Camera hacks: get creative blur, abstract shots and soft focus effects using Vaseline

Watch video: Get in-camera creative blur effects with Vaseline

There are a variety of techniques you can use to add creative blur and soft-focus effects to your shots for artistic results. They can involve fiddly camera techniques, expensive diffusion filters or time-consuming post-production.

However, we’re going to show you a cheap and simple method to achieve effective results; all you need to do is smear a tiny amount of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the front of a UV or skylight filter. It produces instant results for unique images, whether you want to create soft-focus portraits or abstract landscapes. 

In this tutorial we’re going to head down to the woods to show how you can transform even the simplest subject, trees, into beautiful, abstract art. Although it’s an easy technique to master, there are a few tricks to ensure that you capture the best possible results…

01 Get set up

(Image credit: Future)

For best results, set your camera up on a tripod and activate Live View to see the effects of the Vaseline on the LCD screen when you smear it on. Set an f/8 aperture and ISO100 for the best quality.

02 Attach filter

(Image credit: Future)

You can use a cheap filter – there's no need for top-quality optics here! Attach the filter to your lens, then dab your finger into the petroleum jelly. You want just enough to get your fingertip greasy; too much and your subject will be completely unrecognizable.

03 Smear and streak

(Image credit: Future)

Gently smear the petroleum jelly across the filter in straight, horizontal lines to achieve vertical blurred streaks. It’s best to add a little bit at a time and slowly build up more layers, if required.

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Hollie Latham

Hollie Latham-Hucker is a former Technique Editor of PhotoPlus magazine. With a degree in Design Photography from the University of Plymouth, she is currently working as the Technique Editor of Amateur Photographer.