Lensball Photography on your Smartphone

Lensball photography is something that many traditional photographers experiment with at some point during their career, but it can also be a fun way for mobile photographers to express their creativity and try something new.

The great thing about lensballs is that they can be used in so many different ways. No matter what type of photography you’re used to, with a little creativity, you can capture interesting and unique photos with a simple lensball.

What is Lensball Photography?

If you’re unfamiliar with lensball photography, it’s quite simple. Lensballs are clear, crystal balls used to take refraction photos. Even if you haven’t heard the term ‘lensball photography’ before, it’s likely that you’re familiar with refraction photos.

Refraction photos are images taken where the background appears blurry or out of focus, while the entire scene is seen in sharp clarity inside something like a lensball or drop of water. 

In most cases, taking refraction photos using a lensball is much easier than depending on the weather for that dew drop or carrying around water for the same effect.

So, how do you get this effect using a lensball? It’s quite simple once you understand how light interacts with the crystal as well your camera lens.

As light enters the crystal ball, it becomes distorted due to the spherical shape of the object. Although the lensball is clear, the distortion causes the image behind the ball to appear inverted. So that cityscape behind your lensball will appear upside down in your photos.

Once you understand that the lensball will always produce an inverted image of whatever you’re trying to photograph, you can adjust your position and technique accordingly to ensure you get the shot you want.

What Size Lensball is Best?

lensball photography on a smartphone
Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Lensballs come in a variety of sizes, but the size that works best for you will depend on what type of photography you intend to do.

Lensballs are typically divided by size according to their diameter. Small lensballs are those that measure less than 60mm in diameter. You can even find lensballs as small as a marble. 

The benefits of smaller lensballs are rather obvious. They are lighter in weight, easier to handle and carry, and fit in places that larger lensballs won’t.

However, these same attributes can also be drawbacks. Small, lightweight lensballs may move in the wind and they may roll out of place more easily. They’ll also be easier to lose in a disorganized gear bag.

With smaller lensballs, it’s also a good idea to use a detachable macro lens on your smartphone for the best effect. Since the area you need to focus on will be smaller with a more petite lensball, your phone’s lens may not be able to focus as well without a little help. If you want to skip the learning and go straight to seeing the best in the industry head to head, then watch Episode 1 of the Sandmarc vs Moment Series – macro lenses.

Large lensballs are usually over 100mm in diameter. They’re typically big enough to be held in the palm of your hand, so they make it easier to fill your frame or hide certain aspects of your background if necessary.

They can be heavy and obnoxious to carry around, but their larger diameter often gives you higher image quality. The larger ball means that more of your image will be in focus and you don’t need to bother with a detachable macro lens.

Most photographers end up using lensballs somewhere in the middle. Medium lensballs usually measure about 80mm in diameter and are generally the most versatile size. 

Medium lensballs are usually heavy enough to stay where you put them, but not a noticeably heavy addition to your gear bag. The ball will fill your frame well and will fit into all but the smallest spaces.

Using a detachable macro lens on your smartphone is optional when using a medium-sized lensball. Some smartphones may capture lovely images without one, but you may also prefer using a macro lens to get the sharpest image possible.

When deciding which size lensball to use, consider what type of photography you’ll be doing and where your photoshoots will be taking place. Depending on your final decision, you may also need to consider adding a macro lens to your cart.

Photographing with a Lensball

mobile lensball photography tips and tricks
Photo by Calvin Priddell on Unsplash

When photographing with a lensball, it’s important that you position it in a way that best captures the scene behind it. This may mean elevating the ball off the ground by placing it on a higher surface or holding it in your hand. You want your subject to be centered behind the ball to achieve the best look.

This may also mean that you need to get fairly close to your subject, depending on what it is you’re photographing. Try moving the ball closer to your subject or moving your phone closer to the lensball. This is where a macro lens can come in handy.

It’s also important for your subject to be well lit to achieve the best final image. Though good lighting is always important with mobile photography, it’s especially important when working with lensballs in order to have the sharpest image possible.

Lensball Safety

safely using lensball for photography
Photo by Nagy Arnold on Unsplash

No matter what type of photography you’re doing, safety should always be a priority. Keeping yourself and your equipment safe from harm is especially important. Working with lensballs is no different, but there are things you should be aware of before your lensball photoshoot.

Lensballs interact with light in a way that’s similar to magnifying glasses. For this reason, you should be careful about shooting in direct sunlight. Like a magnifying glass, it’s possible for a lensball to start a fire, so avoid leaving your ball unattended in bright sunlight.

This also means that it’s possible for the ball to become hot to the touch after sitting in direct sunlight. Be careful when handling your lensball as you don’t want to drop it if you pick it up and realize that it’s too hot to handle.

Lensballs are made out of crystal, which means they will shatter if dropped. Which means you’ll also need to be careful about where you use your lensball and how you position it. You need to make sure the ball won’t roll away as soon as you take your hands off, especially if it’s windy during an outdoor shoot.

If you need help stabilizing your lensball, lensball stands are available and are made out of a variety of materials. You can find stands made of wood, crystal, or even metal, so whatever your photoshoot requires, you can find a stand that will suit your style and keep your lensball safe.

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