The pursuit of creativity in photography is what gives many photographers their drive. In today’s article, you’ll learn about fractal filters, and what they can bring to your photography.
Get ready for a refraction extravaganza, as you twist and bend the light to your will!
What Is a Prism?
A prism is a triangular object that’s transparent. It’s usually made of clear glass but could also be acrylic. One of the best-known effects of a prism is to create a rainbow through a process known as refraction.
Splitting the light is not the only thing a prism will do though. The process of refraction will redirect light from extreme angles. This means you can see an image within a prism that’s 90 degrees from that angle you are actually viewing.
It’s the effect that a prism produces that is used by fractal filters.
What Is Refraction?
Not to be confused with reflection, refraction is a process where light is bent. This happens when light passes through an area of denser mass. When light travels from the air through a glass object that light will bend.
When the glass object is spherical it can invert the image, as in the case of a lensball. The special triangular shape of a prism actually leads to light not just being bent but split into all the colors of the rainbow.
Fractal filters make use of refraction to create experimental images. This allows you to create stunning effects in camera.
What Are Fractal Filter?
Fractal Filters come as a set of filters, each with its own unique properties. They’re made of glass and create prism-like distortions of the light.
Each filter is handheld, with a 3 finger grip supplied with each filter. That’s a nice difference from the lensball.
The glass itself is cut differently from filter to filter. One filter can take on the properties of a regular prism, while another is cut more like a diamond on a ring.
This cut glass can have several interesting effects on your image, all captured without the need for any post-processing. So what are these?
- Kaleidoscope – Lots of repeating images in the same photo always look great, and fractal filters allow you to do this through the process of refraction. Whether you use this for portrait photos or hone in on the main subject like a long tree will be up to you.
- Double exposure – You’re not taking double exposures with fractal filters. But people looking at the image will believe you have. You’ll have the image of the background, and an image refracted through the filter that is at a 90-degree angle from your background image.
- Rainbow image – Of course the prism-like effect of the fractal filters can also cause rainbows to form across your image. This section of the image will likely be distorted and will act as a frame for the clearer sharper section of the photo that is less affected by prisms.
- Creates blurs/prism effects; optimal for photography and very useful for videography.
- Optimal performance from a focal length of 40mm or longer.
- Optimal performance from a wide aperture (f/5.6 or wider)
- Refractive index of 1.6
- Thin profile ring (7mm)—helping to reduce the possibility of vignetting or optical obstruction at wide angles
- Reflective chrome finish—reflecting light and creating bokeh that’s a perfect addition to your shots!
- 100mm total diameter—93mm glass diameter + 7mm profile ring. One size fits all.
- Dimensions: 5″ x 5.5″ x .2″ ~.6″
- Filter factor: 1
- Proportion of light transmitted (1/FF): 95-100%
- Number of stops reduced: 0.
- Weight: 20g – 100g.
How to Use a Fractal Filter
Unlike a lensball which acts as an external lens, the best description for these is a filter. Where they’re similar to the lensball though is that these are external filters.
You hold onto them in front of the camera lens, as opposed to screwing them onto the lens itself. Fractal filters do supply a Gorrila Pod style extension arm that allows you to use fractal filter hands-free.
For the most part, you’ll be holding the camera with one hand, and the filter with the other.
- The first step is to choose the correct fractal filter. That will depend on the effect you wish to create, be it blur, a kaleidoscope or a double image. The decision you make here will also be affected by the scene you find yourself photographing. A landscape image might not work like a kaleidoscope, where a portrait photo will. The prism needs subject matters to the side of you. Choosing a good location for this is more hit and miss, but the more you use it the greater your feel for this type of image will be.
- Use a standard kit lens, or perhaps a macro lens to take this photo. A focal length between 40mm and 100mm is optimal. An aperture of around f4 is also good with these filters, but you can experiment with larger or smaller sizes.
- It can be challenging to replicate an image. Try to get a sharp focus with your first photo. The focus point needs to be within the fractal filter and not the background.
- Frame your photo within the area of the fractal filter, you don’t want to include the edge of the filter, or your hand in the same photo. That said use your artistic instincts, if it’s right for the photo you could include your hand.
- You now have your main subject chosen, be that landscape or portrait. The correct fractal filter has been chosen for the situation. Take the camera to your eye, and hold the fractal filter in front of the camera. Ensure they’re lined up in front of each other.
- You will now need to change the angle of the fractal filter, and see how this affects the image in the camera. It’s this need to change the angle of the filter that makes it a necessity to use these filter handheld, rather than attached to the camera lens.
- Once you have an image produced by the fractal filter that you’re pleased with take the photo. Take several to ensure you have a selection to choose from in case the camera missed the focus point with its auto-focus function.
- Review the images you have taken, and repeat the photo as necessary.
Refraction is a fascinating area of photography. Fractal filters aren’t the only options open to you. If you enjoy using fractal filters why not try some of the following techniques?
The way a prism works forms the basis of the creativity found with fractal filters. Why not try using a regular prism?
It’s fun to experiment with, and as with fractal filters, you can use it by holding it in front of the camera to create double exposure like images.
You can also use a prism to project a rainbow onto a surface, or perhaps onto someone’s face.
As mentioned already the lensball also uses refraction, and you’ll hold it or position it in front of the camera.
Instead of distorting your image with the lensball you’ll get an image within the ball that you can take a photo of.
The image within the ball will have fisheye like properties, and it will be upside down. You’ll need to use those effects to artistic effect to get the best image out of one of these balls.
For even more creativity why not take the lens off your camera, and use interesting glass objects as a lens! Objects like wine glasses work well here.
You’ll need a darker room and a single light source shining through your new ‘lens’ to make this effect work.
Finding ways to take photograph is different more creative ways is the goal of many photographers.
If that’s what you like to do, the fractal filters can certainly add another string to your bow, and provide you with interesting photos.
Have you tried this equipment out before? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them together with any photos in the comments section of this article.