I have been asked to take some product photos of various scientific lasers.

Most of them will just be simple shots of the boxes on a white background but I will also have to do an 'action' shot a bit like the one below. The laser produces a white beam that can be split into the full colour spectrum when it goes through a special prism.

old image

I have never photographed anything remotely like this before and I want to get it right. For example it would be nice to minimise the amount of reflection on the laser 'box' itself. I will have to do this in an empty laboratory as I will not be allowed to take the laser off site.

In terms of gear I've got a nikon d300, a selection of dx lenses (35mm, 18-200mm, 14-24mm) and a decent tripod.

How should I approach something like this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Do not look at laser with remaining eye." :- ) Sorry, couldn't resist. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Never done this but you will need some kind of vapor machine at least to get the colors to appear in the air. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why not doing this: Put the camera on bulb mode and give a long exposure (in a very dark lab). Then if you want to have the rest of the environment visible, fire a flash at the end of the exposure toward the roof. Depending on the results you can change the exposure time or use the smoke. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pouya
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ My dad is electronic engineer. I never shot a laser like this one but I saw a lot of them. I don't know the specification of this laser but I can tell you that for sure, this image is retouched (green angle and intensity doesn't like to seem fine). Some lights are from laser and someone not. You can play with bulb but If you want to take a shot for the laser in the input, you will buy a tedious task: the time on input and output will be very different. Maybe you need something like HDR or take a photo with brackets and make just one. The light measure will be a mess. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22, 2013 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Make sure you avoid allowing the laser's output to shine directly in your camera's lens. It can damage the sensor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 17:55

3 Answers 3


From looking at the picture in your question, I assume the light was post-processed in the shot after it was taken. And maybe that would be the way to go for you as well. I estimate it rather difficult and tricky to make the real light beam visible using smoke or some such, while keeping a clear and sharp image of the device itself, which would be your main subject.

So maybe, take some good shots of the device, and after you have them, use smoke to take pictures of the light beam, at least to see how it really looks like. Then, edit the good pictures of the device and the beam together.

Just my proposition...


One thing, depending on the power of the laser be careful about the laser hitting the sensor directly.

But regarding your specific question about the photo, you won't get past trying and experimenting before you get it right or the way you want it to.

To "see the beam" you need something to reflect the light - a fog machine, a bit of dust, steam etc. - after that all you can do is experiment.


Try to use a glass prism if you need to achieve the same effect.

True, because the laser is only a specific wavelength, you will not get the full rgb range, but you will split it in at least 1 to 3 different sub-wavelength's.

True, depending on what laser types you are using, the filter of the SLR which is filtering optically/physically some particular UV's wavelength's might make your beam to look weaker or not even show.

  • \$\begingroup\$ hmmm, the poster says that the laser he is measuring DOES produce a full spectrum, that's why the photo should look like the one he show.s \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 23, 2013 at 16:04

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