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  • Writer's pictureRob + Lindsey Morrow

3 Tips for Unique Prism Photography

Prisms can create stunning effects resulting in unique photos all in camera. (No need for Photoshop for these ones!) Anything that refracts light can be used, but our favorite type of prism is a glass ring. Just look at what you can do with them! Getting a perfect full circle like this is a bit tricky, which is why we're sharing our best tips with you here, so you can confidently make it happen.

1 - Use a glass ring prism.

You can find these cheap on Amazon. Here's one that will work well, but anything similar to that will do.

2 - Follow the same general technique as outlined in our Ring of Fire guide.

As a recap, the basic steps to add in-camera light flares are to:

- hold the prism directly against your camera lens (use a UV filter to protect your lens)

- start with the light shining directly into the prism

- move and angle the prism and/or camera slightly until the desired effect is created

- once you've got your prism doing what you want it to, be sure to creatively compose your image

- the best conditions to use this technique are when the sun is low or filtered/diffused

3 - Pay special attention the the lighting!

This step is the key to everything. Here's what to watch for:

Crystal prisms pick up more light than a copper tube that's used to create a ring of fire photo. So for these prism photos, you need the light source hitting the prism to be very soft, otherwise the effect that the prism creates will blow out the highlights and ruin your image.

By "very soft", we're talking a tiny, tiny sliver of sunlight peaking through a forest... Go back and take a closer look at the header image as an example. Remember to move around and use your surroundings to find this light. You may need to move forward or backward, get higher or lower, lay on the ground, or use a tree to block some of the light. The key is to move until you find the perfect spot!

To do this in a natural setting, you need very low or filtered sun shining through a dark background behind the couple. You can also adjust your camera settings to underexpose the scene so the light hitting the prism isn't overpowering. In either situations you may need to add light to the couple to make sure that they are properly exposed.

We'd recommend using an off camera flash fit up with magmod products to quickly and easily do that. We typically use the sphere (to help diffuse the light), their grid (to help direct the light and reduce spill), and a 1/4 CTO gel (to help balance skin tones).

Bonus Tip: If you have trouble achieving focus with the prism against your lens, remove the prism and use back button focus to get your image crisp. Once you've done that, add the ring back onto your lens while maintaining focus.

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