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Moodboard Series: Prism Effect

Moodboard Series: Prism Effect
Liam McKay April 22, 2024 · 4 min read

Photographers have forever been dreaming up creative ways to capture photos in different ways. A simple point and shoot photo works 99% of the time, but what happens when photographers want to get a little bit experimental with what they capture? They often experiment with different props or accessories to alter what they capture in-camera, and one very popular bit of kit in the world of photography is a prism.
A prism is essentially a triangle or geometric transparent object that will refract, distort and reflect the light that passes through it. When placed near a camera lens, the glass prism can be moved around to manipulate, scatter and bend the light in the frame – giving you complex, experimental dreamy light effects and image distortions that can add a completely different vibe to your shot.
The effect varies greatly depending on what shape prism is used, how close you hold the prism to the lens, and so on. It’s certainly something you need to experiment with in order to master as it allows you to do something as simple as adding some light leak in the corner of an image, to something far more abstract and distorted, almost like a kaleidoscope distortion simply by altering the position of the prism.

Prism Effect Examples

Prizm Lens Distortions by Studio 2am.

PRISM | Analog Light Leaks & Bokehs by CUDOS

Prismik – Prism and Lens Effects by Studio Yorktown

Triangle Prism Photo Effect by Design Squad

Prism Kaleidoscope Photo Effect by Design Squad

For anyone looking to create this kind of look for real and in-camera, here’s a fantastic video by wedding photographer and YouTuber Matt Johnson that explains just how easy and effective it is in the right circumstances to use a glass prism to create a variety of unique shots.
Although prisms are great to use when you actually capture an image, the same distortions and light effects can be achieved in several different ways and applied to any image, any time using different photoshop actions or effects. Plus these effects don’t have only to be applied to photos. A couple of key elements make up this style, which can be applied to any creative project.

Prism Distortions Effects

The shape of the transparent prism and the angle you hold it at will dictate the distortions you can get. Prism distortions can be used creatively to focus on your subject and block parts of the image you don’t want to show with reflections and refractions of the original image.
Working with real-life prisms will require a lot of trial and error, but there are some pre-made templates available here on Creative Market that can take some of the guesswork out of this step and allow you to create some more precise, abstract effects.

Hex Color Palette: #930045, #608bc8, #4c7768, #b5acac

Rainbow Light Leaks & Flares

Colors and lights play a big part in the beauty of prism photography. So what happens to light and colors in a prism? Essentially light changes speed as it passes through one medium to another, such as from air to glass; this is called dispersion. Each color that hits the prism will reflect off at a different angle based on its wavelength, so you can end up seeing a kind of rainbow light beam with individual colors, and this can make for some stunning and dreamy results.
Photographers like to use prisms in real-world situations that already have many interesting lights or colors in the scene as this gives the photographer more freedom to experiment with the incoming lights. Still, similar results can be achieved digitally in post, with creative use of image overlays – be sure to try to blend the overlays into your work in a way that might mimic the real lighting you see in the scene you are working with. Here are some beautiful light leak and lens flare overlays that mimic the lighting you might see when using a prism.

Hex Color Palette: #38677c, #f8e1c4, #e2f0ca, #f9df64

Prism Effects Collection

As prismatic photography’s popularity continues to rise, you should start to see more examples of this kind of photography or effect popping up in work all around the place and inspiring experimentation from creatives with similar methods or techniques. If you enjoy this aesthetic and want to find products here on Creative Market that are made in a similar vibe, I have put together a handpicked collection of Prism Effects to explore, most of which we have featured here today, plus a lot more. Likewise, if you found this style of post useful and inspiring, please head over to our moodboard series to browse similar style posts.

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About the Author
Liam McKay

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