One of the things you find with the world of digital photos is the sheer number of images you can accumulate in a short amount of time. Let’s face it, they are not all great; some of them may be downright awful. But wait! Don’t delete them, you may be able to still have fun and create some great images from those shots.

Lots of images

With the proliferation of digital cameras, the ability to shoot a lot of photos during your vacation has increased dramatically. The cost of digital media to store these images has come down substantially so on a week long vacation it is not uncommon to have a thousand images (or more if you are me).

A large number of these images may not be the finest in: composition, lighting, color, etc. But there are still a lot of creative outlets for some of these shots.


Having been a photographer for nearly 30 years, one of the things I miss about digital photography is the lack of the tactile feel from traditional photography. One of the software makers out there has tried to reintroduce that handmade quality to your digital photos. Poladroid offers a simple and free application that takes your photo and makes a Polaroid print out of it, ready for printing.

Finding the right photo that works with the application is half the fun. A good shot will naturally be a good shot for Poladroid, but finding a shot that really looks like an old Polaroid picture is wher you can really have some fun with your library of images. Overexposed, soft-focused, high contrast images all do really well when you are trying to capture the essence of Polaroid’s film

I have found that a lot of my old negatives and chromes seem to work well after scanning them into my computer. Noise introduced during the process and the some of the quality issues inherent in the lower end film scanners actually enhances the dreamy-like quality found in those old photos.

There are some other software developers working on similar applications, but I have found Poladroid to be my favorite. A funny thing about the app is that it will only process a film-pack’s worth of images and then you have to restart the application. A mild inconvenience but a nice reference to the old days of swapping out film packs.


Infrared (IR) photography is a great way to shoot a familiar destination in a completely new light.  Infrared photography records certain wavelengths of infrared radiation emitted by infrared energy sources or, more commonly, reflecting back from objects. These objects must be illuminated by an IR source – like the sun, a light bulb or a camera flash.

All digital cameras have an IR filter that insures the pictures you take come out the way you see them. There are ways to bypass that filter, or have it completely removed, in order to capture the image in that wavelength and offer some great photographic opportunities for you.

One easy way to obtain this effect is to get a filter for your lens. Hoya, and other manufacturers make these lens filters that screw onto the end of your lens to block all but the correct spectrum of light. These filters are dark so a longer exposure is going to be necessary which will require a tripod. Although it is a little more involved, the results are well worth the effort.

There are companies out there that will actually remove the IR filter from your digital camera so you can take advantage of this type of photography, but it can be expensive. Fuji also makes a camera that has a removable IR filter for about $450.00. The camera is typically used in forensics and requires approval from Fuji for purchase.

There are also software plugins that can replicate the effect in programs like Photoshop, but there are no free or open source alternatives that I know of at this time.


High Dynamic Range photography is a technique that attempts to accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to shadows. this is usually accomplished through a series of images taken of the subject at the same time. These images, when combined, create a complete tonal range of the subject that is more accurate in depiction of the scene we saw. It uses a much wider gamut than available in computing so all of that information has to be processed for manipulation through a process called tone mapping. Tone mapping is used to adjust the luminance, saturation and fine tune the appearance of the image.

I am unaware of any open source or free applications used for this process, but if you are interested most developers offer trial versions of their software. I have tried almost all of the apps available on the Mac and I settled on a great application call Photomatix that offers, in my opinion, the best features available.


One of the other cool things you can do with your photos is retouching them after you have made your selects (images you are going to process further for printing and sharing). There are a lot of interesting ways to process your images, but one that has picked up momentum is fake tilt-shift images.

A tilt-shift lens is a lens that can actually tilt up or down (to manipulate perspective of your image) and shift left and right (to capture a wider field of view for panoramic type of images). The images can evoke an almost miniature landscape of the subject when composed properly; usually from a higher point of view to the subject. The dreamy quality of these images has found lots of inventive photographers trying to evoke the imagery without the expense of these lenses. These lenses are typically very expensive, I own two so I know first hand, but there are ways to fake it in post processing your pictures.

A newer site, Tilt Shift Maker, offers you the ability to do this with no software. You upload your picture(s) and manipulate them directly on their site. When you are done, you can download the image to your library or share them on flickr, picasa, etc.

There are a lot of creative ways to manipulate your photographs on the site, so check it out and see what works with your images.


Another really interesting way to manipulate your photos is through programs such as MathMap. MathMap is an application that allows distortion of images specified in a simple programming language. For each pixel in the generated image, a script is evaluated which returns a color value. The script can either refer to a pixel in the source image or can generate colors completely independent of the source.

Now this is not for the faint of heart but it is well worth the effort to create some amazing images that will amaze your family and friends. MathMap is available in several formats but the open source versions can be found for the Mac and the open source Gimp editor.

Wrapping it up

I hope this helps you discover new and exciting ways to share your photographs. I have been using all of these techniques and more to continually push the creative bounds of my photographs for years. I encourage you to explore ways to make your photographs reflect your creative vision and share those pictures here and online through the photo sharing site of your choice.