Prism Photography Quick Reference Guide

I've become captivated by prism photography (or "prisming") in recent years for its ability to turn ordinary situations into extraordinary images. Bending light before it enters your camera's lens is a powerful way to control your compositions. You can place your prism slightly in front of your lens to gently complement a subject that you're capturing or you can place the prism smack-dab in the middle of your lens to create a more abstract, mind-bending effect. Both techniques can create stunning results.

There are tricks to getting better images through prisms which you simply pick up over time. I've sacrificed a lot of time figuring these things out, hopefully so that you can jump right in and get good results quickly. In this post I will share tips focused on making you a better prism photographer. If we can all take better images through prisms we can help pioneer the future of a truly remarkable type of photographic art. Wouldn't that be something!

Camera Setup

Do

  • Take off your lens hood

    Get your prism as close to your lens as possible! This allows the prism itself to fall out of focus. Don't worry! It won't scratch the front element of your lens.

  • Use relase priority

    Shooting through glass can confuse your camera's focus settings and stop your shutter from releasing. Release priority gives you more control.

  • Shoot manual or aperture priority

    Above all, you want to have control over your aperture, keeping it (for the most part) wide. Use manual or aperture priority to achieve this.

  • Use single-point AF

    Shooting through glass can cause lots of varying focal planes to enter your lens. Pick the one you want to focus on with single point AF.

Don't

  • Don't be stiff

    Make sure to wiggle around your prism like crazy! Try moving it and rotating it in every position relative to lens that you can think of for best results!

  • Don't use focus priority

    Focus priority will wait for the camera to confirm the lens is in focus before taking an image. Helpful when shooting sports, but not here.

  • Don't shoot automatic or shutter priority

    These settings may cause your aperture to continuously change—which will give you unpredictable results, as prisming is heavily aperture dependent.

  • Don't use multiple-focus points

    When you're prisming you'll have many different focal planes in your field of view. Multiple focus points won't know which to focus on.


Aperture

Do

  • Use wide apertures

    Wide apertures give a shallower depth of field, allowing you to focus more attention on your subjects and less on the glass in front of your camera.

  • Change your aperture regularly

    Play with your camera settings rigorously. You'll notice f/1.4 and f/2.8 give greatly different results through prisms. Always be mindful of your aperture.

Don't

  • Don't exclusively use narrow apertures

    Narrow apertures brings the glass in front of your camera into focus, which is not what we want. We want to see through the glass, not see the glass itself!

  • Don't ignore your aperture setting

    One must experiment to learn—and if you shoot exclusively at one aperture, (or ignore it completely), you won't know which setting fits which situation.


Composition

Do

  • Use long focal lengths

    Longer focal lengths will cause the images reflected off the prism to come harder into focus. I generally always shoot at 50mm or longer.

  • Use your prisms with artificial light

    Artificial light is an absolute treat for prism photographers! When you find artificial light nearby, try to reflect it through the prism into your lens!

Don't

  • Don't exclusively use short focal lengths

    Short focal lenghs will work in some situations, but in most cases, it will cause the prism in front of your camera to come too hard into focus.

  • Don't use your prisms with dull flat light

    Shooting with prisms outside on cloudy days can make it difficult to find interesting subject matter to reflect from your prism into your lens.


That's all I have for now. I'll be periodically updating this guide as I gain more insight or as styles change. If you have any suggestions or other tips, please post them in the comments below! If you're excited about prism photography, you can join our Facebook Group or purchase Fractal Filters for prism photography.

Published by Nikk Wong

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