Forget the 12 days of Christmas, it's actually the 12 photography projects of Christmas, according to Chris Gatcum

Christmas Photography Project 6 – Try Silhouettes

A silhouette puts the ‘graphic’ into ‘photographic’, reducing your subject to a featureless dark shape against a brighter background. There’s no better time to hone your silhouette shooting skills than right now, when the sun is low in the sky for much of the day and both dawn and dusk are at a reasonable hour.However, don’t limit yourself to the colours at the ends of the day – a black & white silhouette can be just as striking, and ripe for a contrast-boosting lith effect.

There are only two things to remember for successful silhouettes: expose for the background, not the subject (your camera’s spot meter is good for this), and try to avoid having too many overlapping objects in the frame. Keeping things simple is the best option.

Exposing for the sky and having a subject that is clear to ‘read’ are the two key ingredients to a successful silhouette.

Exposing for the sky and having a subject that is clear to ‘read’ are the two key ingredients to a successful silhouette.


Project #7: Make a Bottle Cap Camera Mount

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With various family visits and parties, it’s the time of year when a pocketable compact camera might take precedence over an SLR. If that’s the plan, then a bottle-cap ‘pod will let you transform a drinks bottle into a camera stand, allowing you to use longer shutter speeds instead of cranking up the ISO (and noise).

Having sourced a cap, drill a hole through it using a 1⁄4in (6.5mm) drill bit.

Having sourced a cap, drill a hole through it using a 1⁄4in (6.5mm) drill bit.

Slide a 3⁄4in (90mm) long, 1/4-20-sized bolt through the hole from the inside of the cap, then fit a washer and a nut on the outside.

Slide a 3⁄4in (90mm) long, 1/4-20-sized bolt through the hole from the inside of the cap, then fit a washer and a nut on the outside.


Christmas Photography Project 8: Single Camera Stereo

Stereo photography is often seen as being quite involved, with a need for specialist twin-lens cameras or two cameras mounted side-by-side. But it doesn’t have to be that way: if you limit yourself to static subjects, it’s possible to produce a stereo pair with just one camera and free software. The process starts with you shooting two images of the same subject, shifting the camera horizontally between exposures. Use aperture priority or manual exposure to ensure the depth of field doesn’t change, and set the focus manually.

The amount of ‘shift’ you need between your shots depends on the subject distance, shift distance and a bit of geometry as well, so the easiest option is to shoot more images than you need, shifting the camera a little more each time. This means you have a number of potential combinations that can create your stereo pair. Once you’ve shot your images, copy them onto your computer and use StereoPhoto Maker to combine them. This is a free Windows-only program that you can download from stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr.

Several guides are available via the website to get you started. In essence, though, you need to determine the pair of your exposures that will work best and the software will then align and optimise them for you, making them ready for printing or viewing on screen using the classic ‘cross-eyed’ method.

A finished stereo pair, complete with a narrow space between the images to aid cross-eyed viewing.

A finished stereo pair, complete with a narrow space between the images to aid cross-eyed viewing.


Christmas Photography Project 9: Make a Macro Tube

You can turn the metal and cardboard packaging from a crisps tube into a ‘super’ extension tube.

You can turn the metal and cardboard packaging from a crisps tube into a ‘super’ extension tube.

The conversion starts with a spare body cap that will need its centre removed to create a crude lens mount. Use your modified cap to mark a circle on the metal base of your crisp can and (carefully) cut this out using a Dremel or other cutting tool.

The conversion starts with a spare body cap that will need its centre removed to create a crude lens mount. Use your modified cap to mark a circle on the metal base of your crisp can and (carefully) cut this out using a Dremel or other cutting tool.

Line up the holes in the body cap and the crisp can, and glue the two parts together with a glue gun or epoxy resin.

Line up the holes in the body cap and the crisp can, and glue the two parts together with a glue gun or epoxy resin.

Once the glue has dried, cut your crisp can to length. The longer the tube, the greater the magnification, but the more light will be lost (requiring a longer shutter speed or higher ISO). With your tube cut to size, it’s time to mount your lens. A 50mm prime lens is ideal, and as you aren’t actually ‘mounting’ the lens it doesn’t need to match your camera mount – a manual-focus lens with a manual aperture is ideal – the same lens can also be used for freelensing.

To fit the lens, wrap it in cloth (I chose an old black sock) and wedge it in the end of your tube to create a light-tight seal.

To fit the lens, wrap it in cloth (I chose an old black sock) and wedge it in the end of your tube to create a light-tight seal.

Your exposures will have to be set manually and you will have to focus by moving the camera backwards and forwards, but despite these limitations it’s still possible to produce some striking results – you can even turn the lens slightly to create a ‘tilt’ effect.


Christmas Photography Project 10: Create a Photo Cube

 A photo cube serves no practical purpose, but it is a great way to display six festive photographs as you enter the New Year.

A photo cube serves no practical purpose, but it is a great way to display six festive photographs as you enter the New Year.

To start with, you’ll need to find a cube template – if you search online you’ll find dozens that fit the bill and are free to use.

Open the template in your editing program, followed by the images that you want to put on your cube. If your images aren’t square, use your software’s Crop tool to change their shape, then drag the images one at a time onto your cube template.

Open the template in your editing program, followed by the images that you want to put on your cube. If your images aren’t square, use your software’s Crop tool to change their shape, then drag the images one at a time onto your cube template.

 

Position an image on each of the six faces, resizing them as necessary so they fit the template. Each image will be on its own layer, so at this stage you can edit them individually or use adjustment layers (if your software has this feature) to make universal changes – to convert them to black & white, for example.

Position an image on each of the six faces, resizing them as necessary so they fit the template. Each image will be on its own layer, so at this stage you can edit them individually or use adjustment layers (if your software has this feature) to make universal changes – to convert them to black & white, for example.

 

When you’re done editing, flatten the layers and print the template onto thick photo paper, or mount your print on thin card. Cut the template out, score along the lines, then fold and glue the tabs to finish your cube construction.

When you’re done editing, flatten the layers and print the template onto thick photo paper, or mount your print on thin card. Cut the template out, score along the lines, then fold and glue the tabs to finish your cube construction.


Christmas Photography Project 11: Make a Panning Device for Time-lapse

 

Time lapse

If you want to add a panning movement to time-lapse videos this is a simple solution. You need a 60min kitchen timer with a hole drilled in the top that is large enough to fit a 1⁄4in tripod screw. Be careful when drilling as there may be some mechanical parts inside the timer that could be damaged. With most timers it is fairly easy to pull them apart so you can see what you are doing.

Time-lapse-image

With the hole drilled, fix the tripod screw into place. For added rigidity, you may want to secure it in place by using some epoxy resin and a rubber washer. A small compact camera or even a mobile phone in a tripod case can then be attached to the timer. Turning the timer all the way round will allow the camera to rotate 360° over the course of one hour. Using the camera’s intervalometer, you can set it to take pictures every few seconds to create a time-lapse video. The more frequent the images, the longer the time-lapse video will be. For example, one image every second would create 3,600 images, which would be a 120sec video at 30fps. One image every 3secs for 30mins would create 600 images and a 20sec video at 30fps. As an optional extra, drill a second larger hole at the bottom and fit a 3⁄8in to 1⁄4in tripod thread adapter to allow you to mount the panning device to a tripod.


Christmas Photography Project 12: Make a Movie Grip

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This DIY movie grip may look rudimentary, but it makes a huge difference when filming – especially if shooting from a low angle

The quality of the video that can be shot using a DSLR or CSC has increased rapidly in the past years, resulting in a bewildering array of video-orientated grips being sold. However, you don’t need to spend a huge amount to make your camera more video friendly, as this DIY grip proves.

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The key ingredients are: plastic pipe (you will need roughly 60cm of 20–25mm diameter tube); two right-angle adapters to fit the pipe; and some sort of flat ‘plate’ to mount the camera on. I used 20mm conduit pipe with an inspection box for the camera base, and came home with change from £10 from the hardware shop.

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The aim is to create a rough ‘C’ shape, so you need to cut your pipe into three lengths. The lengths don’t have to be equal as they will depend largely on the size and shape of your camera – about 10–20cm will be about right, but there are no hard and fast rules. Use the right-angle adapters to connect the pipes and form your ‘C’, gluing them together and possibly screwing or bolting them for added security (remember, you’ll be attaching your camera to this bracket).

For the base, I drilled a hole through the inspection box so I could fit a 1⁄2in (12.7mm) long, 1/4-20 bolt to attach the camera, and the finishing touch came in the form of a spare motorcycle handlebar grip I had kicking around my garage (foam pipe insulation, grip tape for bicycle handlebars or tennis rackets, or just the bare pipe would work just as well). It may look fairly rudimentary, but it makes a huge difference when you’re filming – especially if you’re shooting from a low angle.


If you attempt any of these Christmas photography project ideas this festive period be sure to share the results with us on Twitter and Facebook

  1. 1. Christmas Photography Project 1: Try Freelensing
  2. 2. Christmas Photography Project 6 – Try Silhouettes
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