Building Better Photo Tools By Combining Tools


We photographers are gadget people.  Sure, many of our gadgets are necessary – even the ones that serve only one single purpose.  But there are many occasions where using your gadgets in combination with each other can be an asset.  You can create super tools.  So to start, I’ll share some of my own recipes.  But afterward, I’d like you to share your own recipes and combinations.

  • Remote Trigger + Monopod = Arm Extension – What would you do if you had longer arms?  You might capture some really interesting angles from very high (or very low) vantage points.  Get above the crowd, shoot over a wall – even shoot a self portrait.  With a monopod (or even a lightweight tripod) and a remote trigger, you have just that.  The monopod gives you the reach, the remote trigger allows you to trigger the camera from such a distance.
  • Remote Trigger + Warm Gloves = Cold Weather photography – Winter shooting is uncomfortable.  But the results are often breathtaking.  Instead of losing feeling in your finger tips or instead of buying special gloves, just tuck your remote trigger into your glove.  Pull one of the fingers out of the glove’s finger, and you can trigger the camera from the safety of your glove.  No more frozen fingers.
  • Reversing Ring + Prime Lens = Macro Lens – You probably have a good prime lens, like the coveted (and cheap) 50mm lenses that nearly every manufacturer has.  Get a cheap reversing ring – which screws into the filter adapter of your lens – and mount your lens backwards on your camera.  You’ll be able to focus much closer.  Depending on your setup, you may be able to focus as close as a half inch.
  • Circular Polarizer x 2 = Variable Neutral Density filter – Mount one polarizer to the other and you have a neutral density filter that can be changed simply by rotating one CP filter relative to the other.  You can quickly open it up to let more light in for focusing, then twist to get the shutter speed where you want it.  It’s certainly better than carrying a stack of ND filters, and it’s significantly cheaper than the commercial variable ND filters.
  • Any Random Object + Shallow Depth of Field = The “Whatever You Find” Filter – Want to create a really dreamy effect?  Get a bunch of tiny flowers (try Baby’s Breath) and hold it just in front of your lens.  Shoot through it as you focus on a subject 15-20 feet from the lens with a shallow depth of field (You’ll need to focus manually).  Thanks to refraction, the flowers nearly disappear.  But they will blur out certain sections of the shot in a seemingly random pattern.  It doesn’t have to be flowers…it can be anything you want:  Chain link fence, tall grass, your own hair and so on.
  • Clear Filter + Petroleum Jelly = Selective Focus – An old Hollywood trick to fake bokeh was to smear petroleum jelly on the lens.  I wouldn’t recommend putting it on the lens, because that can get messy.  But a cheap clear filter works just as well.  Smear a thin layer in a ring on the filter, but leave a portion of it untouched.  The areas impeded by the jelly will blur.  You can even smear the entire filter and you will get a soft, hazy aesthetic not unlike an antique lens or a plastic lens.  (Note:  Lip Balm works well too).
  • Off-Camera Flash + Large Rogue  FlashBender = Small Light Tent – This is a new discovery I recently wrote about in our review of the Rouge FlashBenders.  I like to shoot macro and close-up, but light is always an issue.  Get your flash off-camera and fasten the large Bender.  Form the bender into a dome shape, and you are dispersing the light around your subject.  It isn’t as effective as a ring light or a true light tend, but it’s good enough in most cases.

About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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