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14 Objects To Shoot Through for Creative Photographic Effects

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Alright so are you feeling stuck in a rut with your photography lately or feel like your creativity batteries are running low? I’ve got good news for you: there are many ways out of that rut! One of them is to use some creative techniques while shooting by shooting through different objects. The technique of shooting through something or placing an object in front of your lens can instantly add some element of interest and dimension to a photograph.

If you shoot through something that’s transparent or semi-transparent, you create interesting reflections, blurs or patterns on your subject. And if you shoot through something that’s opaque, you create dimension by having an out of focus foreground element.

Note that shooting through something or putting something in front of your lens is different than using a gobo, because with a gobo your place an object between the light and the subject instead. Creative effects using a gobo will be the subject of a different post!

So, without further ado, here are 14 ideas of objects you can shoot through. We’ll start with transparent or semi-transparent options to shoot through:

1- Prism

In the cover photo for this post I’m holding a prism that you can use to shoot through and get really interesting light reflections on your subject. Here’s an Amazon link to the one I got, but there are many available brands and they are usually pretty inexpensive.

Here’s a video by Mathieu Stern that demonstrates some common prism options and the effects that they can achieve:

2- Piece of Chandelier

Maybe you don’t have a prism handy, but sometimes you can use a makeshift one with objects such as a piece of a chandelier.

You can find cheap chandelier pendants on Amazon and the different shapes will help create different effects.

3- Glass Orb

You can also buy a glass orb and shoot through it for some really distorted effects.

4- Drinking Glass

You can shoot through an empty transparent drinking glass, or you can can fill it up with still or carbonated water.

You can push it even further by adding a few drops of food coloring to the water for very creative color effects.

5- Bottle

Similar to a drinking glass, you can shoot through a glass or plastic bottle. Try for example a Perrier bottle at one of the edges of your lens.

6- Glass Pane

If you happen to have a glass pane available from something like the glass that covers some coffee tables, that can also be interesting to shoot through.

On top of that, you can play around by rubbing some oil or butter on certain areas of the glass, for interesting in-camera smudge effects.

Sometimes you don’t have to find a glass pane that’s just floating around, but instead you can make creative use of windows from buildings or cars by shooting your subject from the outside through the glass. It creates an interesting distance between the camera and the subject.

Shooting through a glass window
Photo by alexandra marcu, free to use

7- Plastic Wrap

Similar to shooting through a glass pane, try shooting through some plastic wrap.


Now let’s go over some ideas for opaque things to shoot through:

8- Leaves / Foliage / Bushes / Trees

Grab one of more leaves and shoot with them at the edge in front of your lens. The leaves add some nice colored blur-up effect to the final image.

Instead of loose leaves, you can also shoot through leaves or foliage that’s still on the tree or you can shoot through bushes. Or try shooting through ferns that are in your environment. This can really help give a personality and a story to your images.

Shooting through leaves
Photo by Patrick Pierre, free to use

9- Branches

Similar to leaves, try shooting your subject through some branches that are already in the environment, or branches that you’re holding yourself in front of the lens.

10- Ornaments

A new use for your old Christmas ornaments! The reflective surface of many ornaments creates some really interesting effects.

11- Plastic Toys

Similar to shooting with an ornament in front of your lens, using small plastic toys can create fun shapes in the final image.

And don’t worry, the viewer will have no idea that you used a simple toy, because what’s right next to the lens will be very out of focus in the final image.

12- Fence

Shoot through a fence for both an interesting pattern on the subject and give a feeling of separation/distance/coldness.

Shooting through some fences and gates
Photo by James Besser, free to use

13- Barb Wire

Similar to shooting through a fence, but barb wire gives the notion of danger or trespassing even more.

14- Surfaces in Your Environment

This last one is not very specific, but try to pay attention to your environment. Maybe there are stairs with a gap between each step, or maybe you’re in a subway station and you can use the corner of a subway concrete pole.


Wrapping Up

I hope these were helpful! Don’t forget to play around and experiment what with you have and with what’s available in your environment. A lot of the time when you shoot with something in front of your lens, you’ll want to overshoot a little, so that you get plenty of choice afterwards because the effect will often be vastly different with even slight angle changes.

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