Crystal photography balls, or lenballs, have been getting more and more popular over the last few years. We first dabbled with creative lensball photography back in 2019, and it’s only really now that I think we’ve actually mastered how to use a lensball, both with a camera and an iphone. So, here are 5 lensball photography tips and ideas that should help you start getting some killer shots with your lensball.
Let me start by saying that we’ve really enjoyed using our lensball. It’s been a fun way to get creative with photography and we’ve taken some great photos with it (below).
That said, a lensball is by no means something that I would recommend you take everywhere with you. It’s pretty heavy and so a bit of a pain to carry around. It’s also fairly fragile, and any dents or scratches that you do on the crystal will inevitably impact your photos.
But like I say, if you plan to take it in advance and have our list of lensball photography tips at hand, it can be used in virtually any environment.
Before I get onto the lensball tips and ideas, one thing I wanted to point out straight off the bat is that clearly, the image inside the lensball is upside down.
If you’ve not yet got a lensball, that is something that I wanted to point out because we have some questions on this. All of your lensball photos will be upside down in the raw image on your camera. This is just due to refraction in the crystal ball.
Now, I personally quite like this as it makes it look a bit more trippy. That said, if you are wondering how to flip the lensball image, don’t worry! I will cover that at the end of the article.
So, let’s get into our 5 lensball photography tips:
Our Lensball Photography Tips
1. Get low down, level or lower than the lensball
The thing we like most about these balls is that they allow you to capture a completely different type of photo than you can get with just your camera.
There are several advantages to this. For example, it allows you to mix up your portfolio, blog content or Instagram profile with a different type of shot thrown in there.
The classic crystal photography ball photos are the ones where you can see the ball in focus and the background blurred out. The best ones of these include an interesting landscape or event, which you can see through the ball itself.
One thing that we realised very quickly is that to get this type of shot you need the camera lens to be at least exactly behind the ball, and preferably slightly lower down than the lensball.
If the camera lens is higher than the lens ball, the image that you pick up inside the ball will be mainly of the floor and not the landscape that you want.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get your camera down low enough to fully pick up the background.
My advice is, be creative with where you place your lensball.
If possible, try to find or build something that can elevate the position of the lensball, so that you can easily get your camera lens behind it.
To demonstrate how you can easily get creative with where you place your lensball, I built a little platform out of sand (image above) to elevate the lensball’s position. This allowed me to get the camera lens nicely level, and thus I could capture the background in the photo through the ball.
2. Focus on the crystal
Generally speaking, the use of a lens ball is only warranted if you always get up nice and close to the ball and have it in focus, with the background blurred out. If you don’t go for this then you’ll just end up with a photo of a crystal ball, not very interesting.
2 extra tips if you are using a DSLR camera
- Auto vs Manual Focus: Sometimes it can be difficult to get the lens ball in focus, especially if you are using Auto Focus on your camera. If you are comfortable using manual focus then I would definitely recommend that here.
- Macro Lens: In terms of lenses on your camera, you’re going to ideally want to use a Macro Lens. This will make it easier to get closer to the ball and remain in focus. That said, if you don’t own a Macro Lens I wouldn’t go out and get one just because you have a lens ball. You can still get very good photos with a wide-angle lens, it is just a bit more challenging.
3. Keep the Camera Still
The clearer the image inside the lensball, the better the photo will turn out. If you can keep your camera still, you won’t have any motion blur in your image. This gives you a better chance of keeping the lensball image clear and focused.
Lensball photography can be unorthodox at times as you bend over to get your camera lens down low or start trying to balance your ball on some ledge etc.
If possible, use a tripod to stabilise your camera.
4. Be ‘creatively trippy’ with your lensball ball photography ideas
One of the main benefits of using a lens ball is that it gives you the opportunity to get unique, sometimes trippy results.
Take advantage of light displays and unusual surroundings. Zoom right into your lensball and capture something fascinating. You could even take a video through a lens ball to really get people guessing what’s going on!
This is a perfect example of how, with the right approach, using a lensball can make fairly difficult photography conditions pay dividends with some awesomely trippy-looking images.
5. How to flip lensball image
When you take a photo with a lensball, the image inside the crystal will be flipped due to refraction. Now, I personally don’t mind this as it can make the photo even more interesting. Refraction photography is even an art in its own right.
But I get that sometimes, you’ll want to flip the image inside the crystal the right way up.
To achieve this you have a few options:
- Blur the hell out of the background. Ideally blur the background out to the extent that you can’t make it out. Then just rotate the entire image 180 degrees, or even take it with your camera upside down!
- Use Photoshop or some other software, grab the image inside and rotate it 180 degrees.
- Take advantage of reflections. This can be more difficult, but if you take the photo of reflection, it will flip the image again. A 360 flip = no flip!
We’ve really enjoyed using our lensball recently. It was definitely a challenge to learn where and how to use a lensball, but that’s all part of the fun.
The thing that I like most about it is that to come up with good lensball photography ideas, you have to your creative hat on. Lensballs also allow you to get great photos in challenging weather conditions and potentially uninspiring places.
For example, the first image that I showed (of the fire) was from a dull, dark day on the beach. Using the lensball with the fire gave us a pretty cool image.
Similarly, the trippy lensball photo that I shared was taken at night. Night photography is notoriously difficult to get right even with good equipment, but the lensball meant a really cool shot could be achieved.
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