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5 Ways To Use Natural Filters In Your Images

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Once you get comfortable with aperture, shutter speed and ISO and basic composition rules, you may want to venture into more experimenting, for example by using filters in your photography. There is a big choice of photographic filters for sale: neutral density filters, polarizing and gradual filters, cooling and warming filters, among many others. However, there is no need to rush to the store right away, as there are plenty of natural filters around us that can be creatively used to enhance your photos.

Natural filters can add a variety of special effects to your images. Some of them will soften it to give the scene a dreamy look, whereas others will add or enhance the colours in your image. Here are 5 ideas of natural filters to get you started.

1. Your breath

The easiest and always accessible natural filter is your own breath. It is always with you and it’s absolutely free. On a cooler day, breath on the front of your lens to steam it up, then immediately take a photo before it goes away. The resulting image will be soft and dreamy-looking. You may choose to add some contrast later in post-processing, or leave the image as is. The same effect can be achieved by shooting through a steamy window.

2. Sunglasses

While traveling, you’re most likely to have your trusty sunglasses with you. Try placing them right in front of the lens to achieve an effect of a colour filter. Remember that the sunglasses will reduce the available light, so you will want to keep an eye on your shutter speed and consider raising the ISO on your camera to avoid camera shake resulting from longer exposure. Polarized sunglasses can easily substitute for an expensive polarized filter. You may notice some distortion on the resulting image, but this also can be considered as a special effect.

3. Transparent and non-transparent objects

Almost any object that is placed right in front of the lens, even a non-transparent one, becomes unrecognizably blurry and adds colour to your image (remember to use a wider aperture to blur the foreground!). You can achieve some interesting effects by simply holding a piece of fabric, plastic or paper right in front of the lens. Make sure to leave some space uncovered so that the subject of your image is still visible. For this image, I used a piece of pink cloth, holding it on the right side of the lens.

4. Reflections

Reflections in windows or other glass surfaces can be used to soften your image and add an additional dimension to it. It may remind of a double exposure image, or just ornate the image. This natural filter works particularly well for portraits, as it softens the skin and makes people look younger.

5. Various plants

Any natural objects, such as tree branches, leaves, flowers or grass can also serve as a natural filter. For example, for the photo below I held an orange tree leaf right in front of the lens. The resulting image has a splash of colour in it and looks different from the ones that can usually be taken in the park.

These are just a few ideas of a variety of natural filters that can be used to produce a certain special effect in your photos. By understanding the principle of natural filters, you may easily come up with your own variations. None of the images you take will be the same, so keep experimenting and share your ideas with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.