How To: Vortography

A lot of people visit this blog after searching for ‘vortography’ or ‘vortograph’, and I’ve  been asked several times how to make a vortograph and how to set up the lens and mirrors.

I used 4 mirrors which I had cut at a local glaziers. They measure 2 inches by 6 inches. If you get mirrors cut, remember to ask for the edges to be smoothed as you’ll be handling them quite a bit.


They need to be taped together to make a prism. The sides of the mirrors give really nice effects, so having a side which is thicker works well if you want to capture that, so add that extra mirror to one side. I also added thin copper tape to the sides of my mirrors to help give a more defined pattern.

Prism for vortography

I found that the technique works best with a wide angle lens; if you zoom in you can loose the effect. I’ve tried several different camera and lens combinations – all work, including an iPhone which is much easier to work with and I don’t have worries about my lenses getting scratched. But essentially it’s just experimenting to see what works. There isn’t a clever set up as such – just hold the mirror in front of the lens until you see the image you want. A tripod would help for this as it’s a bit fiddly. I’ve found that taking a ‘normal’ image and then printing it and taking the image again through the mirrors works well, or otherwise taking a vortograph of an image displayed on a computer monitor. If you look at some of my other work you’ll see the colours that are produced when using this technique of photographing a monitor or iPhone screen using a prism.

Top left is where the thicker mirror edges are. You can see the copper tape showing up which makes the triangular nature of the images clearer.

I originally discovered this technique in photography by looking at the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn. The work of Wyndham Lewis is also worth exploring, and a great book to explain this style of art is ‘The Vorticists’, by Mark Antliff and Vivien Greene.

Strong lines work well

I’ve probably talked about vortography quite a lot on this site, but the main references here will be in the initial work I did for my second assignment. These are rough notes on vortography from my written learning log and are not complete yet – please be aware of that. There’s also a further post on vortography which is mainly about my reasons for exploring the technique.


I didn’t find many photographers using the technique now, if you use it after reading this post I’d love to hear from you and see how it went!


Published by Sarah Cassin Scott


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