Geek Projects Special: Photography

There are plenty of ways to get creative with your photography, here's how to push the boundaries...

It’s time to have a break from bokeh and take your camera on a wild ride on everything from infrared photography to light painting.

But first, the ultimate learning project for any budding snapper: building your own camera.

Build it: BIGSHOT CAMERA kit

US$89 (RM325) /

There’s no running out of juice mid-photo with the Bigshot – backing up its standard battery is a manual power generator. This is the first part you build, fitting the gears, dynamo and hand crank together and turning the handle to make sure the whole lot’s running nice and smoothly.

Now it’s time to fit the printed circuit board (PCB) module. The PCB holds the camera brains – the electronic components that compress and store images – while also giving you visual and auditory feedback. Screw it into place, then click it into the connectors for the dynamo and battery.

It might not have a hefty 30x zoom lens, but the Bigshot does have plenty of shooting options. Its lens wheel lets you shoot ‘wide-angle’ and ‘3D’ photos alongside regular stills. Push the wheel into the PCB module, screw the lens cover in place, then rotate it to snap it into each lens setting.

Last up is the LED flash. It can only go into the PCB module one way, so you can’t really get this bit wrong (can you?). Turn it clockwise to lock it into place, attach the wrist strap, then head over to the Bigshot website’s ‘learn’ section to swot up on how it all works.

Project #1 (easy): Level up your phoneography

Photographer Adrienne Pitts’ favourite smartphone tools...

1 VSCO Cam This lets you perform almost all the tweaks you could want to an image. It has a series of fantastic (yet natural-looking) filters to make colours pop and give images extra punch. My picks are the E, N and S series. RMfree / iOS, Android

2 SKRWT It’s amazing what this app can do. Ever find yourself with an image where the lines are distorted? No problem. Just run the image through SKRWT and you can straighten up that building or fix that wonky horizon line. US$1.99 / iOS

3 The Glif This is one of the smallest and handiest pieces of kit I own. The screw-mount lets you attach your smartphone to a tripod, allowing for a little extra stability for those potentially tricky long-exposure shots. £20 (RM115) /

4 Optrix XD5S This waterproof case is indispensable when you find yourself anywhere near the water. You can swim and snorkel your way around, knowing that your phone is safe and that you’ll get some killer underwater shots. US$100 (RM365) /

See more of Adrienne’s photography at

Project #2 (medium): make a pro cinemagraph

Julien Douvier shows us how to make DSLR cinemagraphs that trump any app

What’s a cinemagraph? Cinemagraphs are still photos that have one small, moving section that loops infinitely. Still don’t get it? Watch this one in action below.

1 Equipment A tripod is more important than the camera used. In a cinemagraph, only part of the image is moving, with everything else still. If it’s not perfectly steady, there will be movement between the animated and the still parts of the image, which will make it look bad. I use a Canon EOS 600D with a variety of lenses.

2 Choosing your scene The best approach is to film something that is already ‘looping’ by itself; water movement, elevators, or something moving with the wind like leaves or flowers. In some cases, you can also create a ‘fake’ loop by repeating a movement backward and forward, like a bird tilting its head from left to right.

3 Shooting You need to be aware of two things: the duration of the loop, and the ‘moving surface’ of the image (or the number of pixels moving). The best way to get a small file is to make a short loop (less than four seconds) with a small moving surface. Don’t touch the camera while filming, and find stable ground.

4 Editing I use Sony Vegas Pro for video editing, but you can use any editing software. To ‘freeze’ a section of the video, open in Photoshop, duplicate it to give you two layers, right-click the top one, select ‘rasterize’, and make ‘holes’ in it with masks to reveal movement. Finally, export it as an infinitely looping GIF.

See more cinemagraphs at

READ MORE: Stuff's guide to photography