How To Photograph Real Estate and Vacation Rentals

Use This One Cheap Photography Prop to Make Your Portraits Pop

If you've ever seen portraits with some wild reflections and funky lighting effects, it's entirely possible that it's not a multiple exposure or post-processed image. Using a cheap prism, you can duplicate some of these effects in camera.

Coming to you from street photographer and YouTuber Liam at 7th.era photography is a tip that seems so deceptively simpleĀ but that can add a lot of flair to your portrait photography under the right conditions. In the video, he seeks out a cheap prism, but not one necessarily designed for photography. He finds something that can bend light in unnatural ways, not unlike the coffee table decoration that he actually picks up in the video. He also gives a few cheap beads a try and shoots it all through a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Lens.

It's not an exact science. For sure, manipulating the beads and their interplay with the light is probably akin to an even less precise Lensbaby-style lens. But when the light hits just right, the results are fantastic, which you can see when he shares his results at the end of the video.

I tried this years ago with a prism I purchased for cheap, and while it was fun for a minute, it ultimately proved too difficult to get any precise results with the DSLR I was using at the time (a Nikon D750), and I gave up the endeavor.

From the looks of things, Liam's Sony a7 IV camera (and probably any mirrorless camera these days) aids the process quite a bit, being able to not only nail focus on his model's eye, butĀ able to preview the prism's effect on the screen as he's taking the photo as well. Both of those things are far more difficult with an optical viewfinder on a DSLR. As he notes, part of the "science" of this is to make sure that you at least nail the subject's eyes in the photo. Something needs to be sharp in there, as it's a portrait after all. There's also the importance of getting the right scene, and neon lights and signs seem to really play off the prism's light-bending abilities to create some interesting results. In these photos, environment matters as much as luck and technique.

Have you had the chance to play around with a prism in your photography? Share your work and tips for this style of photography in the comments below.

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2 Comments
Michelle VanTine's picture

I used prisms for awhile... they're so unpredictable. Great reminder that it may be time to pull them back out

marcel bauer's picture

Awesome video gotta give this a go. My instagram @mkbauerphoto I use Nikon z mount but can use F mount also. Thank you