Talk to any photographer, and they’ll be able to describe a time when they felt utterly uninspired, often resulting in a lull for their craft. As a matter of fact, talk to any artist – this occurrence is rather common! Moments like these are fascinating because they force the individual to seek a new fuel for creativity.
For photographers, sometimes picking up a different camera will do the trick. Maybe a new film stock. For others, a full dose of bewilderment is all that is needed to get back up on that horse and go. Being perplexed by how something works is a very underrated way to fuel creativity – especially when one can directly pertain it to their artform.
Take filters for example. No, not an Instagram filter, but a physical product that directly attaches to the lens of your camera. A few, such as polarizers, UV, or neutral density filters, are often used to help photos achieve a certain “look.” But did you know that there is a whole sector of filters designed to aid creativity? They’re called Creative Filters – (who would have guessed!?). I guarantee some of these will spark your creativity and maybe cause a bit of disbelief on how drastically they can change the outcome of your image.
In this article, I’m going to take you through my top 3 favorite creative filters and provide examples on how they can be applied to your work. All images were taken with film on a Canon Rebel 2000 paired with Kodak Portra 160 – straight scans with absolutely no drastic adjustments in post production.
As a creator of these filters, I promise to not be too biased, but I must include one of our own from Spektrem Effects that I am very proud of and that still perplexes me to this day.
Let us drive right in…
Hoya Misty Spot Windmill Creative Filters
The Misty Spot series from Hoya comes in 4 different options, Gradual, Breeze, Windmill, and Halo, and they have to be the single most innovative line of creative filters to this very day.
When holding a filter from this lineup in your hands, you would hardly guess it does anything to your photographs. If you take a closer look, you’ll find that this filter is layered with an ever so slightly transparent piece of vinyl. Infused on this vinyl, are intricate designs and patterns. These etchings are the effect itself. When shooting with a smaller aperture, these designs begin to imprint on the light coming through the lens.
On this day, we used the Windmill filter which is just 1 out 4 different patterns that Hoya created with this line. The name gives a hint as to what kind of effect you will see.
Each filter from this series shares an underlying theme – they replicate the look of radial blur. Outcomes such as zooming in or out while the shutter is open or possibly rotating your camera as the Windmill demonstrates.
Earlier this year, I gave a presentation on creative filters for a film photography league based in Chicago. Part of my pitch was to actually pass out my personal collection of filters to the attendees so they could get a hands-on look.
The absolute best part about this is hearing the person guess what the effect will be before putting the filter on their lens. Whenever I get to the half frame filter, I always make sure to give the person a good long look in the eye before handing it to them while saying, “Good luck guessing what this does.” Cruel as it may sound, the half frame filter is not obvious at first glance. This may have something to do with its simplicity; a pure black half circle mounted on a rotating frame. It is very easy to assume that creative filters cater to single exposures, but this on really shines with double exposures.
At some point in time, I’m sure you’ve dabbled with double exposures. The randomized, surreal-like technique that is infamous in the world of film photography. The half frame filter allows the shooter to have more “control” if you will, when shooting this type of photograph.
This filter will completely block out one half of your image with absolute precision. Combined with a camera that allows you to take a double exposure at will – this makes a pretty mean combination. Take one photo on one half of the frame, rotate the filter, take another photo for the other half of the frame and BAM! Magic.
It is important to provide a little context for this next one. A huge driving force for writing this piece was to heighten the awareness of creative filters in photography. I believe they are the key to what a lot of photographers are seeking. However, a lot of these creative products are no longer in production, and one day they will be hard to come by. Luckily, the internet has helped aid the revitalization of a lot of products – especially in film photography.
It seemed like a no brainer when the idea dawned on me that it was time to play a part in revitalizing something that meant so much to me. I created a brand called Spektrem Effects in June of 2018, and we specialize in making creative filters in a wide array of sizes so that everyone can have fun. Motion is our most recent creation.
Have you ever tried a longish exposure on a moving subject? Motion blur in photography can be an absolutely stunning technique but not always the easiest when there isn’t a flash or tripod handy. The Motion filter tries to encompass the look of motion blur without having to move your subject at all!
This filter favors bright, vibrant colors. When used on certain light sources (strong ones) you’ll get some interesting diffractions like so:
Next time you’re in the mood to try something new or need a little boost of creativity, keep these filters in mind! Heck, if you’re feeling daring – try to make your own! You can put literally anything in front of your lens and get an effect. Stay curious, have fun, keep shooting. Thanks for reading!
Thank you so much, Brandon! Brandon is the creator of Spektrem Effects creative camera filters, and you can check them out on their website and Instagram.