Shooting Challenge: Homemade Filters

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Two weeks ago, I had you use cheesy digital photo filters on your photography. This week, we're bringing filters back to the analog realm.

The Challenge

Create your own unique photo filter and submit a photo from it. (Or use an existing filter you have as a template for something new.)


The Technique

Long before we had a huge aftermarket of expensive filters, photographers had to improvise to create the looks they wanted.


Here's one quick roundup of tips.

Maybe the most famous (or notorious) is smearing Vaseline on one's lens to create a soft, romantic look. Most of us probably wince at that idea, but smearing the stuff on an old filter works fine, too. Others get pretty close to the idea using a lid of a Pringles can, pantyhose or plastic wrap.


Custom bokeh filters are absurdly simple to make. Floppy disks double as IR filters.

And each of these tips hasn't even broken the ice on more complicated Instructables, like using a mesh screen to create a star filter.


Just remember, we use all of these expensive cameras and lenses to take our photos. But it all started out somewhere as a hack. Marketing, smooth plastic and a price tag made it a product. Don't be afraid to experiment.

The Example

Our lead photo is by Steven King and is a great example of how you can get a soft focus effect from a homemade filter. He used an ordinary UV filter for his base, then he coated the outer two-thirds with clear nail polish. The effect is pretty fantastic, softening what would otherwise be fairly harsh directional light on the model's face, smoothing out any imperfections in complexion.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, Oct 3rd at 8AM Eastern to with "Analog Filter" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameAnalogFilter.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameAnalogFilterWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.