The advent of smartphones and the rise of Instagram have changed how a whole generation views photography and videography. Before you could simply snap an image and swipe between filters, the art of creating different cinematic looks required in-camera modifications rather than a post-production process. Filters let you change the look of an image instantly, but some of the most striking and unique looks come from physical camera modifications. Here are four DIY camera hacks to alter how images are recorded through your lenses.

1. Kaleidoscope Filter

Kaleidoscope Image 1

Were you fascinated by looking through a kaleidoscope when you were a kid? Did you ever go to a birthday party where they passed out cheap kaleidoscope glasses to warp the colors and shapes around you? If you’re familiar with the effect, you can expect to see some pretty crazy distortions.

Along with general arts and crafts supplies (scissors, glue, tape, etc…), here’s what you need:

To achieve this effect on your camera, all you need to do is remove the kaleidoscope paper from the glasses, attach it to a piece of cardboard the size of your lens, and attach it to the outside of your lens filter. The final result should look like the photo below. You can read more about the process at The final in-camera photos will look super colorful, if not a little trippy.

Kaleidoscope Camera
Image by freakoftheweek via Lomography

2. Netted Stockings Filter

Netted Stockings
Image by Film Riot via Triune Films

Stockings aren’t just for legs; you can use hosiery to create beautiful, dreamy shots by properly attaching netted stockings as a filter. The filter creates a whimsical and warm effect that is perfect for dream sequences or adding a bright softness to your shots.

Here’s what you need:

  • Netted stockings (the wider the holes the better)
  • Rubber band
  • Scissors

Watch this video by FilmRiot for a full breakdown of how to use the stockings and how it effects your shots.

3. Custom Colored Lens Filter

Colored Filters Camera
Image by Courtney McCrone via my23skidoo

If you’re familiar with editing software like Photoshop or smartphone apps like After Light, you may know how to use colors to add depth and expression to your photos and video. While these changes are made in post, you can achieve similar effects by using household objects to add fully customizable colors, shapes, and patterns to your shots. The results can be amazing.

Colored Filters Example
Image by Courtney McCrone via my23skidoo

Here’s what you need:

  • Clear Plastic Sheet of Paper
  • Regular Paper
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Colored Markers

You can read more about the process here at My23SkiDoo’s blog.

4. Water Bottle Pinhole Filter

Image via Photojojo

Next time you finish a bottle of water, be sure to save the plastic bottle to create a psychedelic lens hack for a hazy halo around your subjects. Depending on your aperture, the halo can be as wide or narrow as you’d like to draw focus in on your subjects in video or photo. The set-up is probably the most simple of them all.

Here’s what you need:

  • A Water Bottle
  • Scissors
  • Rubber band (if the bottle is too loose)

You can read more about the hack (along with several others) at Photojojo. The final effect should look like this:


Image via Photojojo


Image via Photojojo

Try out some of these hacks and see if you can come up with a few of your own! Have any other DIY camera hacks to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Top Image by Billion Photos