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3 Refraction Photography Concepts To Attempt


“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” ― Edgar Allan Poe 

You’ve probably seen examples of refraction photography before - worlds suspended within dew drops or cityscapes encased within glass orbs. Refraction photography is an amazingly simple method of creating beautiful, unique shots that you could achieve even from the comforts of home. All you really need is any transparent object that has a different mass to air to cause the refraction effect as light enters (glass objects usually result in the best image quality), and a little imagination. We spoke to 3 photographers with stunning refraction photographs to find out the inspiration behind them and how they achieved it. 


Photo Credit: @pxb_shots
EOS 1200D, EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II, f/16, ISO 100, 1.6s, 74mm

Refraction photography gets a twist with this unique monochrome concept using the simplest of everyday items - drinking goblets. Inspired by a shot of glassware photography, Jodhpur-based photographer @pxb_shots made the best of lockdown and decided to give it a go using some wine glasses he had lying around at home and a TV screen with preloaded wallpaper as a backdrop. A black glass panel was cleverly used to provide contrast to the light from the screen, lending a yin/yang aesthetic that further emphasised the perfect symmetry of the glasses. 


Photo Credit: @sherwincredible_
EOS M6, EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/160s, 55mm

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but where better to seek creativity than the comic universe? Of course, we’re talking about the realm of superheroes and villains - exactly where photographer @sherwincredible_ based this shot. We love the naturally complementary hues, lent by the characters encased within droplets of water. With a laptop in the background displaying the image, he used a smartphone to create the reflective base, then created the water droplets used to refract the image with a 1cc syringe, which gives more control than if using fingers. Using a tripod and “Canon camera and lenses that basically give you the right amount of control for everything needed in good photography”, he then shot it with a timer to eliminate any possibility of shake.  

This engaging image was, by the way, shot on his living room table - proof that you don’t always need to travel very far for good photos. 


Photo Credit: @suieric429
EOS M5, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, F/5, ISO 100, 1/800s, 24mm

How do you put an interesting twist on one of the world’s most widely photographed flower? With refraction photography. We love the effect of the in-focus cherry blossoms that appear to slowly “fade out” and blend perfectly into the background outside of the orb. Plus, those colours – talk about being aesthetically pleasing! Shot during cherry blossom season in People Park Square, Shanghai, photographer Eric Sui simply used a crystal ball as his only prop to capture this shot. We love how the shot not only emphasises the main subject (the cherry blossom) but manages to create a unique overall pattern that would make this image perfect as a print to hang up on a wall at home or as your phone’s background image.  


Refraction photography is visually stunning, abstract and most importantly, fun to shoot. The possibilities are endless, and all you really need is a glass sphere, a dose of inspiration and a little patience. Whether you approach this genre of photography to add some diversity to your portfolio, or a fun side project for your creative outlets, we love how something inherently simple can create such intricate visuals.  


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