There's no denying that photography can be an expensive hobby. Apart from the obvious expenses like cameras and lenses, it's not hard to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on accessories that give your photos a unique style. Luckily, there are plenty of cheap (and even free) alternatives that can bolster your camera bag without breaking the bank.
You may already have the materials needed to make some of these projects, but if not, you should be able to try any of them for less than $10. Let's get started!
1. Turn your tripod into a dolly with furniture sliders
Dolly setups can make for creamy-smooth video, but even budget dollies can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, place $6 furniture sliders on the feet of your tripod for a cheap alternative with professional-looking results. For an even cheaper option, use paper cups.
2. Forget your tripod? Use a lamp instead
This isn't a permanent solution, but it can save your hide if you accidentally leave your tripod at home. A standard lampshade topper is the same size as most camera tripod mounts. Simply screw your camera on top of the lamp, and presto — you have an instant tripod. In some cases, a lamp has advantages over a tripod since it can get into corner spaces more easily.
3. Use a frying pan for low-angle photography
One problem with tripods is that they're not so great for low-level photography, but this trick solves that problem by mounting a ball head onto a frying pan. This way you can get low without damaging your camera — perfect for the beach!
4. DIY color filters
Add some flair to your photos with these DIY filters. Color some clear plastic with permanent marker and put it in front of your camera. You can make the filter as subtle or dramatic as you want for some really cool effects.
5. DIY heart-shaped bokeh
Here's another cheap filter trick. Make your photos stand out with an easy-to-make heart-shaped bokeh, or background blur, filter. Simply cut the shape you want out of heavy paper — cardstock or construction paper work the best. Secure it to your lens and watch as the lights in the background of your photos transform from boring circles into beautiful hearts. You can cut out any shape you can imagine — stars, diamonds, whatever. Feel free to be creative!
6. Use a computer screen to "fake" a blurry background
Getting soft, blurry backgrounds typically requires an expensive lens with a wide aperture, but here's a trick you can use to simulate the look without spending tons of dough. Just get a blurry image on a computer screen and set your subject in front of it. This won't work for portraits, but it's great for taking photos of small objects. You can also make your own blurry image if you need to by using the Lens Blur filter in Photoshop. Setting your item on a slightly reflective surface (like a black school folder) adds another level of professionalism.
7. Get rid of tourists from travel photos
Traveling is great, but there's nothing worse then getting home and realizing all your travel shots are filled with other tourists. If you have a tripod, you can minimize or completely delete unwanted people from photos with this cool trick. Simply set your camera on a tripod and take 10 to 15 photos, waiting about 30 seconds or so between each photo. Then click File > Scripts > Statistics, click Median, then select your 10 to 15 photos. Voilà! The tourists will be removed from your photo.
8. Make a snoot with a can of Pringles
If you've never used a snoot before, you're missing out. A snoot focuses your camera flash to create a spotlight effect. Snoots can be expensive, but by shoving a few drinking straws into a can of Pringles, you can make one for next to nothing!
9. Stabilize your camera with rice
Here's another low-angle solution when your tripod can't get low enough. Fill a small plastic bag with rice or fine sand. Set your camera on top and control the camera's angle by pressing down on the bag. It's also great because it's easy to fit in your camera bag