What’s the next piece to add to your photography arsenal? A couple of glass pieces! Using external glass refraction is relatively new in the world of photography, but it is gaining traction amongst more adventurous enthusiasts. We love all the new photography techniques that help keep the craft fresh, so here’s a guide to get you started.


As light passes through the glass, the light is refracted and separated, resulting in a range of optical effects cast onto your image. While the principle is simple, the actual application of the effect involves a lot of guesswork. The size and shape of the glass, the angle and intensity of lighting, the distance between camera and subject, and many other factors make the results impossible to predict in the field. If you’re new to photographing through glasses, be prepared for a little trial and error.


Bring along everything you would normally carry on a photoshoot on top of the glasses: your camera, lenses, some batteries, and memory cards for backup. A piece of microfiber cloth is a must to rub away pesky fingerprints. A tripod will leave both of your hands-free if you plan on toying around with the glasses extensively.

A couple of tips before you start: switch off the autofocus if you are using one of our AF lenses, as the delicate system might not function properly when an additional piece of glass is stuck between it and the intended subject. Also, remember to use Live View, so you don’t get blinded by any unintentional glares. Next up, a few tips on two major subcategories of refraction photography!


The sharp edges and flat surfaces of a prism give your images various creative effects. Shooting through one will, first and foremost, create a zonal blurring effect. The intensity depends largely on the apertures, with a bigger aperture resulting in a smoother effect. On top of that, light dispersed through the prism can cast streaks of a rainbow on your images. Hold the prism in front of the lens, then rotate, close in or move away – it is entirely up to your taste to decide what deserves to be captured. A couple of simple tips to get you started: point the edge of a prism towards your camera for a strong rainbow effect in your images or face the base of a prism towards the lens to take kaleidoscopic pictures!


Although unable to show the future, shooting through a glass ball does produce some eye-opening effects. The smooth curvature of a glass ball creates a distorted, fish-eye like reflection to the backdrop. To start, position the ball securely on a crevice or table – you don’t want it to roll away. Once steadied, you will notice the reflection to be upside down. Use a bokeh effect if you want to avoid the distraction, but the inverted background often makes for an interesting element for the viewers. A general piece of advice on the composition is to fill the glass ball with as much of the subject as possible, which requires repositioning the ball closer to the subject. Use this technique to capture your favourite landscapes and architecture, framed within a mesmerizing sphere!

All this information might seem overwhelming at the moment, but it will all click with practice and experimentation. It is ultimately down to your creative sense on abstract visual art and persistence to capture brilliantly unique images.