Creative Ways to Use Prisms in Photography

Looking to do something different with your photographs? Getting new looks can be as easy as picking up a piece of glass and seeing how it changes the way your camera picks up light. With this informative video, photographer Mathieu Stern offers a few materials that any photographer looking to experiment can easily find:

Short Triangular Prism

Cost: $5

When placed directly in front of the camera, this little prism produces mind blowing reflections and rainbow trails that can add unexpected color flair to even the dullest image. The downside? Because this prism is so short, it can be a bit difficult to control just how these effects play into your image.

Transparent CD-ROM

Cost: Free

If you have any old CDs lying around collecting dust, you’re in luck! The protective transparent disk often included is perfect for making large, encompassing rainbows. Just place it in front of the lens and adjust to create a surreal color gradient over your subject.

CD overarching Rainbow

Coated Field Glasses Lens

Cost: $5

When placed directly perpendicular to the camera’s lens, field glass can produce concentrated color casts instantaneously. It makes for the perfect portable tool to create a faux “sun flare” effect. Unfortunately, it takes a bit of trial and error to master completely.

Faux Sun Flare

Eyeglass Lens

Cost: Free

Perhaps the easiest thing to find on our list, all you need to do is pop out the glass in a pair of thrift store reading glasses. When placed in front of the camera, it should create a sort of ghostly light effect that blurs out segments of an image. Using an eyeglass is often helpful for emphasizing the depth within an image.

Eyeglass blurring

Giant School Prism

Cost: $15

The giant prism creates some of the most attractive effects included on this list. When placed directly over the glass of a camera lens, it creates a unique curved bokeh that reflects the sky and plays with the viewer’s perspective. Unfortunately, the size and weight of this prism interferes with its overall portability.

Curved bokeh

Long Triangular Prism

Cost: $12

Although this option is a bit heavier and a bit pricier than some of the options included on this list, the long triangular prism is easy to hold and control while taking a photograph. When properly used, it can create concentrated rainbow projections that can directed straight onto a subject.

Direct rainbow

Flat Old Watch Glass

Cost: Free

Here’s another example of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure in action. By simply placing this watch glass on the side of the lens, you can create diffused, blurry vignettes that distort unimportant background details. Consequently, watch glass can be used to direct the viewer’s eye to a certain area of the photograph.

Blur Vignetting

Kaleidoscope Toy Lens

Cost: $2

Although they’re very easy to find, this lens has a very specific use that obviously can’t be applied for every situation. When held to the side of a lens, as one might be able to infer, it creates a kaleidoscope effect. Nevertheless, this option is one that’s a lot of fun to play around with and well worth its price.

Kaleidoscope flowers

Contrary to what some photographers may believe, striking images don’t require expensive software or over the top gear. As these eight easily accessible objects prove, simple repurposing can make all the difference in creating photographs that are sure to spark the imagination.

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