster than your shutter. Use it to stop time and capture that magic moment
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#46

Second-Curtain Flash for Cool Effects
One of the most magical of all camera tricks, second-curtain flash lets you show a trail of motion behind an object that is frozen in mid flight
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

The Computer Connection

HACK
#47

Judge Image Sharpness by File Size
With a series of photographs of the same subject in hand, you can judge which shot is sharper without ever opening a file
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#48

Unerase the Lost
Nothing wrenches the heart like accidentally erasing a memory card full of images. But all is not necessarily lost
[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#49

Name Folders to Organize Your Images
You have many digital-shoebox applications to choose from to help you organize your photos. Or, you could simply use the built-in tools that come with your operating system
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#50

Create a Web Photo Gallery
A great way to share your pictures is to post them on the Web. Here's an easy way for photographers to leverage the greatest publishing tool of all: the Internet
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#51

Amazing B&W Prints from Your Inkjet Printer
For a couple hundred bucks you can convert your Epson or Canon printer into a high-end black-and-white darkroom
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#52

Great Color Prints from Your Inkjet Printer
The battle cry for his hack is "go forth and calibrate!" That's about the only way you're going to get consistently accurate prints from your inkjet printer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#53

Pro-Quality Prints from Your Digicam
Home printing solutions have their advantages, but working with a commercial printer can elevate your images and help them last for a very long time
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#54

Take Your Slideshow on the Road
If you go to all the trouble to make a digital slideshow, how are you going to share it with others who are far away? Are you going to lug your computer to every family member you know? Here's how to take your show on the road, while leaving the computer at home
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#55

Virtual-Reality Movies from Your Digicam
You can create a virtual-reality (VR) movie with the most basic of digicams. You just need to know how to stitch things together
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#56

Digicam Movie Editing Made Easy
Almost all point-and-shoot digicams capture video footage in addition to still photos. But how do you turn those short snippets into your own personal movie?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#57

Rotate Your Movie from Horizontal to Vertical
Who says you have to shoot all your movies horizontally? Just as with stills, sometimes it's fun to turn the camera on its side. But when you upload your movies to your computer, they're turned the wrong way! Here's how to fix that
[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#58

Create a Rolling Movie Title
A cake isn't really dessert without icing, and a movie isn't complete without titles. Here's a simple way to create tasty Hollywood-style rolling credits
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#59

Add Music to Movies and Slideshows
Music makes everything better, especially in the background of your digital movies and slideshows
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#60

Voiceovers for That Professional Touch
A picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, you need 1,020 words to communicate what's going on. That's when it's time to step up to the mic and create a voiceover track
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#61

Store Pictures and Movies on an iPod
Yes, iPods make terrific digital music players. They're also not so bad for storing movies and pictures from your digicam
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Photoshop Magic

HACK
#62

Match Resolution to Output
Image resolution remains one of the great mysteries to hobbyist photographers; there's one setting for computer viewing and another for print output. Here's how it works
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#63

Secrets of Sharpening
Every digital photographer knows that some pictures need a little sharpening, but few understand the best way to do it. Here's how
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#64

Sample Down for Email Attachments
Your high-resolution photos are perfect for printing but not so good for sending to Aunt Betty, who has AOL dial-up. Have mercy on Betty and learn to sample down
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#65

Crop and Resample in One Step
Preparing a whole batch of images for a project such as a slideshow can be a laborious process at best. This hack shows you how to crop to size and resample, all in one swift motion
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#66

Level That Dipping Horizon
Wrangling with LCD viewfinders sometimes leads to less than perfectly level horizon lines. Thankfully, a hidden tool in Photoshop CS can straighten things out
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#67

Power-Line Vanishing Trick
The Clone Stamp in Photoshop Elements is a pretty good tool for removing unsightly wires from your scenes. Photoshop 7 and CS have an amazing piece of magic called the Patch tool. Either way, wires be gone!
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#68

Combine Two Pictures
The camera doesn't always reproduce faithfully what the eye sees. But Photoshop CS can help make your photos look like the real thing. Just take two pictures instead of one
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#69

Sponge Out Red Eye
What works better than Visine for getting the red out? Photoshop's desaturating sponge is fast and effective, and it doesn't sting
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#70

Brighten Teeth
It seems like everyone wants whiter teeth these days. You might not have the time for peroxide-based solutions, but there's no need for such drastic measures anyway. This Photoshop hack takes only a few seconds and instantly removes years of stains
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#71

Intelligent Auto Color Correction
Photoshop CS includes a helpful Auto Color function. The problem is that it needs to be calibrated. Here's a calibration how-to that reveals the secret to fast color correction
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#72

Soften Facial Lines
You've taken great care to capture your subjects in the best light. But sometimes, artistic lighting accentuates facial lines. Here's how to soften them for a more natural look
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#73

Fix Flash Falloff
Built-in flashes on digital point and shoots sure are handy—that is, up to about eight feet. Here's how to brighten those dark areas when your flash runs out of juice before your subject does
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#74

Hand-Color with the History Brush
Combining the richness of color and the mood of B&W photography, you can create eye-catching artistic effects. And with the History Brush in Photoshop CS, it's easy
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Camera-Phone Tricks

HACK
#75

Live with a Less-Than-Perfect Camera
Ansel Adams might not have used a camera phone to photograph "Moonrise, Hernandez," but I bet he would have loved to have one around when he was hanging out with Edward Weston
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#76

Send Snapshots to the Desktop
Your desktop is your camera phone's photo lab. But before you can do any processing, you need to get your pictures into the computer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#77

Transfer Images Via Email
Wireless photo transfer is one of the great advantages of camera phones. These tips will have you filling up your friends' phone mailboxes in short order
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#78

Send a Paper Text Message
Who says that technology has taken the personality out of our communication? Use your camera phone to send messages in your own handwriting
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#79

Communicate in a Foreign Country
A picture is worth a thousand words, especially if you don't speak the language
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#80

Create a Home Inventory
Creating a home inventory and storing it in a safe place will make it easier to work with the insurance company at a time of loss
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#81

Rental-Car Tips and Other Auto Hacks
A camera phone can help you prove that you didn't put those dents in a rental car. And if you do get in an accident, it can document what really happened
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#82

Get the Big Picture with a Little Camera Phone
If a scene is just too big to fit in your little camera phone, shoot a series of images and stitch them together
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#83

Photo Moblogging
Camera phones have added a colorful new dimension to the text-heavy world of weblogging. With photo moblogging, you can publish pictures to the Web directly from your phone
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#84

Capture Life's Little Moments with Camera-Phone Video
No, you're not going to record camera-phone video of your son's entire graduation ceremony. But you might catch him receiving his diploma
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#85

Use Your Camera Phone as a Slideshow Viewer
Smartphone color displays are higher in quality than the pictures captured by their built-in cameras. But what if you could view your high-resolution digicam images on your Smartphone's backlit display? You can!
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Weekend Photo Projects

HACK
#86

Create a Coffeetable Photo Book
Beautiful, hardcover photo books were once reserved for published photographers. But thanks to print-on-demand technology, you can make one for less than the price of a memory card
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#87

Create Custom Greeting Cards
Create professional-looking greeting cards and even have them addressed and mailed for you
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#88

Keep a Digital Diary
Diaries enable us to document the big and little moments in life. And your pocket digital camera might be the greatest journaling tool of all
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#89

Capture Pictures of Your TV Screen
You can photograph images of your television screen just as easily as any other subject, as long as you know the secret camera settings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#90

Fax from Your Digital Camera
When a fax machine isn't handy but your digital camera is, you can still sign and return documents as if by fax magic
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#91

Copy Slides with Your Digicam
Dedicated slide scanners can be expensive and more than a little tedious to use. The digicam you already own might be your best bet for digitizing some of your favorite slides
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#92

Preview Film Pictures with Your Digital Camera
Digital cameras can take the guesswork out of film photography by allowing you to preview the composition and lighting before you make the film exposure
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#93

Photograph Zoo Animals Without Bars
With a little photographic wizardry, you can take pictures of your favorite animals at the zoo and eliminate the bars that stand between you
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#94

Get Close with Digiscoping
Chances are, you already have the tools to get close to your subjects, even if they have little beaks and are perched way across the yard
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#95

Advanced Panorama Technique
Once you've played a bit with panoramas, you might want to raise the bar and produce professional-quality images. Here are some secrets the pros use
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#96

Shoot the Moon
The moon is a fascinating photo subject, and with a little equipment and some experimentation, you can capture fantastic results
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#97

Remote-Control Camera
You don't always need to have your finger on the shutter release to control your camera. You might prefer to click the mouse button instead
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#98

Show Who's Who in Group Shots
Here's an easy way to let others know who's who in your group shots
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#99

Rename Photos Automatically in Windows XP
What do you do when you have a whole folder full of vacation photos with weird, camera-generated filenames that don't make sense? This simple Windows XP hack will give them all more meaningful names
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#100

Stack Images to Remove Noise
You can dramatically reduce image noise by taking multiple photos of the same scene and layering them in Photoshop
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]


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