No matter where I travel there are a few things I always pack….my camera, phone, tripod for both, spare lens, spare battery and my trusty little lensballs.
I love taking photos and I’m always on the hunt for the “perfect” shot but sometimes it’s cool just to have a little fun with it too. Which for me, is where the lensball comes in.
Using a lensball is an example of refraction photography. Refraction is somewhat of a magical phenomenon which occurs when a wave such as sound, water or in this case light, is deflected through a denser mass such as water or glass.
As the light hits the lensball, light is bent which causes a distortion and due to the lensball being a transparent spherical object, this causes the image in the ball to appear inverted. It feels like somewhat of a magic trick and on more than one occasion I have had people watching me use this gadget and asking about it.
Therefore, I thought I would share a few tips on using the lensball.
- Before you begin make sure the lensball is clean, they are prone to picking up finger prints and specks of dust so give it a good wipe each time before you start.
- Make sure the lensball is inline with your subject. This will help to minimise distortion. There are a few exceptions to this such as placing the ball in a puddle or like the image below to capture the dessert sand.
- Make sure your subject fills the ball. This will sometimes mean having to get closer to whatever it is you’re taking a photo of.
- Take a few different photos of the same image, some getting close to the ball and some where you capture more of the background. Stepping back a little to get more of the background creates a greater depth of field and can add a little extra to the photo.
- Play around with angles, sometimes having the lensball off centre will yield better results.
- Play around with the aperture of your camera to get the image that best suits you. Do you want to image on the lensball to be focused or a focused background with a blurry lensball image?
- Pick a camera lens that will work for you. Using a macro lens will work well as it will allow you to get very close to the lensball. Mobile phones are excellent for this, infact, all the images on this article were taken with a mobile phone. You can also use a wider angled lens should the scene (such as landscape) allow.
- Get to grips with editing. Your image will always appear inverted in the lensball and sometimes you’re going to want to flip it just like in the images below. A quick and easy phone app to do this in is Snapseed.
- Sometimes, if you keep the background image in shot you might just want to keep the lensball image inverted. Always have a play around to see what works best for you and your image.
- Many lensballs will come with a mount to stand it on, however, sometimes you might want to try embedding the lensball more into the natural environment to make the image flow with its surroundings.
- When finding your ideal location to place the lensball, please do keep an eye on it especially if you’re at a height. The balls are solid glass and therefore quite heavy. You don’t want to risk it rolling off and landing on someone’s head!
- When storing your lensball, do not leave it in direct sunlight. They act as a magnifier and will cause fires.🔥
- The above also goes for when taking photos, if someone holds the lensball for you in direct sunlight, it can cause them to burn. As can placing your ball on an object to take a photo. Dry leaves and magnified sunlight = fire 🔥 so please PLEASE always choose your location wisely and keep an eye on the sunlight and your lensball. See the image above of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, you can see the sun shining straight through.
- Pack your lensball carefully, speaking from experience, just chucking the lensball into your bag can result in chips and scratches with can ruin the photo.
What to Buy
Lensball come in a variety of sizes and can all vary greatly in price. Remember that although the bigger the ball the bigger the image, the bigger the ball the greater the weight. Here are a few that I would recommend.
This is the one I currently have, it’s 80mm, so a decent size and it comes in a gift box with a cleaning cloth and pouch.
The below three options are slightly pricier but well worth it as they come with a storage bag. They come in 60mm, 90mm and 110mm (and probably a few more sizes in between) and have a microfiber cloth. This will be something I look for on my next purchase as the bag alone will stop me having to buy new lensballs when I damage mine!
Now this is one I have never seen before but looks very cool and I have just added it on my list to buy! It’s used to create a rainbow effect amongst many others and also comes with a cleaning cloth.
So there you have it, the photographic lensball in a nutshell. Remember although we all strive for that perfect photo, have fun with it and get sharing those images!
As always, any questions please do leave a comment on here or message me directly.