One of the great things about Instagram is the inspiration from other accounts. It challenges me to try and improve my photography and try new types of photography. Over the last 6 months I’d started seeing lensball photography, photos using crystal or glass spheres to refract the subject and light, and create a different look to photos. I decided I fancied giving it a go, and bought my own glass ball.
They’re not as easy to use as you expect, so I’m sharing my lensball photo tips.
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What is lensball or crystal ball photography?
Lenballs are the original crystal balls created specifically for photography. Mine isn’t a lensball brand but works fine. You need to check the quality of the glass you’re buying as imperfections aren’t great – you can work round a small one on the surface though. They’re not as expensive as I’d expected them to be, but they are quite heavy.
It’s useful to buy one with a clear stand and a bag to keep it finger print and bash free.
You can buy different sizes with 60 and 80mm being the main sizes. Check the size and weight if you want to take your lensball out and about with you.
How to use a lensball?
Using a lensball for photography works by it refracting the light, inverting the subject behind the sphere. You just hold or place the ball in front of your subject and photograph through it. Just remember your image will be inverted due to the science of refraction.
Using the glass ball wasn’t as easy as I expected. There are some tips I’ve discovered in using mine, and most comes down to practising. Like any other photography, have your camera and lensball with you otherwise you can’t use it.
Lensball photography ideas
- nature – flowers, trees, water
- the sky
- buildings and structures
- geometric patterns
- lights in night sky
- reflections in puddles
Here’s some examples of simple lensball pictures. The more you practice the more you can experiment.
Lensball photography tips
1, Protect your lensball in a sock or soft padded bag for transport. Have a soft cloth to hand to wipe off fingerprints.
2, Watch out for nicks in the ball. If there’s just one small surface one, you can work round that with the damaged bit placing it on the ground or stand.
3, For the best lensball photos you want to understand and be able to change aperture. For the best results you want to have a low enough F stop to get the background blurry (bokeh) and the image in the ball sharp. F4 usually works fine.
4, Macro or wide angle lens will work best because you need to get near enough to the subject for it to be large enough in the sphere.
5, Don’t be scared of editing – sometimes you need to sharpen, and most people prefer to flip the image so the subject is back up the right way.
6, You can hold the ball, or use a lensball stand or support where it can sit up above the stand. You can also use natural ‘beds’ for it – leaves, grass, tree stumps. If you’re using it in a ‘bed’, you can try a bit of blue tack to hold it in place (just watch it doesn’t show in the photo).
7, Be aware of where the light is because the lens ball will easily pick up your reflection, and the sunlight spots on the surface. You can edit out the latter.
8, Watch out – the sun can be dangerous shining through the glass and making it hot, as well as potentially setting fire to what it’s shining through the ball and on to. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of bright sunlight to feel the burn in your fingers.
9, If you struggle to get the distance between the camera and ball, try using a tripod and remove or timer for your camera.
10, Decide on your focus and get the lighting settings right before taking the photo. Shooting in RAW will help with any corrections and more flexibility with editing later.
11, Have the whole sphere in shot (you can always crop afterwards). Think about composition rules like rule of thirds, and where the lensball would look best. Off centre catches the eye well and gives you sight of the background behind the ball.
12, Read up online and look at other lensball photography experts.You’ll get ideas for trying new subjects and most photographers are happy to share how they shot something.
If you want to buy a lensball and try some of these shots, you can buy a similar crystal ball from Amazon.
Have you tried one of these? How have you got on?
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