What is Lensball Photography and How to Get Started
Adding extra creativity to your photography usually comes in the form of learning a new technique, or perhaps buying a new camera lens. In this article, you’ll learn how you can achieve both of those things with lensball photography.
Read on to find out what is a lensball and how you can use it to add more creativity into your photographs.
What is a lensball?
Lensball is simply the rebranding of a crystal ball or glass ball, which has then been marketed to photographers. It is also a company brand name – Lensball.
Many photographers have bought into this product now, even at the slightly higher price compared to a regular crystal ball. You can do this kind of photography with either product.
What is lensball photography?
Lensball photography is the act of taking a photograph through a glass ball also called a lensball. The name is a good description because it acts as an external lens optic. The ball uses refraction to bend the light as it passes through the glass, which is of denser mass than air.
The lensball acts as a natural frame to capture the scene directly behind it, albeit upside down. The effective focal length of the lensball is similar to that of a fisheye lens.
How does refraction work?
Refraction is the distortion of light that gets bent as it passes through an object of denser mass.
The simplest way to see this in action is to place a pen in a half-filled glass of water. The pen will appear to be “thicker” in the lower section of the glass where the water sits.
With a glass object, the light passes through it and switches sides as it does so. This leads to an upside-down image within the Lensball.
This is also the science behind your regular camera lenses.
A series of concave and convex elements render an image onto your camera sensor or film. If you don’t believe me, take one of your lenses and remove both the front and rear cap and look through it and see for yourself.
You may not know it, but you’re already a refraction photographer!
Which size lensball should you get?
The lensball is available in two sizes. One of the most common questions I get asked about this genre of photography is, “What size should I get?”. The short answer for most situations is the larger one.
The following are the two size options you have for lensballs:
- 60mm – The smaller of the two sizes is more like a large marble. It’s good because it’s pocket size, and is not that heavy. It’s also easier to place it in a small nook or cranny. The downside is the sweet spot for focus is smaller, leading to a more distorted image inside the ball.
- 80mm – This size is the main product from most lensball companies. Large enough to get a great image within the ball, and not so large that it becomes a heavy burden for you to carry around. If you’re starting out with lensball photography you should use this size.
There are plenty of other options for refraction photographers that are not marketed specifically as a lensball. There is a good case for using one of these instead of the name brand ones. However, as mentioned the 80mm lensball is the optimum size for most photographers getting started.
100mm Glass balls
Most of the images in this article were taken with a 100mm glass ball. Well before lensballs were a thing, the larger 100mm ball was the size of choice.
If you’re prepared to carry around a larger, heavier ball the quality of image you can create inside the larger piece of glass is better.
Colored glass balls
The option of using different colored glass for increased creativity is also another reason to shop away from the two main lensball companies. Although the clear glass does give you more options for your photography.
These are the smallest and least expensive glass balls of all! The image quality, however, is debatable and you’ll need a macro lens to compose close enough to the marble to make it workable and worthwhile doing.