DSLR Hacks for Independent Videographers

You can get everything from gimbals to dollies and diffusion boxes if you have an investor or sponsor financing your project.
Yet, if you are an independent videographer on a tight budget, you cannot spend all your money on stuff like that. This is where camera hacks come in.
You can get all these effects for a much smaller cost with a little resourcefulness and creativity. All you have to do is to look around your house for everyday domestic things.
You can repurpose these things into essential gear for super cheap. All you need is your necessary camera equipment, and you can wing the rest.
It is fun and fulfilling to use these very common DSLR hacks. Additionally, improvisation can also help you save a lot of money and time that could have gone to waste in procurement.
Let’s go over some DSLR hacks that have proven to be the bread and butter of an independent videographer.

DSLR hacks for different impressions

  • You need to give the impression that your subject is standing next to a window, without a window. Cut out the shape of blinds or window grills in ordinary cardboard with scissors. You can also cut them in different forms like branches etc. This patterned illumination called a cuculoris.
  • Let’s say your shot calls for an effect of flying dust particles. You can rub a toilet paper against a rasp or cheese grater above your camera. It will give a very authentic dusty effect.
  • You often want to create a shot where you want to show the POV of a person peeping through a keyhole. It is not the most effortless effect to produce. You can always take a black cardboard box, cut a keyhole shape through it, and put it in front of the camera lens.
  • You can have an impact on a professional photoshoot without a fancy studio. All you need is a black Styrofoam square and your laptop. Look for a complimentary background online. Place the foam on your keyboard, and put your product on it. Shoot away.


DSLR hacks for stabilization and moving shots

  • For DIY stabilization in moving shots, use your camera strap to suspend the DSLR by putting the leather center under it. Hold the belt with straps above the camera.
  • If you do not have a camera strap, you can buckle a belt around your camera but be super careful not to drop it. This will help you a lot in panning the shots.
  • Create a fantastic sliding shot often used to establish an open road or a subject from toe to head for impact. All you have to do is to close the hind leg of your tripod and tilt it backward after you hit record.
  • The holder on your tripod that you use to take pan shots can often give you a choppy movement if you do it by hand. Put a rubber band around it and pull it sideways from one end to move the camera.
  • Getting a stabilizer for a low-angle shot not everyone wants to make. You can always improvise with any sort of common grain you find in the kitchen like rice, lentils or quinoa. Lock them in a Ziploc bag, put it on the floor, make an indentation on the bag and stick your camera on it.
  • If you have a smaller camera, make a DIY tripod. Go through your toolbox and find a screwdriver and attach your camera to it with the help of gear ties. You can also stick it in the ground for a low angle shot.
  • If you have a heavy gadget, use a piece of plywood, drill a hole in it. Mount the camera on it with the DIY screwdriver stand that you made. Place it on the ground for a good low angle shot.
  • Place your camera on a towel and slide it over a shelf or a table and pull on it for a smooth pan shot.
  • You can also use a desk chair as a dolly for low angle shots and sit on a chair with a handheld camera for a raised shot. Ask someone to push you and you have a seamless and stable moving shot for longer lengths.


DSLR hacks for creative focus

  • A coffee hood or empty cardboard toilet roll can act as a great tool for center focus.
  • Get a spare UV filter for your camera and use chapstick to glaze the rim. Attach the filter to your camera, but make sure you don’t get any of that chapstick residue on your lens. It will give you a dreamy, soft, center-focused look. With only the subject in the middle and the surroundings blurred out.


DSLR hacks for different effects, bokeh, and manipulative lighting

  • Sun-kissed is the best look. But if you are on location and you have the sunlight hitting you in the wrong spot, it could ruin your footage. To get around this, carry a mirror with you. Reflect the light to more flattering angles, to add a nice backlight. Let’s face it, there is no battery-operated light that is cheaper and better than the sun.
  • Recreate a dreamy look that you often see in soap operas. Go rummaging in your dresser and nick a pair of pantyhose. Stretch and stick them between your camera and your lens. It will produce the desired effect of softened skin tones and glowy lights.
  • You can also create a great cello lens effect. Hold a piece of transparent plastic film around the lens.
  • Put sunglasses in front of your lens for a nice shade blend.
  • A clear, transparent plastic bag can also work out as a great shade blend. Use primary-colored markers around the edges. Cover your lens with the uncolored part in the center and voila! You have a great color blend with an authentic 80s vibe. Without ruining your footage with an overprocessed filter.
  • Put a knife blade below your lens to give your shot a nice reflective bokeh.
  • Shine your little flashlight of warm color around the rim of your lens at shifting angles. It will give your shot a vibrant flare that looks like the sun reflecting at a nice angle.
  • If you want to make your object look like it is on a plain black surface, hold your phone under the lens.
  • There is a fine little trick for the lock focus effect. Take the shot and then zoom out. You can play it in reverse in post-production to see your object locking into focus.
  • Tape a crumpled up ordinary kitchen tinfoil taped in the background. It can give you an amazing bokeh sometimes.
  • Use a fishing wire and tape it across the diameter of your lens. You will get a great anamorphic effect for night time shots to give a special look to luminacent objects.
  • A white kitchen plastic bag tied around your camera acts as a very efficient softbox. Cover your entire camera with it for weather protection in rainy days.
  • Create a dream-like or trance-like look with a special effect on the output. You can use a prism to create that effect in daylight.
  • Use a booklight and clip it to the rails of your camera to shed some light on your focus points.
  • Hold a lighter close to your lens for some awesome bloom and flares. Try not to damage your lens with the flame.

DSLR hacks for camera maintenance

  • You have a flip-open screen on your camera. But you don’t want to get it all dirty using your fingers to keep opening it over and over. Stick a sticky not on the inside of your screen and use the loose end outside to open it.
  • Wipe your down with a clean cloth specified for this purpose.
  • We are always afraid of losing our spare memory cards. There are a camera cap and a lens cap that fit together. They are always sitting in your camera bag without good use if you don’t remove your lens from the camera very often. You can use this as a safe compartment for your storage cards.

These camera hacks work for situations when you are working on private projects.

You don’t want to show up for a commercial project with a bag of corn as a low angle stabilizer.

It doesn’t leave a good impression on your clients.

Reach out to MotionCue If you would like some more insight on how to shoot inexpensive yet get a professional-looking product.

Schedule a free consultation call with our video strategist



Posted by Fatima Najeeb

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