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Prism Photography- Everything You Need to Know

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Prism photography, as exotic as it sounds, has been in practice for quite some time now, as photographers over the years have learned to use the bending characteristics of glass objects, for example, phenomena like refraction and dispersion of light. Prism photography is all about giving an artistic flavor in order to provide an exceptional touch to the images.

Seek the spectrum until you enlighten yourself with flying colors!

Introduction to Prisms and Prism Photography

Prisms are transparent objects with flat surfaces and angles between them that cause refraction of light. Prisms are generally made of glass, plastic or fluorite. A beam of light that falls onto the surface of the prism and enters it, (known as incident ray), bends at a certain angle depending upon the angle at which it is incident on the prism’s surface, the medium it enters (and that medium’s refractive index), and subsequently the change of speed it undergoes. The beam of light will be further dispersed into a spectrum of colors based on its respective wavelength, thereby creating a rainbow-like effect.

Prism Photography- Everything You Need to Know
Prisms and Fractals

Photographers always look forward to enhancing their images by using unique techniques and tools. Prism photography is widely used in wedding, portrait, landscapes and cityscapes photography. The use of prisms has been noteworthy, especially when photographers use these to bend festive lighting at various events to achieve mesmerizing effects.

Fractal Filters

With the release of three uniquely functional prism filters (hand-held) for photographers, Fractal Filters now ensure a top-notch optimal performance from any focal length longer than 40 mm or from a wide aperture of f/5.6 or more. It offers 95-100% light transmission rate (1/FF) and comes with a 1.6 Refractive Index.

This filter’s thin profile ring of 7 mm fosters the probability of any optical obstruction at wide angles. It comes with a reflective chrome finish to ensure the creation of a perfect bokeh along with other blur and prism effects. Finger loops are attached to the prism filters that prevent any scratches or unwanted finger marks and provide a firm grip at the same time.

It will include 3 packs of fractals for DSLRs and a carrying bag and will reach to you in 7-10 business days if you order online. Also, try and understand the hidden functions of your DSLR better.

With a total diameter of 100 mm and glass diameter of 93 mm, and dimensions 5″ x 5.5″ x .2″ ~.6″, you can get the Fractal Three Pack for just $79.00 USD!

However, there are demerits.

  • Repeating a shot that you found cool and amazing is difficult. Getting a perfect angle by rotating the filters back and forth to achieve a previously clicked image that you want to repeat, demands utmost controlling ability from you.
  • Secondly, the durability of the prism filters comes into question. The glass seems vulnerable to scratches and must be handled with care as it seems to be quite brittle.

You can find uses of Prism in Portrait Photography, Wedding Photography, Landscapes and Cityscapes to make your images appear more dreamy and creative.

Prism Photography- Everything You Need to Know
Prisms for Portrait or Wedding Photography

Exposing the subject to light just as you want; is the way to go. Generally, it’s important to light the subject, the lens, and the prism at the same time to achieve a favorable outcome.

To achieve some specific results you may shuffle with these conditions. Setting up the prism in such a way and such an angle that you let it light up sufficiently is extremely crucial as most of the times there’s just a single source of light – the Sun while indulging in Portrait Photography, Wedding Photography, Landscape Photography, etc. Moreover, the use of quality glass and crystal prisms is highly recommended as you definitely don’t want to mess things up with cheap plastic prisms or low-quality glass prisms!

It’s advisable that you remove the hood of your lens to let the prism be positioned right in front of the lens and really close to it. Prism photography is highly dependent on how accurately you position the prism at certain angles in front of the lens and to how much light you expose your subject as well as the prism and the lens.

Camera Setup: Do’s and Don’ts


  • Remove the hood of your lens and place the prism as close to the lens as possible which will enable the prism to get out of the focus.
  • Make use of the release priority so that your shutter doesn’t stop from releasing as sometimes your camera’s focus settings can abstain from being accurate due to shooting through a glass.
  • Use manual or aperture priority to have control over the aperture.
  • Use single point AF to pick the focus plane that you want to focus on.


  • Don’t be stiff and limited to one position as you might miss out on a better result.
  • Don’t make use of the focus priority as it’ll wait for the confirmation of the focus of the lens.
  • Don’t use shutter priority or automatic feature as it’ll constantly alter the aperture, thereby giving irregular results.
  • Don’t use multiple focus points for obvious reasons that it’ll not be knowing which one to focus on.

Aperture: Do’s and Don’ts


  • Use wide apertures that will let you focus more on the subject instead of the glass that’s placed in front of the lens.
  • Try experimenting with your aperture without settling for mediocre results. You might see f/1.4 and f/2.8 doing wonders for you.


  • Don’t use narrow apertures as you won’t like to have the glass in focus
  • Don’t restrict yourself to one aperture. That will lessen your chances to meet the particular perfect aperture for different situations.

Understand about Aperture in detail and see how it helps in Prism Photography.

Composition: Do’s and Don’ts


  • Use long focal length to let the images reflect off the prism and come firmly into focus.
  • Shoot through artificial lights and keep introducing your creativity and innovation into your images by doing so.


  • Don’t compromise with light and don’t involve yourself in shooting on cloudy days where light is dull or negligent.
  • Don’t use short focal lengths in any circumstances.

Creative Photo Effects using a Prism

Prism Photography- Everything You Need to Know
Creativity with Prisms

Using a prism to come-up with creative and fascinating photo effects requires a high amount of patience and coordination. Getting the effect right is quite tricky and demands a time-consuming trial and error approach. The use of a tripod is recommended to avoid any hassle caused by the hand-held shooting.

Firstly, use your auto-focus to focus on the subject and then once you’ve achieved the perfect focus, switch back to manual focus setting. Now place the prism in different positions and at different angles while you observe the results in your LCD screen. Keep experimenting with its placement until you get the result you wanted and once you get it, take a SNAP!

Prisms for Eye-Popping Photography

Ensure that your prism is compact enough to handle freely and without any fuss, as unnecessarily bigger ones will be harder to handle and changing their placements again and again will be a serious task. A 6-inch prism is considered to be perfect.

Prism Photography- Everything You Need to Know
Prisms for Eye Popping Photographs

Make use of the live-view mode of your camera to observe changes happening between every setting that you alter. The main factor to keep in mind is the source of light and its direction. Light falling directly on your camera lens is nothing less than a boon. Also, try placing the prism with its side facing the lens, to get spectacular triangular effects all over your images!

To conclude, it’s all about how well you explore the vast possibilities that are waiting for you to unleash something unique yet pleasing to the eyes.

Learn more about Color Photography!

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