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12. Textures and Overlays – Who Needs ‘Em?

To all my friends who create beautiful textures and overlays for use in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, that headline is just a joke.  I love your textures!

However, there is an alternative.  Below you’ll find 5 tips for creating in-camera overlays in digital photography.  But first, here are some examples of what you can do with these DIY tools.

I shot that picture while holding an old piece of rusty screen in front of my lens.

You can see the same screen in front of this image:

The aperture in the second shot was smaller, so you can see more of the actual texture of the screen on that one.

So, have you guessed yet what I’ve been studying in photography class lately?  Among other things, we’ve been experimenting with holding various items in front of our lenses.  You can either cover the entire lens, as in the shots above, or hold something across one edge of your frame, like the next photo.  The effect is similar to adding a texture or overlay in Photoshop.

To produce that beautiful red bokeh, I held a transparent red plastic spoon, of all things, along the top of my lens.  Imagine that in a portrait with white flowers surrounding the subject!  I can’t wait to try.  Imagine the look on your client’s face when you bring out an old spoon.  I’m thinking that you might need to warn them of this technique in advance!

And these sunbeams?  Not sunbeams at all.  They are actually from plastic packaging.  You know that stuff that is so hard to open that you have to buy the special infomercial knife just to slice into it?  Well, finally, here is something good about it.    I held the plastic in front of my lens and got the cool beam effect where the plastic bent, and even a bit of vignetting in the bottom corner.

5 Tips for Creating In Camera Overlays for Digital Photography

Would you like to try?

  • Adjust your aperture to bring the detail in or out of the filter you’re using.  The higher the aperture number, the more will be in focus.
  • Adjust the distance between the lens and the item you are holding.  If you have short arms like me, you don’t have much room for adjustment here.  A tripod and possibly a remote shutter release would be great for this.
  • Cover the entire frame, or just part of it.
  • Experiment. You’ll never know how cool this can be until you try.
  • A simple piece of colored cellophane can work wonders.

I took this picture at high noon with some sepia colored cellophane over the lens.  Pretty cool, right?

On another note, I’ve found a couple of good sources for free Lightroom Presets lately.  Interested? I’m going to play with them and write them up later this week.

Have a good one!

12. Textures and Overlays – Who Needs ‘Em? was last modified: June 21st, 2015 by Erin Peloquin


  1. Sarah C.
    Posted on May 11, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Very cool! I am going to have to try this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Elli Says :
    Posted on May 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    What a fun idea! I gave it a try and plan to post some results on my blog today. Thanks!
    .-= Elli´s last blog ..130/365 =-.

  3. wayoutnumbered Says :
    Posted on May 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    That last image is just so *rad*…very nice~
    .-= wayoutnumbered´s last blog ..Accordion Books – My Newest Obsession =-.

  4. Gretchen Says :
    Posted on May 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    VERY cool idea!!! I teach a small group of kids for a photography club – and this idea has their name all over it!!!! Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Taryn Pyle Says :
    Posted on May 20, 2010 at 5:26 am

    This is great information and a great resource. Thanks!
    .-= Taryn Pyle´s last blog ..New Site Found with Great Learning Information! =-.

    • admin
      Posted on May 20, 2010 at 7:36 am

      Thank you, Taryn!

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