Using a Prism for Creative Photo Effects


Have you ever considered adding a prism to your camera bag? Washington DC-based wedding photographer Sam Hurd has done quite a bit of experimentation using an equilateral prism — the kind used in schools to teach properties of light — to add special effects to his photographs. The results are pretty interesting.

Hurd writes,

Many photographers have used things such as iPhone screens or mirrors to create interesting and artistic looking images, but I’ve found that using a 6-inch triangular prism works best for me because you can twist the prism into creating a curve and bend-like distortion of your surroundings. It takes a little more practice than just holding it up to your camera lens and reflecting stuff. This makes things look much more natural in my opinion. It doesn’t scream “cheesy!” “something done in Photoshop!” because, well it isn’t done in Photoshop.

Here’s what the prism looks like. You can pick one up yourself or about $12 over on Amazon:


Check out these photographs for a taste of what you can achieve with such a simple tool:









Hurd also shot this live demo of “prisming” to show what the technique looks like through your viewfinder (or on your LCD screen):

The unpredictable nature of the prism allows you to achieve all kinds of different looks depending on angle and situation. If you can’t wait to get started, you should be able to find one of these prisms pretty easily at a local shop (try your local craft store). Otherwise, Amazon is always at your fingertips.

Head on over to Hurd’s website if you’d like to see more of his prisming photographs.

Prisming: Photography Techniques “Hurding” [Sam Hurd via Gizmodo]

Image credits: Photographs by Sam Hurd and used with permission

  • Matthew Neumann

    I’ve seen this used in video before with some pretty neat effects. Not so sure on it in still photos – seems a bit hit and miss. A couple of them are pretty cool though.

  • Jim Angell

    Interesting effects. I was thinking about prisms the other day while listening to Pink Floyd and wondering how hard it would be to recreate the album cover for Dark Side of the Moon.

  • Guest

    I dont get it, how is it attached/installed?

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    I really liked the first photo. Great effect for wedding photography.

  • b.fleck

    You can do the same thing with a lens from an old pair of glasses . . .

  • harumph

    Installed? Just hold it up in front the lens.

  • Alan Morrison

    I regularly use an 80mm glass sphere to get some interesting refraction effects.

  • Daniel Thomassin

    surprennent et intéressant;Super Merci

  • bob martin


  • Yomi Jones

    Why not just use a Holga lens?

  • Dr. Sassafras

    You can’t recreate the album cover. Light does not split the way it’s depicted on the cover. You can visit the Wikipedia article ‘theory of Colours’ to see a illustration inspired by the pink floid album, but at the same time, phenomonly correct.

  • DSLR Video Studio

    This reminds of the sandwich bag article you posted earlier, where you can create interesting effects with blur, distortion and light.