Tutorial: Fractal & Prism Photography

How to achieve “kaleidoscope” effects or “using fractals”

An introduction

Kaleidoscope photography or “shooting with fractals” as I like to call them is a fun, little technique I’ve been using during the past few years. While it’s nothing new to “shoot through glass” - working with prisms like this gives a whole new dimension to the technique. The reason why I love them so much is because they give an awesome and ever-changing effect - which is both beautiful for photography indoors as outdoors but also for video. While I work with a a bit more pricey variant, you could shoot this kind of effect also with cheaper prisms you can find on ebay or certain (science) shops.

The ones I have are the (first generation) Classic fractals from GetFractals.com - with the Penrose, Julia & Pascal filter. I hope to purchase the newer generation soon as my favorite one - the penrose - has been updated and will allow for a much more interesting effect for portraits I think (also one can never have enough fractals in the house!) but since they’re slightly more expensive compared to other fractals out there I havent gotten around to it yet.

How to use these beauties

Just hold them in front of your camera and there it is! You can shoot “kaleidoscope” now. What I’ve learned since I got them is very simple yet a bit of a hassle: like many “external” props you use, you need to get the hang of them a bit and understand how to use it to your advantage and aesthetics. I do have some quick pointers I would like to share with all of you to hopefully avoid some beginners mistakes (I encountered):

What can I tell:

- They behave véry differentely when you use them for photography or video! While some effects are super strong when using them for photo, they are much more subtile in video and vice versa.

- Natural light and artificial light gives different results. While they’re all different, when using for example the “Pascal” filter indoors will both reflect your surroundings and give either super awesome or super weird effects. While if used with an (artificial) light source from behind, beside or above - these will be reflected and can be really awesome for sci-fi kinda vibes!

- Make sure you use them wisely: as awesome as they’re to go all wild, composition with these is super important; especially if you work with a human subject. Try to be aware of how it affects the body: chins, arms, necks, shoulders may become much heavier or even get cropped off completely and will be very unflattering.

- They’re glass, don’t drop them. But this also means they have a certain “softness” over them and what looks sharp in camera may not be, shooting tethered (even uncalibrated) is highly recommended.

- It’s worth it to first focus, hold your aim and then place your fractal in front of your lens for further compositing. Focussing through them can be frustrating and may lead to too-blurry shots.

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Literally instant awesomness right away!

Literally instant awesomness right away!

Below are the separate fractals and their effect, as demonstrated on one of my lovely assistant-plans ; as well as some examples of actual previous shoots and videos I’ve used them for.
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“Julia” fractal filter: or the “eye of the storm” as I like to call it. This is the one I use the least because it’s effect is not what I usually go for in my work.

“Julia” fractal filter: or the “eye of the storm” as I like to call it. This is the one I use the least because it’s effect is not what I usually go for in my work.

The “Penrose” filter: my favorite. I hope to update this one soon, but I find this one awesome to use as it’s easy to get a kaleidoscope effect - even in small spaces - with some really epic results instantly.

The “Penrose” filter: my favorite. I hope to update this one soon, but I find this one awesome to use as it’s easy to get a kaleidoscope effect - even in small spaces - with some really epic results instantly.

The “Pascal” filter is one I came to love: while originally I wasn’t a huge fan of it; I’ve found it’s absolutely amazing to use when you have lightsources from above, beside or behind you to create almost sci-fi kinda effects. It’s also one of my favorites for outside as it gives a more subtile touch compared to the “Penrose”

The “Pascal” filter is one I came to love: while originally I wasn’t a huge fan of it; I’ve found it’s absolutely amazing to use when you have lightsources from above, beside or behind you to create almost sci-fi kinda effects. It’s also one of my favorites for outside as it gives a more subtile touch compared to the “Penrose”

Some of the results I’ve shot during my time working with them: both in the studio as on location.

Some (older) videos where I used the fractals for an awesome effect.

Flashlight-And-Chill

A while back, Nicole posted a challenge for the Fstoppers community where you could only use a flashlight as your main source of light, with the option of using the available light as well. And ofcourse - I had to try this. Why wouldn’t I? Lately I’ve been feeling incredibly inspired by going outside my own comfort zone, trying new things and challening myself (especially with my broncolor GenNEXT gear! Got a lot to tell about that soon). Though for this one it was all about the basics and playing around with that ultimate diy budget so I took this opportunity with both hands.

I had already invited Maki over for a session, so I asked if she was up for all of the experimenting to come as I had some ideas in mind: using (basic) prisms, my actual fractal filters but also my colorgels and the bare flashlight as it was. I also used some good, old waterspray to give some texture to her and get some reflection here and there (or that I hoped)! And for the rest I kept it as simple as possible, with one exception of course: I had to use the headpiece by KatzLittleFactory because I’m a sucker for those kind of aesthetics …

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