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Home-made diffusion filters


A soft focus filter can be juryrigged by stretching a piece of a nylon stocking over the end of the lens. (See Diffusion filters for more information.)


Haven't got a stocking handy? Don't use an old ski sock; the material must be fine mesh in order for it to work. Tulle or other fine, net-like material will do the job. Or try soft, plastic, window screening material. Use black for minimal reflection and cut a small patch of it to fit over your lens.


If you are really stuck, breathing on the front of the lens or on a filter to fog it may produce the desired result, particularly if the glass surface is cooler than the air, however you have to shoot fast before the moisture condensate evaporates. The effect can be prolonged by breathing on the rear element of the lens and replacing it quickly on the camera.


Smearing a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the edges of a clear filter - an inexpensive ultraviolet (UV) or skylight filter you no longer require, for instance - will also produce image softening in a manner similar to a commercially-available center spot filter, but it is difficult to know how much to apply before the peripheral areas become totally smudged. A good rule of thumb is "If you think you have just enough, you probably have too much." It doesn't take much at all to provide a diffusion effect.

One unique effect that can be achieved using petroleum jelly is selective soft focus filtration, by smearing a tiny bit in only one section of the filter where you know (by proper filter placement on the lens), it will be most effective.

Be careful handling and storing the filter to keep the jelly off the rest of your gear. A plastic filter case is ideal.


If you have a little time on your hands before you plan on taking soft focus pictures and you also have a square piece of clean, clear glass that is larger than your lens' diameter plus a tube of airplane glue or another glue that dries clear, you can manufacture your own makeshift soft focus filter. Use the tube of glue like a cake decorator's icing bag, and draw a criss-cross pattern of thin glue lines on the glass surface or make a spiral that ends either at the center or just before you reach the center so it remains clear. When the glue dries, use your home-made device as you would a soft focus filter, in front of your lens. With several pieces of glass, especially those that are of the same dimensions as the square resin filters in your filter system (if you have one), you can experiment with different patterns until you find one that is especially suitable. Who knows? You may invent a new soft focus filter that is better than all the others.

If the edges of the glass are sharp or a bit jagged (and even if they are not), it is a good idea to attach thin strips of tape over them to make handling safer and easier.


The short-comings of home-made filters are their unpredictability and the difficulty of making an exact replacement for one that may have worked particularly well.


Perhaps you have already made an effective soft focus filter using one of the above techniques or another method of your own, and would like to share it with our viewers. If so, please send us a description, preferably along with a picture of the device and before and after pictures that show its effect. If we feature it on our site, we'll name you as the source of the tip, and provide a credit for your pictures.

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