Originally Published January 7th, 2017
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”-Edith Wharton
For a long time I didn’t consider photography a “true art”. I’ve always told people I became a photographer because I have no tactile talent, meaning I’m not good with my hands. However as of recently, my view on this changed dramatically. Photographers are artists. Instead of a brush or pencil we use a camera, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and a lens. Our paint is the light we capture and our canvas is either the sensor or the film. When I was introduced to prisming, I saw it as yet another tool to add to my craft.
Prisming is a term coined by Washington D.C. photographer Sam Hurd (his wedding photography is absolutely amazing-please google him). It refers to the use of prisms in photography to create interesting visual effects in camera.
For years I’ve created light leaks using old busted plastic film cameras. I’ve tried to design the look of light leaks in Photoshop. Now with the use of prisms, photographers can generate light leaks, reflections, mirroring, and many other interesting effects.
The standard for beginners is a 6 inch triangular prism you can find on Amazon for about $10. I’ve also been experimenting with crystal gems I’ve found for $6. The truth is, you can use just about any type of reflective object. So go grab some glass and experiment!
The technique is very simple. I recommend using a UV filter on your lens so there’s no chance you might scratch it using the prism. Simply hold the prism close to the lens.
Our first outing with a prism was a blast. We took to the streets in the early morning to try and capture light from the sun as it was rising.
All of these images were made with a Canon 5D mk ii and either a 50mm or 85mm lens. The only prism I had at the time was the 6 inch triangular shaped prism. Experiment with the angle and position of the prism in regards to the lens. In some instances we were able to reflect buildings, passing tail lights, light posts, or the brick of the road. Other times we captured light and rainbow effects from the prism.
We went out recently and experimented with the crystal pendant I had mentioned earlier. Here are some of the results from using that type of prism. These were shot with a Fujifilm X100T 35mm equivalent lens.
It creates this kaleidoscope effect. I love it.
As is the case with most things in photography, the possibilities are endless. At the time of writing this, I’ve experimented only a few times with prisms in my client work. So far the results have been great. I hope this post inspires you to go out and have fun with prisms and realize photography is more than just holding a camera and pressing the shutter.