In-Camera Special Effects that Every Photographer Should Know

Challenging yourself will always help you take your photography skills to the next level. Believe it or not, you don’t have to own a range of expensive photography gear to create unique and impressive photographs. By playing around with camera settings, you can often add several stunning special effects to your images without using any additional gear or wasting your time in post-processing.

Here is a list of in-camera special effects to take breathtaking shots that you can try out with your compact camera or prosumer DSLR.

1. Zoom Blur

Give a dynamic edge to your photographs with the zoom blur effect. Zooming while the shutter of your camera is open helps you create interesting images. However, this may not be as simple as it sounds. It takes practice to press the shutter and control the zoom simultaneously. Variations can be created by controlling the amount of zoom. Make sure that you hold your camera still when you zoom in or zoom out. Use a tripod, if one is available.


Image courtesy: Ralph Rayner

2. Camera Panning

Capture the art of motion in photography with camera panning technique. The theory of this technique is quite simple, but it takes some practice to achieve perfection. Start your experiments with subjects travelling in a straight line. Cycling kids and moving cars are ideal to begin with.

Set your camera to a relatively slow shutter speed, 1/60 to 1/250 sec for fast paced subjects and 1/30 to 1/60 sec for slower ones. Pan the lens from one side to another. Make sure that your subject remains in a fixed part of the frame. Click the shutter. If you are in precise sync with your moving subject, you get a sharp subject and a blurry background.


Image courtesy: thebmag

3. Bokeh Effect

Out-of focus highlights in the background of your image can improve the aesthetic quality of your image. Even though all lenses can create some kind of bokeh effect, the best ones can be attained when the image is shot using prime lenses with large apertures. Ideally, f/1.4 and f/1.8 creates the best effects. You can shoot in Aperture Priority Mode if you want your camera to choose the right shutter speed for the exposure.

Brilliant bokehs can be achieved if there is considerable distance between your subject and the background. Maintain minimum distance between your camera and the subject. Focus on your subject and take the photograph. Wow! You have a stunning image with sharp subject in the foreground and a beautiful bokeh in the background.

bokeh effect

Image courtesy: Andreas Pollok

4. Long Exposure

Long exposure photography is one of the techniques used by professionals to create photographs with an ethereal quality. Capture stunning images of lighted Ferris wheels, light trails, and star trails. Set your camera to “Bulb” mode to gain complete control over the shutter release. Keep the ISO settings as low as possible. Aperture settings and ideal exposure time would depend on your composition.


Image courtesy: Lincoln Harrison

5. Contre-jour/silhouette photography

It is relatively simple to create jaw dropping silhouette photographs. This technique often works well outdoors. You need a scene where the light source is located directly behind your subject. Expose for the light around your subject or the background. Alter the light meter to get the right exposure. Never use flash when creating silhouette photographs.

silhouette photography

Image courtesy: TJ Scott

Of course, there are plenty of in-camera special effects that can help you take your photography to the next level. Never hesitate to be innovative. Give it a try and see what you can create. Want more photography tips, tricks, and tutorials? Check out

Author Bio

Sachin Ghodke is a publishing pro with a passion for photography. He works as Senior Vice President with Powerweave Studio, an offshore digital solutions & professional photo editing services provider. With nearly two decades of experience in concept, design, pre-press and production, and a discerning photographer’s eye, he finds time to ride his motorcycle across the country.

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