Cool Special Effects Pictures- How They Are Taken!

Did you know you can create cool special effects in your pictures without using Photoshop? Some effects simply need the right exposures and angle on the shot. Others need the correct setup and imagination. Making your pictures so that they astonish your friends is easier than you think and all you really need to get started is a DSLR camera and a tripod (for those night time shots).

cool special effects- orbs of light

Among the easiest trick shots is forced perspective. Perspective is the ability to judge distance between ourselves and another object or between two different objects. When a shot is angled correctly the perspective can be distorted to alter how two things appear in relation to each other. This can make it seem like a person is holding a crowd in their hand, or pushing against a building or even breathing clouds. The reason this works is that cameras do not record in 3 dimensions but rather in 2. Getting a good shot with this method depends on pose and the right alignment between the camera and subject.

Sometimes you can get amazing photo effects by simply turning your camera on an angle. One example of this would be having someone, like in a wheelchair, lay on a background and altering the camera angle to give the perception on the finished image that the person was climbing. This was used to great effect to allow one boy have pictures taken of him doing things he imagined being able to do but could not because of his medical condition.

Using long exposure and slow shutter speeds is for more than just low light still shots. There is a wide range of cool special effects like light painting, steel wool spark effects, and fixed sky photography that are all easy to do when you use this technique. The easiest form of this is to have a low light fixed subject, like a tree and do a long exposure showing star trails around it. This also works for anything with attached lights, like cars for example. Light painting can be done this way using LEDs flashlights, sparklers, or anything else that glows.

A rarely mentioned way to get amazing photo effects is called second or rear curtain sync. This requires a double flash, one at the start of the image and a second at the end of the exposure. Most DSLR cameras have this ability. The delay between flashes allows the background to blur into trails that suggest movement, while the main subject is double exposed by the flashes. A slow shutter speed is required to get the proper blur. One fiftieth of a second or slower is recommended and many cameras will remove the setting with faster shutter speeds.

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Fireworks Special Effects Pictures

When looking at how to get fireworks special effects in your pictures you have a couple of options. You can compost two or more images together, you can use brushes and paint your fireworks into a picture, or you can mimic fireworks using light painting. Composting a fireworks shot into a nighttime scene can create a unique image that wows all who see it. It only takes 6 or 7 steps and can really pay off in learning how to use Photoshop. Any photo-manipulation program should allow you to create similar images, so even though Photoshop is mentioned here, GIMP and other programs are just as useful.

create stunning fireworks special effects pictures

Step one is to select your two photos and open the fireworks one as a layer of the other. You can do this by either dragging the fireworks onto the base image or using the “open as layer” option if your program has it. The move tool is handy for this as well as for position the layer where you want it. The fireworks will be layer one. Next step is to resize the layer. In Photoshop the free transform tool is what you need. In gimp there is a resize tool that does nearly the same thing. Again the move tool can be helpful for positioning.

Next thing you will want to do is blend the images. Photoshop makes this easy with a blend mode. You will want to us “screen” blend. Gimp lacks this, as far as I know, but it your fireworks are on a perfectly black sky you can soft select it and alpha the black out for just about the same effect. Since you will me making a layer mask next in Photoshop after you use the blend tool, you will find the effect is very similar.

Once you have the sky out if the way you can reduce opacity of the remaining colors. Both Gimp and Photoshop allow for this in their layers menu. In addition by creating a layer mask that is based on black you can use black to paint out fireworks in your image where you do not want them to appear.

Reducing the opacity will allow you to see the image behind better so you know what you need to remove. After you lower your opacity you can paint out what you do not want to reveal more of the image below. You might need to zoom in to see what you are doing. Once you are done with that you can raise your opacity back to 100%.

Optionally you can enhance your fireworks special effects by duplicating the fireworks layer. If it is too bright reduce opacity again until it looks right.

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Trick Photography and Special Effects Pictures

Trick photography is something that will tend to impress just about anyone. And many of these techniques are exceptionally easy to do. In some cases it may take just a few seconds to figure out. Some of them can take longer but for the most part you don’t need to be terribly experienced to get some great effects out of your photography if y that’s what you want.

trick photography light painting effects

Creepy “Lord of the Rings” Long Road Effect

You’ve probably seen this before in film. Basically a character is looking down a road or other long area and suddenly the area seems to distort, with the part that’s far away appearing to enlarge and zoom toward the viewer a bit, and the outside parts falling away in rounded corners.  This is one of those photo special effects that you can do yourself. It has the effect of making it look like something really unnatural is happening on the road, and puts focus on whatever it’s in the middle , making it look like the apex of a major distortion in reality.

This is accomplished with something called a fisheye lens. You can pick up one at the camera store and take your own fisheye lens pictures whenever you want. They can be a  great way to get a real creepy effect if that’s what your going for.

Tilt Shift Miniature Effect

If you take shots from above a scene like a city, you can make the objects viewed look as if they’re actually miniatures instead of real like they actually are. This will work for people, vehicles, trucks or various other types of vehicles.  This tends to distort some areas such as the areas above and far away, while certain objects are in sharp relief. This basically makes things really shallow looking, it makes everything seem fake.

It’s done with something called a perspective control lens. You can use it to shift around the axis. This effect isn’t hard to do, though the lenses can be pretty expensive.


If you want to create a “ghostly” type image you can do this by taking two pictures, one with a person in it and one where they aren’t and then double-exposing them together to make a see-through image that looks like a ghost. This is one of the easiest trick effects you can do and it doesn’t tend to take long. Some digital cameras will likely do it for you.

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