Creative Image Making Techniques Jamie Kirkpatrick

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is one of the three key elements to Exposure. Without proper Shutter Speed manipulation, it is impossible to achieve the image you want. Varying the speed of the shutter will yield vastly different results. Shutter speed is expressed in fractions of a second, or seconds themselves.

Fast Shutter

- Fast -

A shutter speed of 1/250th or higher is considered high. A shutter of this speed will begin to freeze motion and result in an image where any movement will appear still. the faster the movement of the subject, the higher speed that is required.

A very high shutter speed, high enough to almost freeze the movement of this hummingbird.
1/640th of a second is enough to show this dragonfly being splashed with water with minimal blurring.
Shutter speeds don't get much faster than this, high enough to freeze a bullet leaving barrel of a gun.
Slow Shutter

- Slow -

Slow shutter speed (or "long exposure") on the other hand provide a much more creative result. By limiting the aperture to a small size the camera must open the shutter for a longer amount of time to allow light to enter and reach the sensor and correctly expose the image. When used correctly this can yield some very creative and interesting results.

One of the most popular long exposure subjects is head and tail lights on a cars which provide prominent light trails in two colours.
Using an ND filter and a very long exposure this photographer has managed to blur the waves to the point where they are almost no longer visible.
A long exposure shot of an airport capturing the light trails of the planes landing and taking off.


Zooming is a not so well used creative technique. If the photographer has a zoom lens it is possible to focus on the subject, set a relatively slow shutter speed and then zoom the lens in or out whilst taking the shot. This technique provides a burst effect which, when used correctly, can be very interesting, making any lights in the frame appear as if they are moving outward, and give that classic "warp speed" effect.

When the zooming technique is used in conjunction with a subject that has a relation to speed, it can create false sense of movement.
Another creative use within Zooming is to use it to create fake "God rays" or light shafts. It works particularly well in this photo as it gives the photo a heavenly atmosphere.
This image is a combination of a zoom burst and a normal landscape. the resulting final image is a landscape will appears as if it is hurtling through space.


Panning or "Tracking" is yet another modified use of long exposure. It is achieved by using a shutter speed slower than 1/60th of a second and then following the subject with the camera to have it sharp. The ideal is to have the subject perfectly sharp and the background blurry, which gives a sense of movement but also displays the subject perfectly. The technique is most commonly found in sports like, motorsports, football and cycling.

The shutter speed used here isn't so slow that the background is unidentifiable, but still slow enough to draw attention the motorcycle.
The shutter speed here is a bit slower giving us more bold horizontal lines
Conversely, this image was taken with quite a high shutter speed in order to freeze the movement of the dog. The difference here is that the camera is moving very fast alongside the dog to provide the blurred background.
Double Exposure

Double Exposure

A double exposure is where two images are combined to form a blend on a single image space. This is most commonly done digitally in a programme like photoshop but it can also be done 'in camera' with cameras that are capable, like a Nikon D800. It is achieved digitally by opening both images in the same document in Photoshop, masking them then using a blend mode such as Overlay then painting them via the masks until the desired effect is achieved.

This Double Exposure is a combination of a woman and a landscape consisting of trees and birds which, when combined this way give a very emotional narrative.
Like the previous photograph this double exposure also has very strong narrative. The hand could be reaching out to stop the man, or asking him not to leave, or any number of narratives the viewer can imagine. Double exposures can be the most effective way of sparking an emotional response in the viewer.
Like the previous two double exposure this one, and most for that matter, involves a human and an environment. this one could be interpreted as the woman feeling very confused mentally, represented by the smoke, which is being caused by her heart, represented by the glow of the train light.


Image distortion can reference a lot of things. A very wide angle lens produces distortion which can be corrected in post processing. Different materials can produce light distortion which can affect the subject. Reflections are distortions as well as refractions. Some Image distortions are desired creative effects like diffusion and reflection, whereas the distortion created by a fish eye lens may not be.


- Diffusion -

Diffusion is when the light that is being photographed is being shining through a material that makes it softer and more even. It is a highly desired effect when doing portrait photography as it gives a much more pleasant effect on the face.

This image shows sunlight being diffused through the mist and the tree which gives it a softer quality, vastly changing the atmosphere of the photograph making it feel more welcoming, compared to if it wasn't diffused, it feel more harsh and inhospitable.
This portrait was taken using a diffuser over the studio light giving a much more subtle quality to the shadows and resulting in a far more pleasing image overall. if it had been taken without a diffuser all the shadows on the face would be harsh and it would distract from the eyes.

- Reflection -

Reflection is the result of light bouncing off a surface and as a result we can see another object in the reflected one. it is a very easy distortion technique to use as all it requires is water or other reflective surface. Reflections can be used as a mirror of sorts, particularly effective in landscapes, but they can also be used creatively.

In this photograph the reflection is being used as a mirror which makes the landscape seem a lot bigger. As the reflection is slightly darker than the landscape it emphasises the real portion of the photograph drawing attention to it.
In this image the photographer has taken a shot of this giant reflective sculpture which gives a sort of fish-eye panoramic view of the landscape behind the camera. It is an example of a very creative use of a reflection in an urban environment.

- Refraction -

Refraction is when light is bending through an object or surface and it appears distorted. Water and glass or both together are common ways of photographing refraction. It is most effective when there is a plain pattern behind the subject such as grass or stripes.

This image shows a glass ball on a beach refracting the pier behind it. Because of the spherical shape of the ball the image inside it appears upside down which gives an interesting balance to the photograph.
The combination of the glass and water together refracts the stripes and makes them appear to be spiralling as well as pointing the opposite direction.


Mono-toning refers to an image being various tones of one colour. These types of effects were originally achieved using various darkroom techniques, but nowadays it is done through Photoshop.

Black and White

- Black & White -

The correct term for black and white os "monochrome". The first photographs that were ever taken were monochromatic and even today it is still one of the most common and effective ways of editing an image. Even when colour photography became available, monochrome was still a very popular choice as it provided vastly greater sharpness and were less expensive to develop. Taking the element of colour out of an image gives the viewer one less thing to consider when looking at the photograph which, when used correctly, can draw attention to other elements making for a much more visually impacting shot.

If this shot had been taken in colour it is possible that the viewer would be more interested in the landscape in general but in monochrome we gain a narrative. The focal point becomes the nearest silhouette and we interpret a sense of loneliness. The shot gains a much more emotional atmosphere as a result.
Through the monochrome we gain the impression these two children have been through hardships and are each other is all they have. In saturated bright colours this images narrative would portray two loving siblings taking a casual walk together and give the viewer a sense of happiness.

- Sepia -

Sepia is another form of Mono-toning. It is mostly associated with photographs of the 19th and 20th century which used it to give a warmer tone to the photograph but also to prolong the life of the print and protect it from pollutants, sometimes up to fifty percent longer. In modern times it easily re-creatable through photoshop but is much less common as there is no need for it although it is still used to create a certain atmosphere or to replicate the old style.

An original Sepia toned photograph taken in 1895. this sepia toned print doesn't have the same sharpness a black and white print would have but it helps to age the photograph and give a sense of time.
A modern interpretation of a sepia toned image taken in 2014. this image is very clean

- Cyanotype -

Cyanotype is an even less common method of mono-toning than sepia and is rarely seen nowadays. This could be due to the fact they do not hold up well to the test of time and tarnish easily. the method was discovered in 1842 and was popularised by Anna Atkins as a photographic technique. At the time it was a simple and cost effective way of producing large amounts of copies which is why it was adopted by engineers and architects to produce their plans, now known as "Blueprints".

An original Cyanotype by Anna Atkins taken sometime between 1843-1854. She was documenting various types of plants for use in scientific study and and lecturing.
A modern cyanotype created using photoshop. It doesn't have the same grainy quality as an original and as a result we don't gain any additional information other than it is a portrait.
Hand Tinting

- Hand Tinting -

Hand tinting or hand colouring refers to when colours are manually added to a black and white photograph by hand to either make the photograph appear more realistic or for artistic purposes. It was originally done using water colour paints, oils, crayons or pastels using brushes, cotton swabs or with fingers. If using photoshop it can used to create a colour pop image.

This image is from the 1940's and has been hand coloured using water colour paints. It shows how accurate hand colouring can be when trying to recreate colours in a black and white photograph.
This image is a digital recolour of Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother". It appears to be an accurate recreation but as mentioned in the black and white section it lacks the emotion on the monochrome.


Solarisation ( or the "Sabattier Effect" when referring to a negative ) is a photographic phenomenon where the darks and lights of a photograph are reversed and create a tonally reversed image. It is called solarisation after the way the image looks as if has been heavily overexposed.

This portrait of Lee Miller taken by Man Ray in 1929 is an early example of Solarisation. Miller was Rays assistant and rediscovered the technique when she accidentally turned the darkroom light on exposing the film and Ray would go on to perfect the technique. This photograph is one of the most famous solarised photographs and although it is not as extreme as some others, it displays a textbook example of the ''Mackie Line'' the black line that separates the model from the background.
This is a modern solarisation achieved in photoshop. It looks to be accurate when compared to the original films but it is missing the signature ''Mackie Line''. In photoshop it is created by drawing an inverted ''V'' in the curves adjustment, then adjusting the light and darks to finalize the image.


Lens filters for digital cameras have a range of uses, the most common types of filters are UV (Ultraviolet) used to protect the sensor against harmful UV rays. Polarising filters are used to reduce glare on reflective surfaces and provide a more pleasing photograph. ND (Neutral Density) filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the camera to enable long exposures.


- Polariser -

A polarising filter is a filter that usually screws on to the end of a lens that reduced glare on reflective surfaces as well as slightly increasing contrast, darken skies and enhance colour. They are most commonly used in landscape photography and in long exposures to reduce the glare on reflective surfaces. Polarisation can also be applied digitally in Photoshop but it will not be ale to remove reflections after the shot has been taken.

This long exposure was taken with and without a polariser. the right half was taken without a polariser and clerly has a lot more reflections of the clouds in it. The one on the left has fewer reflections and results in a more pleasing image. It is also slighlty darker and has richer colours as a result.

- Neutral Density -

Neutral Density or "ND" filters are filters which go on front of the lens and reduce the amount of light getting into the sensor. They are most commonly used when photographing bodies of water like the sea, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. All ND filters are neutral grey so that there is no colour cast on the images and it is just the amount of light that is altered. The effect that most people desire from ND filters is blurring water through long exposure.

This photo is a long exposure of a shoreline. The ND filter allows the sky to be properly exposed while also allowing the exposure to be long enough to blur the water.

Special Effect Filters

This photograph was taken using a star filter. Star filters make any bright light source flare outwards in the same way a star would if you were to look at it. This effect is strongest against a dark background such as the night sky.
This image was taken with centre spot filter which allows the centre of the image to be properly in focus but the outer edges are out of focus. This lens can be very effective when photographing faces or plants.

Digitally Layered Image

Digitally layered images are created in photoshop using the layers tool. Using layers Allows the user to experiment with different effects without destroying the original image. Using multiple layers also adds a great deal more control and customisation as each layer can individually edited.

In this image the photographer has made a black and white layer and then masked out the black and white area to reveal the colour beneath.


HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR is a technique used to produce a higher range in luminosity than would otherwise be achievable with standard camera equipment. Some digital cameras have HDR capabilities built in, for others which do not HDR can be attained by taking a correctly exposed image then two more one under exposed and one overexposed. These three images can then be blended in photoshop to create a digital HDR.

This image has been edited to be an HDR image. We nan see this by the light over the hill is overexposed and the hill itself is underexposed as they are beside each other. If viewed in person this is closer to what a human eye would see.

Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is when the user will take multiple exposures of a subject but with each different shot the focus point is moved and when all the shots have been taken the images are stitched together in photoshop to crete an image that is entirely in focus. This technique is commonly used in studio work when the final image s going to be used for advertisement or going to be displayed on a billboard etc.

This image shows two exposure one taken with the front half of the fly in focus and the other with the rear half in focus. The third image is the combination of these two images and the result is the whole fly being in focus.


Created By
jamie Kirkpatrick

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