Do Camera Hacks Really Work?

There are a lot of supposed tricks or hacks that can get you a distinct look or just help you get that cool-looking shot. The reason to use the hacks are usually that it is a more affordable option compared to official solutions or are way more unique or the results can’t be had with any off-the-shelf components. But do they work?

Gene Nagata, aka Potato Jet, is putting a few of these camera hacks to the test. If you want to see what works and what doesn’t this is a good watch. Who knows, you might find something perfect for your next project.

A mix of these tricks are found across social media like Instagram and TikTok while others are more classic tricks people have tried for a while.

Water Droplet + Phone = Macro

This is interesting. Apparently if you place a water droplet over your smartphone’s camera lenses you can achieve a closer minimum focus distance for macro photography. It seems like it could work since it will actually change the lens itself and how light interacts with the camera.

And, it actually works. It’s not super practical since you both lose a fair amount of contrast and can only position your phone in a way where the water droplet stays still. It’s still cool to see how it works.

Vaseline on Lens for Diffused Look

Gene then took some Vaseline and smeared it on the outside of the lens in a circle while leaving the center mostly untouched. The purpose is actually to reduce contrast and get a dreamy look while maintaining some contrast on any subject in the center.

Initially, it seemed to be a bit too strong outside and just made everything super soft. Being brought inside where other lights were in the scene and with most of the jelly cleaned off it actually does have a nice, dreamy look – if that is what you want.

Foreground Objects with Telephoto Lens

Since telephoto lenses have a tendency to throw objects in the near foreground very out of focus you can use some weird stuff to create an effect. One example they try out is to put colored tape in the corner of the image to add a colored effect to the image.

Other objects worked well too, such as a lighter and fishing line. Other things that might work is like prism or something. It’s cool to try out and the longer the lens the better.

Throw At the Camera (Safely)

Using a piece of plexiglas (or other hard, clean object) that is very clean and has some well-positioned lighting and flags can be used in front of the camera.

Being clear you can shoot through it and somewhat safely do things like throw stuff directly at the camera. This will definitely work though I would say the more rigid the object the better. A fun thing was using it as someone spray paints it.

Camera Spinning on Car Wheel

This is just to get a cool spinning effect with minimal tools. They just secure a phone to a wheel and drive it off. Unless you have a specific need for this look I’m not sure exactly what you would do this for. You will need something very secure as well as the shake was very noticeable.


Using mirrors is a thing that can be very useful. You have to plan this super well though and it’s definitely easier for a still than for video. I’ve seen them used to great effect, especially since you can do things like move the mirror instead of the camera, especially if there are some precarious angles you want to hit.

Clear Food Wrap In Front of Lens

This is a thing similar to the Vaseline, but it feels and looks like a lot more energy. It’s another thing where you probably have to put in more effort than is worth it just to somewhat change or degrade your image quality.

Some were good, most were just alright, and some plain didn’t work out well. Do you have any hacks you rely on?

[source: Potato Jet]

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