Taking Photos Through a Prism: Photography Trick

This is an innovative technique using prisms and light refraction to capture bizarre and beautiful images from all different angles. After dropping a Canon 600D (Rebel t3i/Kiss X5) with an 18-135mm kit lens down a flight of concrete stairs, our narrator gets to move up to a much more beautiful 5D Mark III with a 24-105mm L-series lens, which we continue to watch with great apprehension, as he fumbles his way through the tutorial; let this be a lesson – always use a camera strap:

As he explains in the video, the prism effect works by bending the light coming in at intersecting angles and aligning it, thus bringing imagery from opposite directions into a single image. In the midst of all this refraction action, white light gets separated into the whole colour spectrum, creating fringing and rainbow effects. All these optical obfuscations combine to create dreamy-looking composite photos of every angle of a given scene, and the way you twist and move the prism changes what it sees, much like a kaleidoscope.

experimental photography

You’ll notice that prism’s image will look drastically different depending on which angle you put the camera’s lens to. Peering flat into one of the long sides will overlay light from the two opposing 45 degree angles, while focusing into the small triangular end will show all three sides blending together in strange ways. Towards the end of the video, he drops his prism and shatters a piece off, opening a whole new world of unpredictable light movement. Because every shatter would be completely unique, each would cause its own specific refraction characteristics (don’t forget to always handle broken glass with the utmost care – and gloves are never a bad idea).

experimental photography

When trying these experiments at home, try seeking out different kinds of crystals, and remember that prisms aren’t just limited to the one you see in the video; they come in all shapes and sizes – they can be triangular, square, pentagonal, and almost any other shape you can imagine, with every¬† different shape having wildly different results. You can find prisms on chandeliers, on window decorations, and all sorts of everyday places. Think outside the prism, even, and try shooting through any kind of obscuring glass and see what results you get – after all, the key to a great image is finding a whole new way of seeing the world.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

2 Comments

  1. R'laine says:

    Cannot believe that after he dropped the first camera, someone handed him a second one STILL with no strap!!!!!

  2. Photo Don says:

    Wow this is such a cool technique. I love it. I ‘m off to order my prism now. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from Gravatar.com!

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever