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In-Camera Effects

Key Contributor

One of the biggest appeals of a camera is its ability to capture the world from a different perspective, and sometimes that perspective can be emphasized with the help of in-camera effects. I wanted to make a reference guide of all these interesting in-camera effects to showcase what's possible for those who are newly venturing into the world of cinema (or photography).


Mesmerizer Example

The mesmerizer is a lens attachment that can be rotated around to add distortion. It's often used to show nausea or disorientation.

Star Filter


Star filters turn any point light source into a star. The photo shows a 4-star filter, but 6-star is also common. A variation on the star filter is a streak filter, which is essentially a "1-point star". Shooters who want the anamorphic look but cannot afford anamorphic lenses sometimes use a blue streak filter to simulate anamorphic lens flare.

Diffusion Filter


These filters keep the majority of the image sharp while blurring only the highlights, giving a soft look without being out-of-focus. They come in different strengths (e.g. 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2). The stronger strengths seem to have been popular in the 1980s, but nowadays, the subtler strengths are more popular.


Honda NSX Commercial

Cameras allow us to capture the infrared spectrum of light, giving a unique look and providing a portal into a world which we cannot see with our naked eye. The above commercial was shot with black and white infrared film and then color mapped to make shadows blue and highlights orange. There's also color infrared film, which was used for the photo on Jimi Hendrix's first album.


In the digital world, you can shoot infrared images by removing the infrared filter in front of your image sensor (or buy/rent a camera that already has it removed)


Simply putting a prism in front of your camera lens can yield some cool shots.

IMG_7758.pngThere are many different types of prisms. Some give you a kaleidoscope effect, as seen on Pink Floyd's first album cover.


Relay Lenses


These lenses relay light through mirrors and prisms, allowing cinematographers to achieve numerous effects, such as an infinite depth of field, which is conducive for forced perspective. They also allow the tip of the lens to reach cramped places that a big bulky camera can't go (think miniatures). And by rotating one section of the relay lens, you can create the illusion that the camera is spinning.

Tilt-Shift Lenses


These lenses allow you to tilt or shift the plane of focus, allowing you to make miniatures look like full-scale and vice-versa. They also solve the keystoning problem of wide angle lenses, especially problematic with architectural shots. Another cool feature is the ability to shoot into mirrors without getting the camera in the reflection.

These are all the in-camera effects I could think of. Did I miss any?


Leading Creator

That's a good list, but I think you missed the three most important in-camera effects of all: Polarizers, Grads, and ND. They are also the hardest to replicate in post. But maybe they aren't creative enough for your list?

You know, when I was making the list, I was trying to include only camera add-ons that could produce footage to make a novice ask "how did you do that?" I feel like the polarizer, while essential, is too subtle for most to notice, and I feel like a graduated ND is more of a correction and less of an effect. However, when writing the post, I was thinking about the ND in terms of video and said, "that's not really an effect," because video looks the same with or without an ND because you're usually at a 180º shutter regardless of exposure. BUT for photography, you can get some really cool daytime long exposure shots, and I should've mentioned that. 

Top Contributor

I love looking at the infrared stuff out there and have been wanting to remove the infrared filter on an older dslr camera of mine for years, but still haven't had the guts to go through with it. (I even bought an IR conversion kit.) Have you done one of those chop jobs?

No—as much as I love to tinker with computers and electronics, taking apart a camera scares me. There are so many small, fragile, and expensive parts to break. If you have the courage though, by all means, go for it!