Intentional Camera Shake: How to Make Paintings Using Your Camera

Making your photos look like paintings is pretty simple to do.

We do more than enough capturing. It’s truly time for photographers to start creating rather than capturing. One easy place to start is with in-camera paintings. If you do light painting, this is sort of that idea. But in this case, we’re embracing the flaws of camera shake. The photo industry does so much to prevent it. But the thing is that we’re engineering the fun out of photography. So if you want to make paintings using your camera, try this. You’ll have so much fun!

Step 1: Turn Off Image Stabilization to Make Paintings Using Your Camera

Most modern-day cameras have image stabilization built into the sensor. If you don’t, then you have nothing to worry about. You could also ensure that it’s turned off in the lens. Otherwise, the camera system will fight your shake and the entire method. To make paintings using your camera, you have to embrace camera shake and blur. It’s crazy to think that these cameras have all that tech to ensure you get a sharp photo. But this time, it really won’t help.

Step 2: The Vivid Image Setting

I personally really like my in-camera paintings to look like oil paintings. So that’s why I choose to use a vivid setting. You could say that you could do this in post-production. But trust me when I say that it’s not at all the same. If you’re shooting with Fujifilm and use the Velvia Film simulation, the effects will be much different. Capture One does a much better job at working with camera manufacturers than Lightroom does. 

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t put raisins in raisin bread after it’s finished baking. You’d do it beforehand. In this case, your baking process is post-production. That’s where you should really just fine-tune the colors and maybe the exposure. But the vivid setting will give you the most color data to start with.

Step 3: Exposure Settings to Make Paintings Using Your Camera and the Process

Now here’s the secret formula to make paintings using your camera: A low ISO, a narrow aperture, and a slow shutter speed. Let’s break that down even more.

  • A Low ISO: Ideally, you’ll shoot at the lowest ISO setting your camera has. But this all greatly varies. If you’re shooting at night, you might want to go for ISO 400 instead. That will let you speed the shutter up just a bit.
  • A narrow aperture: you need to have the scene mostly in focus anyway. You’re going to create your own blur.
  • A slow shutter speed: The best thing to do is to shoot at 1/15th and below.

Now you’re ready to shoot. 

  • Start out by using autofocus and focusing on your subject. You’re probably choosing a landscape, a cityscape, a building, a still life, or a portrait subject. 
  • With the focus locked, tilt your camera upward, changing the composition.
  • Slowly swing the camera downward. And when you think you’re about to get the composition, shoot while still swinging the camera down.
  • Observe the results. This is what it’s like to make paintings using your camera.

Step 4: Adjust

From here, you can swing from the right, the left, pivot, do circles, whatever you wish. Just do it in-camera rather than trying to get this look in post-production. It’s a million times more authentic this way. You’re probably also wondering why can’t you just shoot the sharp image in the first place and adjust later? Well, why can’t you shoot the sharp image and the blurred photo and adjust later? Do it in-camera and make your mind do something else. Create! Don’t just capture. Work for the image instead of making the camera do it all for you. In other words, go make paintings using your camera!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.