How to Shoot Extreme Effects with Your dSLR - dummies

By David D. Busch

Normally, you want to set your camera’s controls so that you get the best-exposed, most realistic image. However, at times, you might want to go for baroque and get a really over-the-top image right in the camera. Simply adjust your settings to get some off-the-wall results.

Of course, if you shoot RAW, you can manipulate your images when you import them to your image editor to get much the same effects, but adjusting the camera’s controls is faster and repeatable.

Here are some techniques to try:

  • Boost saturation/change the hue. Set your camera’s color saturation controls to the max to generate rich, unrealistic colors. Film photographers favored Kodak Ektachrome films for this very reason, and digital shooters can do the same thing electronically. Increasing saturation can also provide good color on dull, overcast days. Or you can go overboard and really pump up the color richness while manipulating hues to create an otherworldly effect.


  • Enhance contrast. Your dSLR probably has a contrast control intended to give you acceptable images of low-contrast subjects. You can subvert that control to produce high-contrast results of normal subjects. You lose detail in highlights and shadows, but that’s what you go for when you use this effect.

  • Add grain. High ISO ratings can add unwanted noise to your images — except when you want the noise because of a creative decision. Crank your camera’s sensitivity up all the way and then experiment.

    In bright light, you generally have to use high shutter speeds, small apertures, or both, but most digital SLRs can shoot photos on the beach at high noon at ISO 1600, even if it means using 1∕4000 of a second at f/16, or neutral density filters to cut down on the amount of light reaching the sensor.

Some cameras have built-in Scene modes that can capture some of these effects and others. Check your manual.