Photography Techniques: The Comprehensive List I Couldn’t Find, So I Made It

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published August 4, 2022

Monument Valley Sunset

If you’re anything like me, you love taking photos. And also like me, you’re always looking for new techniques to try out to improve your photography skills. Well, today is your lucky day! I’ve compiled a list of all the different photography techniques that you can try to take your photos to the next level.

This is a comprehensive list of photographic techniques. Some of these photography tricks are more common than others, but they all have the potential to create beautiful and unique images.

Most of these you will be achieve with only basic camera gear. But you should have a good command of your camera settings. For instance, know the difference between a faster shutter speed and a slower shutter speed.

So turn off auto mode and let’s dig into some of my favorite photography tips.

Motion Blur

This is a technique where you intentionally blur the image to create a sense of movement. This can be done by using slow shutter speeds or moving the camera while taking the photo.

You will see this a lot in landscape photography. It can be used to create a sense of drama or intrigue.

Light streaks and motion blur is a common photography techniques
Motion blur from vehicles

Depth of Field

Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in an image that appear acceptably sharp.

By changing the aperture on your camera you can either have a lot in focus or barely anything. The larger the number ( f22 ) the more in focus, the smaller ( f1.4 ) the less in focus.

It is confusing, I know, but small aperture large number. Large aperture small number.

Camera Shift

As any architectural photographer knows, the angle at which a camera is held can have a big impact on the resulting image. By tilting the camera up or down, photographers can change the way lines and shapes are experienced in the frame. And if you are shooting architecture this is a big problem.

But, you can change to image plane with special lenses to more in the frame without moving the camera.

This technique is known as camera shift. For example, shifting the camera up can include more of the sky while shifting it down can include more foreground.

By carefully choosing the right angle, photographers can use camera shifts to add another level of professionalism to their images.

Camera Tilt

Tilting the camera is a great way to add interest to an image. Tilting the camera up or down can change the way lines and shapes are experienced in the frame.

This technique is known as camera tilt. For example, tilting the camera down can make a subject appear larger than they are while tilting it up can make them appear smaller.

Additionally, camera tilt can be used to create an illusion of depth or distance. By carefully choosing the right angle, photographers can use camera tilt to add another layer of meaning to their images.

Camera Swing

If you are confused by our explanation of camera tilt you wouldn’t be alone. Many photographers can be confused about what camera tilt is, thinking it refers to tilting for focus. This is camera swing and it comes from the days of the first cameras.

It’s not their fault because the term Tilt-Shift lens is the wrong terminology. It should be a tilt swing lens.

Lens swing or Camera swing is the ability to “curve” the image plane. This allows the photographer the achieve exact focus in the image. Having only the precise elements they want focused on and nothing they don’t.

Downtown toronto skyline with tall building at early dawn night
The buildings of downtown toronto glow in in the early morning light.

Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is a technique where the camera shutter is left open for a long period of time, often several minutes or even hours. This allows the photographer to blur images of moving objects, such as the stars in the night sky or the flow of a river.

Long exposure photography can be used to create a variety of effects, from the dreamlike look of light trails to the ethereal beauty of silky waterfalls.

You will want to use a tripod and avoid camera shake. The same rules apply here as with night photography.

Camera Movement

By moving the camera during the exposure, photographers can create a variety of interesting effects. This technique is often used to capture light trails or to create a sense of motion in the image. Additionally, camera movement can be used to add texture and interest to an otherwise bland scene.

*Camera movement can also refer to swing and shift as mentioned above.

Light Painting

Light painting is a technique where the photographer uses a light source to “paint” the subject of the photo. This can be done with a flashlight, a sparkler, or even the light from a smartphone screen.

It is important you can override your camera settings and go full manual mode.

Forced Prospective

Forced perspective is a technique where the photographer uses a physical object to change the perceived size of the subject. This may be accomplished by placing the object close to the camera or far away from the subject.

Forced perspective can be used to create a variety of effects, from the comical to the eerie.

Hand holding a cookie. © robert lowdon
Bokeh used to isolate cookie

Bokeh

Bokeh is the term used to describe the out-of-focus area of an image. Bokeh can be created by using a shallow depth of field or by using a light source that is out of focus.

Bokeh can be used to create the dreamy look of soft light or the dramatic contrast of bright light against a dark background.

High Key Lighting

High key lighting is a technique where the photographer uses a very bright light source to create an evenly lit slightly overexposed image.

High-key lighting is often used to create a clean, fresh look. Additionally, high-key lighting can be used to create a sense of space and distance.

Low Key Lighting

Low key lighting is a technique where the photographer uses a focused light source in a dark environment.

Low-key lighting is often used to create a moody or dramatic look. Additionally, low-key lighting can be used to create a sense of intimacy or closeness.

Compressing the Subject

Compressing the subject is a technique where the photographer uses a telephoto lens to make the foreground and background appear closer together. This can be used to create the illusion of depth to the feeling of being close to the action.

Expanding the Subject

Expanding the subject is a technique where the photographer uses a wide-angle lens to make the foreground and background appear further apart. This can be used to produce a range of effects, from the sensation of being immersed in the action to an impression of immensity.

Freeze Motion or High Speed Photography

Freezing motion is a technique where the photographer uses a fast shutter speed to “freeze” the action. This can be used to capture a moment of impact or to show the intricate details of a moving object.

Image Pan or Panning

Image panning is a technique where the photographer moves the camera to follow the subject as it moves. This can be used to create a sense of motion or to capture a moving subject in sharp detail against a blurred background.

HDR

HDR or High Dynamic Range is a technique where the photographer takes multiple images at different exposures and then combines them in software to create one image. This can be used to capture a scene with a wide range of tones, from the brightest highlights to the darkest shadows.

Black and White Photography or Monochromatic

A black & white image or a monochromatic image lacks color. This can be done by using a black and white film or by converting a color image to black and white in post-processing.

Sepia

Sepia is a technique where the photographer adds a brownish tint to an image. This is possible by using a sepia-toned film or by adding a sepia tint in post-processing.

Selective Color

Selective color is a technique where the photographer removes all of the colors from an image except for one or two colors.

Selective color can be used in many ways, from the striking contrast of a single color against a black and white background to the subtlety of a monochromatic image with a hint of color.

Spot Color

Spot color is a technique where the photographer adds a single color to an otherwise black and white image.

You might have seen this in old colored images. Where the image was taken in black & white than hand painted.

Infrared Photography

Infrared photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image using an infrared-sensitive film, converted digital camera, or filter. This creates a variety of effects, from the ethereal look of a mist-filled landscape to the surreal glow of a cityscape at night.

Ultraviolet Photography

Ultraviolet photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image using an ultraviolet-sensitive film or digital camera. This can be used to create a few different looks, from the eerie glow of a fluorescent landscape to the otherworldly look of a UV-lit cityscape.

Macro Photography

Macro photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image of a small subject at close range. This can be used to capture the intricate details of a flower petal or the delicate structure of a butterfly wing.

The rate of magnification is important to macro photography. By being able to get closer more of the subject covers the image area.

Macro photography opens a whole world that is too small for us to see with just our eyes.

Multiple Exposure

A multiple exposure photograph is a technique where the photographer takes two or more images and combines them into one image.

This is done by creating multiple exposures in the camera or by combining images in post-processing. Multiple exposures can be used in many ways, from the surrealism of a double-exposed image to the drama of an abstract image.

Retail store photographer
Various exposures stacked together create dynamic images

Exposure Stacking

Exposure stacking is a technique where the photographer takes multiple images at different exposures and then combines them into one image. This can be used to create a high-dynamic range image, which can be used to capture a scene with a wide range of tones, from the brightest highlights to the darkest shadows.

Miniature Faking

Miniature faking is a technique where the photographer takes an image of a small subject and then uses post-processing to make it look like a miniature model. This can be used to create a variety of effects, from the whimsical look of a toy town to the dramatic perspective of a diorama.

Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a technique where the photographer takes multiple images at different focus points and then combines them into one image.

This can be used to create a deep field of focus, which can be used to capture a scene with a wide range of depths, from the closest foreground to the farthest background.

Panoramic Photography

Panoramic digital photography is a technique where the photographer takes multiple images and stitches them together to create a wide, panoramic image. This is also referred to as panorama stitching.

This can be used to capture a wide landscape or cityscape or to create a unique perspective of a scene.

There are also specific panoramic film cameras that take ultra-wide panoramic images.

Panoramic image of toronto
Panoramic image of skyline

Composite Images

Composite images are images that are made up of multiple images. This is done by combining photos in post-processing, or by using a technique like exposure stacking or focus stacking. Composite images can be used in many ways, from the dreamlike quality of a montage to the surrealism of an image made up of multiple exposures.

You will see composite images heavily used in advertising. Some can even be the result of hundreds of images!

Photo Manipulation

Photo Manipulation is the process of editing or altering a photograph using various graphical editing software like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP etc. Photo Manipulation can be used to create illusions or deceive someone. It is also used to add special effects to a photo.

Flat Lay Photography

Flat Lay is a style of digital photography that is usually done from above. The photographer lays the projects down on the ground and shoots the photo from above. This type of photography is often used for food photography, product photography, and fashion photography.

Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs are images that contain a moving element, while the rest of the image remains static. Shooting a video and picking a still frame, as well as shooting a burst of photographs and manipulating them in post-processing, are just two examples.

From the subtle and eerie motion of a rain-soaked cityscape to the lively energy of a bustling street scene, cinemagraphs can give a film-like quality to your images.

Crystal Ball Photography

Crystal ball photography is a technique where the photographer places a crystal ball in the scene and uses it to capture a distorted view of the surroundings.

Light Graphitti

Light painting is a technique where the photographer uses a light source to “paint” the scene in front of them. This is achieved by using a variety of techniques, from waving a flashlight around in the dark to using long exposures with light-sensitive materials.

The ethereal look of light trails, as well as the surrealism of brightly-lit objects in the dark, are all possible outcomes of light painting.

Custom Bokeh

Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image. It is often described as the “quality of the blur”.

Custom bokeh is a technique where the photographer uses a variety of techniques to control the shape and pattern of the bokeh. This can be achieved by using a variety of objects, from everyday items like coins and paperclips to more creative items like strings of lights and sparklers.

Splitting Images

Splitting images is a technique where the photographer takes an image and splits it into multiple parts. It’s possible to produce depth by utilizing several methods, from cutting an image in post-production to utilizing a grid or mirror effect.

Splitting pictures can be used to produce a wide range of outcomes, including the dynamic appearance of an image with multiple views and the surrealism of an image that is divided down the middle.

Kaleidoscope Photography

Kaleidoscope photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and mirrors it to create a repeating pattern. This may be accomplished in a variety of ways, from simple post-production effects to using specialist lenses.

Duotone Photography

Duotone photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and converts it to two colors. This might be achieved using a variety of approaches, from desaturating the image in post-production to shooting on black and white film.

Photo Montage

A photo montage is a technique where the photographer takes multiple images and combines them into one. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from physically cutting and pasting images together to using digital software.

Photo Elasticity

Photo elasticity is a technique where the photographer takes an image and stretches or compresses it to create a variety of effects. This may be achieved through a variety of methods, including physical manipulation of the picture, as well as the use of digital software.

Steel Wool Photography

Steel wool photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image of steel wool in motion and captures the light streaks that it produces. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from spinning the steel wool around in a circle to dragging it across a surface.

Slow Sync Flash

Slow sync flash photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image with the flash set to a slow shutter speed. This may be accomplished using a range of methods, including employing a slow shutter speed with a fast flash and utilizing a slow shutter speed with a slow flash.

Smoke & Haze

Smoke and haze is a trick where the photographer takes an image with smoke or haze in the air. This is done by using a fog machine or a smoky environment for example.

Nova scotia coastline
Long exposure of waves creates a haze effect.

Water Splash

Water splashes are a technique where the photographer takes an image of water in motion and captures the droplets that it produces. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from splashing water on a surface to using a spray bottle.

Water splash photos may be used to create a wide range of effects, from the playful appearance of droplets in mid-air to the dramatic impact of a Wave smashing on the beach.

Day to Night Images

A day-to-night image is a technique where the photographer takes an image during the day and converts it to look like it was taken at night.

The same is true when you apply a night shot to an image. You can use it to generate a variety of effects, from the realistic look of a metropolis at night to the otherworldly appearance of a starlit sky.

Planet Panoramas

A planet panorama is a technique where the photographer takes an image of a planet and stitches it together with other images to create a 360-degree view. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from using special software to using a panoramic camera.

Time Lapse

Time-lapse photography is a technique where the photographer takes a series of images over some time and stitches them together to create the illusion of time moving faster.

Prism Photography

Prism photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and uses a prism to split the light into its constituent colors. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from using a hand-held prism to using a glass prism.

Prisms may be utilized to produce a wide range of visual effects, ranging from the realism of a spectrum of hues to the surrealism of a rainbow of colors.

Hyper Lapse

Hyper lapse photography is a technique where the photographer takes a series of images over some time and stitches them together to create the illusion of time moving faster.

Shoot Through Effects

Shoot-through effects are where the photographer shoots through an object to create an effect. This can be achieved using a variety of methods, including the use of a transparent item. Shoot-through effects may be used to create a range of outcomes, from the realism of shooting through a window to the surrealism of shooting through a rainbow.

George zegouras market square
Using framing or shooting through objects leads to interesting compositions

Powder Color or Color Blast

Powder color or color blast photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image of powder and uses it to create a burst of color. This can be done by using a variety of techniques, from using a hand-held powder blaster to using a color powder bomb.

Powder dyeing or color blast photography may be used to make a rainbow of hues appear real, as well as create bursts of color and other effects.

Lomography

Lomography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and uses a special camera to create a distorted effect.

Using a camera with a variety of settings can provide the desired result. You may get the same effect by using a Lomo or Diana camera, for example. Lomography provides various moods and aesthetics to photographs, including distorted images that are realistic and abstract images that are unreal.

Pinhole Photography

Pinhole photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and uses a small hole to create a distorted effect.

Pinhole cameras are often just a box with a tiny hole and a piece of photographic paper inside. There are dedicated pinhole cameras for film photography also.

You can create the same effect in your home using the camera obscura effect.

Alternative Process or Cross Process

Alternative process or cross-process photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and uses a special process to create a color effect.

Alternative process or cross-process photography may be used to create a wide range of effects, including the realism of a deformed picture and the surrealism of an abstract image.

Toy Camera Photography

Toy camera photography is a technique where the photographer takes an image and uses a toy camera to create a distorted effect. This can be achieved by several methods, including using a Holga camera or a Diana camera.

Fisheye Photography

Fisheye photography is a method of taking photographs that features a fisheye lens. This may be accomplished using a variety of methods, including those that employ hand-held fisheyes and fisheyes. Fisheye photos can be used to create a wide range of effects.

Infrared Photography

Infrared photography is a method of taking a photograph that employs an infrared filter to produce an altered effect. This may be achieved using a variety of methods, including the use of an infrared filter or an infrared camera.

Creating Star Bursts

Starbursts are a technique where the photographer takes an image with a smaller aperture to create are star effect around light sources. It tends to work better with older lenses that do not have rounded aperture blades.

Creating Light Trails

Light trails are one of the most fascinating effects you can create with a camera, and they’re actually pretty easy to do. All you need is a dark location, some type moving light source, a steady tripod, and a bit of patience.

The key to creating light trails is to use a long exposure. This means that the shutter of your camera will be open for a longer period, allowing more light to enter the camera and create a brighter image.

Winnipeg event photography 22 | robert lowdon photography
Lens flares from lights can create drama in concert photography

Lens Flares

A lens flare is an optical effect that appears as a bright, often colorful, streak of light across the image. It is caused when intense light reflects off the surface of the lens and enters the camera.

Lens flares can be used to create a creative effect in your images, or they can be distracting and ruin an otherwise good photo.

Soft Focus

Soft focus is a photography technique where the image is intentionally blurred to create a dreamy or romantic effect.

There are several ways to create a soft focus, but the most common is to use a special soft focus lens. These lenses have a very low f-stop (aperture) which creates a shallow depth of field. This means that only a small portion of the image will be in focus, while the rest is intentionally blurred.

High Grain Film

Grain is the name given to the small, random clusters of silver halide crystals that make up a film negative. The amount of grain in a film is determined by its ISO (the higher the ISO, the more grain).

Grain can be visible in photographs, and some photographers consider it to be a defect. However, grain can also be used to create a unique and desirable effect in your photos.

Light Leaks

A light leak is a type of lens flare that occurs when light enters the camera through a gap in the body or lens. This can happen if the camera is not assembled correctly, or if there is a crack in the body of the camera.

Light leaks can be used to create a unique and interesting effect in your photos.

Zoom Blur or Burst

A zoom blur is a type of motion blur that occurs when the camera zooms in or out while the shutter is open. This can create a very cool effect, making the subject of the photo appear to be in motion.

Defocus Control

With some lenses, you can control how much the background is blurred. This is called defocus control, and it can be used to create a shallow depth of field. This is a great way to make your subject stand out from the background.

Color Gels

Color gels are popular right now. This is when the photographer puts gels on a lighting source to change the color of the light output. These were popular in the 80s and 90s.

They have always been around though. When they are used properly, the average viewer hardly notices they are there.

Conclusion

Many techniques can be used to create distorted images. Each technique has its unique look and feel and can be used to create a variety of different effects. So, experiment with different techniques and see what you can create!

Let us know in the comments which are your favorite! And be sure to check out our many other photography tips and new photography techniques in our blog.

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