Prisms have started to become quite a popular photography accessory in the last couple of years. Their very nature of bending and splitting light makes them ideal for getting creative with your photography. Typically, though, most photographers who’ve adopted a prism as part of their kit, use the same type. Long, triangular prisms, more commonly seen in the science classroom.
But, there are lots of types of prisms, and other glass, crystal & plastic shapes that can do similar things to light. In a new series of short videos from photographer Mathieu Stern, we see how different types affect the shot. How light interacts with them, and what it ultimately means for our images. He’s posted up the first two so far, with a new one expected each day for the next week or so.
First up is the standard, traditional long prism. These can be picked up for around $12-15. They’re fairly easy to work with due to their size and uniformity. But that size can also be their downfall. Being made from a single large solid piece of optical glass they can be quite heavy. However, they do work very well, and have become a favourite amongst many wedding photographers.
Prisms offer multiple uses, too. You can use it in front of the lens to refract and reflect the scene before it. Or, you can use it as a way to project light and colour onto your subject.
In the second video, Mathieu takes things a little further by using a giant round prism. This one can actually cover the front element completely. It looks like some kind of pentaprism or beam splitter. Whatever it is, it provides an interesting and very unique look.
A prism is defined as a transparent optical element with flat polished surfaces that refract light. Beyond that, there are no restrictions on the material from which prisms can be made. Glass, plastic and fluorite are most common. In the rest of the series, Mathieu plans to cover several different types of prism including CDs, coated lenses, multi facet toys, and short prisms.
Mathieu has a playlist on YouTube for the prism videos. This will update as new videos appear, so head on over and check it out. The next few days should be interesting.
Do you use prisms in your photography? Any other items you place between your lens and your subject?