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28 Jan 2021

Refraction Photography

refraction photography
Term: Refraction Photography
Description: Refraction refers to light passing from one medium and into another – which affects the speed and direction of the light. Consider when light passes through a prism, and the white light splits into the colors of the rainbow – that is refraction!
Essentially, refraction is happening around us wherever the light shines. Although you can get refraction through transparent objects that are plastic, the best quality will come from glass.

Refraction photography is a unique way to explore capturing images. Here is your guide to how refraction works, and how it plays into refraction photography.

How Does Refraction Work?

Refraction refers to light passing from one medium and into another – which affects the speed and direction of the light. Consider when light passes through a prism, and the white light splits into the colors of the rainbow – that is refraction! Essentially, refraction is happening around us wherever the light shines. Although you can get refraction through transparent objects that are plastic, the best quality will come from glass.

Refraction Photography

We’ve all seen the photos with a blurred background that is sharply defined in a crystal ball of a drop of water – this is refraction photography! Refraction photography takes the phenomenon and uses it to capture beautiful images. refraction photography

In refraction photography, the light in the background is essential – it matters more than the lighting on the actual subject. For example, if you are using a Speedlight, be sure to direct it on the backdrop since the light is going to reflect off of it and allow the image in the sphere to pop.

Be sure to utilize Focus Stacking to get the outer shape of the object in focus at the same time as the refracted image. Open up the aperture a bit if you want the foreground to be sharp while keeping the background blurry. You can also increase the blur by pushing the background further from the scene – but don’t show anything that you want to keep inside the sphere!

Refraction Photography Ideas

If you are looking to get into refraction photography, try out some of these unique ideas! Marbles - Glass marbles are a popular way to capture landscapes through refraction photography. Marbles or glass spheres are generally what most of us think of when we think of refraction photography – it helps that it is small and lightweight to keep marbles in your camera bag!

The marble acts like an external fish-eye lens that allows you to bring that piece of the image into focus while keeping the background out of focus.

Water Droplets - The surface tension on water droplets allows them to form the perfect spherical shape for your refraction photography. Try placing a water droplet on a leaf, and if you want to increase the surface tension mix in a bit of glycerin.

Water in oil is another popular way to capture macro photography, but it can also be used the other way around to create images through the floating water bubbles! Place the water droplets with a syringe on the top of the oil carefully so they don't sink – but try using multiple water drops to set up a gradient in sharpness.

Icicles - If you live in a cold climate, try utilizing icicles instead of water droplets. This will distort your image slightly but can still allow you to take some mesmerizing refraction shots! Be sure to choose icicles without a lot of air pockets or cracks since this can keep the light from passing through.

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