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Taking photos has many facets to it, and getting these right gives you a successful photo. A key element is how you use the light, and in this article, you’re going to learn how to split the light! Using a prism in your photography can give you new possibilities, and is another way of utilizing refraction in your photography. So, read on to find out about prism photography, how to make rainbows, and create beautiful photos that look like multiple exposures!
A prism is a glass object and is therefore subject to the effect of refraction. The light is bent as it passes through the prism, creating several effects that you can use in photography. You can’t use it in the same way as a crystal ball, which works like an external lens optic and inverts the background image within the ball. However, there are two ways you can use the prism.
An excellent way for you to use the prism is making rainbows. The larger the prism you have, the larger the rainbow becomes. The other way to increase the size is by increasing the distance between the prism, and the surface you are projecting the rainbow onto. The catch with increasing the distance is the rainbow light becomes more diffused and less intense. You also need to pay attention to how high the sun is in the sky. This is because the angle the sunlight hits the prism effects the angle of the projected rainbow. It is easier to project the rainbow onto the ground during midday when the sun is high in the sky. To project the rainbow more horizontally aim to photograph when the sun is lower in the sky, after sunrise, and before sunset.
Rainbow light is colorful, and when projected onto a surface this can make for a beautiful photo. Look for a surface that has a neutral color such as gray or white. A surface that has some nice surface texture may add more interest to your photo. Now twist the prism until you’re able to see the rainbow projected onto the surface you’re photographing. It’s possible to take the photo while holding both the prism and the camera. If you have a friend to help hold the prism, your results can be improved. As this is a detail photo, using a macro lens for this type of photo is better, but you may find other interesting compositions by using another lens.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of prism photography involves projecting a rainbow onto someone’s face. The rainbow you project won’t be large, and it would be best if another person held the prism. The small size of the rainbow means a head shot would work well. A play on David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ portrait is a good starting place in which to start. You’ll want to set this up as a standard portrait, so use a prime lens for this photo. Ideally, you’ll want to blur the background through the use of a large aperture.
The other way to use the prism bares similarities to using a glass ball. This time you’ll be shooting through the glass, at images that appear inside it. Hold up the prism, and twist it. You’ll notice how you can see images inside this glass. These images are not those directly ahead of you though. Also, depending on how you twist the glass, you may see one or two images. It’s these images you can work with to make a unique multi-exposure type image, with a single click of the shutter.
The best lenses for prism photography are a wide-angle lens and a macro lens. Unless you’re lucky and have a friend to hold the prism, you need to hold the prism and photograph through it at the same time.
The aperture you use for these type of photos are mostly dependent on what you want to do with the background, and how sharp you want the image within the prism. A large aperture of f/2.8 or bigger certainly works to blur out the background. The majority of photos need that background though, to achieve the multiple exposure feel. That means an aperture of around f/8 is the right balance between a background with detail and avoiding the prism having too sharp a line in transition to the background.
A prism has a fairly small width, and even with a macro lens, the background is a high proportion of the frame. So what works as a background for this type of photo? Primarily, you’re looking to avoid it being too busy.
Now the tricky part – getting a good image within the prism. The images from the prism can be at 90-degrees to the way you’re facing, or perhaps 60-degrees and to the side and front of where you’re standing. Incorporating this into your composed background is the challenging aspect of prism photography.
Fractals are yet another item that uses refraction in photography. They produce prism-like effects but aren’t in themselves a triangular-shaped prism. Working as a handheld filter, you can photograph through them without worrying about images being at 90-degrees to you. It’s often used to make creative portrait photos with soft edges. It can equally be used to make a more abstract looking photo.
If you are looking to try something different with your photography, you’ll love the prism. It’s a little challenging to photograph with, but that’s what makes it fun. Have you ever tried prism photography? We’d love to hear your thoughts, and see your photos in the comments section below. So, now it’s time to get hold of a prism, and go out and experiment with it!