A lensball is a popular photography accessory that continues to increase in popularity especially in the UK. It is essentially a crystal ball purposefully manufactured for photography.
The two key benefits are it acts as a wide-angle lens and it provides a refraction effect. Refraction transpires when light passes through an object of greater density such as water and density. This causes a distortion of light whereby its bent. In the case of the lensball the crystal is of greater density so the image inside the crystal ball is turned upside down which can provide some imaginative, mesmerising imagery.
The lensball also differs from a normal wide-angle lens in that it's not attached to the camera. So as an external wide angle lens it also offers a lot of versatility in terms of where you position the lensball, the size of the image inside the lensball, the background size, determining how the lensball and background will interact (for example, focus on image inside the lensball and blurring of background). There is so much creativity that can occur with a lensball it's no surprise they have become so popular!
This can separate the great from average photos! You need to carefully consider the position between the lensball and the object you are shooting. If for example, you are looking to eliminate background then you can get very close to the subject to create a more distorted look. On the other hand, you may get the object a bit further away from the ball to obtain a more defined image. If you don't want hands or body parts captured in the image than you will have to think about using a prop such as a branch, rock or purchase a lensball stand. The lensball stand can be used either by itself with the lensball, just sit it on a flat surface. Alternatively, it can be attached to the top of a tripod as it has a ¼ inch thread.
So carefully consider your lensball, subject and background. Of course, do some testing as needed to consider what works best.
Again, experiment with depth of field based on the output you’d like from the shot. If completely unsure try an F/4 and adjust from there! Essentially going too small with aperture may not blur out the background enough or at all and going too big may mean you can’t focus sharply on the subject as desired. So balance this out based on your circumstance and for example how much blur or bokeh you are trying to achieve. Some blur can be used effectively sometimes for example if you want to put more of the eyes focus on the image inside the lensball.
Practice makes perfect and the more experience you’ve had in multiple settings with the crystal ball the more you will become accustomed to what works with this photography tool. It can certainly add to your knowledge of many basic elements of photography and extend use of various settings such as this one!
As you know lighting is already a crucial element in photography however it’s arguably more important even when doing lensball photography. This is largely because of the amount of crystal and external nature of the lensball. Having too much sun on top of the ball such as a very sunny day at noon can result in too much unwanted reflection. You want light coming through the ball so ideally this means either in front or behind you.
This is why capturing sunrises or sunsets can be so popular as not only can you see the sun in a beautiful position but also because it provides good lighting conditions if executing the shot well.
You can get a lot of variety with this photography tool. While natural landscapes can be beautiful and fit in well with the added wide angle of the lensball, street photography and structures can also be excellent. Experiment and for inspiration check out our social media as that will give you a lot of inspiration from other photographers. Certain subjects can be particularly great to photograph and you will only know that through experience and experimenting!
Check out the below street photo which further emphasises the two half faces in the photo for example. The crystal ball adds further wonder to the photo and the contrast caused by the refraction effect in the lensball contrasts the background.
This involves basic and more advanced elements where desired. The most common edit is probably cropping a photo so that the right elements can be included in the photo and unwanted background for example can be removed. You also probably want the image in the lensball to be large enough given that it’s a key element.
Exposure which relates to brightness is also sometimes edited to let in a bit more light or a bit of darkness. Saturation can help emphasise certain colours when desired. For example, dank weather can be emphasized such as rain or fog or earthiness of a particular outdoor photo through desaturation.
Flipping the image inside the lensball means you can get the lensball image to appear the same way as the background if desired (removing the refraction effect). This will be covered in a future blog with some other more advanced techniques. This includes how to make the ball seemingly ‘float’ in mid-air and making it look like the ball is shattering into tiny pieces. These techniques can also be combined in the same imagery even for very creative outcomes.
It may sound boring but really take care of the lensball as you need to keep in mind although sturdy its still made from crystal. So you want to always keep it safe in its bag when not in use (preferably inside the box or similar) and keep it clean by using the microfiber bag to polish the lensball. Also keep it away from direct sunlight for long periods of time as that can cause a small burn or even potentially a fire!
As we mentioned earlier there’s a lot of people on social media sharing which in itself can be a great way to connect with other photographers. You may be able to find other photographers around your area in the UK and get out and about. If you are part of a group of photographers or even have a photographer friend introduce the lensball and head out for a shoot together! In that environment often great learning can occur as photographers with different strengths can share their thoughts on techniques and settings such as some of those we’ve discussed in this article already.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips from the Refractique UK team. As mentioned we will follow up from time to time from now on.
We appreciate all the interest in our enjoyable, niche product and appreciate your support of our local small UK business! Enjoy the lensball photography!
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