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Lens Ball Refraction Photography

This post comes from another website that I own: and I thought I should share it here for everyone interested in crystal lens ball photography. 

As a photographer, we often get jealous when we see those compelling images that leave audience stunned and wowed. These images are created by reflections in photography and most of us have heard about it. Unfortunately, not every photographer can say he knows how to do refraction properly.

​Over the years, some amateur and even professional photographers have approached me to learn the best ways to do crystal ball refraction photography. No doubt, once you master how to photograph with a glass ball, your photography won't be the same again. You can be able to wow your audience and reach the height you don't even imagine possible in photography.

​In this article, you will learn some great tips that will help you master crystal ball refraction photography.

Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

​What is Refraction Anyway?

​Before we get started, let's take a look at what refraction is all about. Refraction is the effect you get when light passes through an object of denser mass like glass or water. This leads to a bent light and distortion. You can experience something magical when refraction occurs with a transparent spherical object. You will see an inverted image of the scene behind the ball.

You can use the lens element in your camera or add a glass ball as an extra lens element so you can easily move your scene around.

​Before we go on, let's take a look at some pros and cons of refraction photography:

​Pros of Refraction:

  • It makes your images standout​
  • Glass ball is more affordable than lens
  • Glass ball allows you to create a fish-eye like effect
  • You can easily change the position of the ball
  • The ball allows you to create a natural frame for your photo
  • You can achieve minimalism by creating bokeh with a large aperture and ball
  • You can create a photo with a more artistic feel when you create your scene with a crystal ball

Cons of Refraction

  • It causes distortion on the edge of the ball​
  • It is really hard to achieve a sharp image inside the ball
  • These large glass balls are very heavy and can be inconvenient especially when you want to travel with them
  • You may need to invest in a macro lens
  • The image in the ball is upside down

Now that you've learned what refraction is all about, let's take a look at how you can do proper refraction in photography.

How To Do Refraction Photography

If you are curious about learning how to achieve that crystal ball effect, the tips below will teach you how you can easily achieve this effect. Please read them carefully:

1. Move Above Your Subject

When trying to achieve refraction photography, you will need to get the ball off the ground and make it level with your subject. This is because a centered subject in the ball will have more impact in the frame and less distortion. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, leaf beds work well when you place the ball in them.

2. Learn To Deal With the Upside Down Image

In some situations, it works to have an upside-down image inside the ball or in the background. If you don't want this, you can avoid it by blurring it out using bokeh. However, if you don't want to use bokeh, you can use reflection since the reflected image will be the right way up inside the ball.

Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

3. Work With the Correct Lens

As a photographer, the first thing you should realize is that you need a correct lens in order to achieve any type of photography you have in mind. The best lens to use in this situation is a macro lens or a telephoto lens with macro capability. With a macro lens, you will be able to get close to the ball which will make it easier for you to create bokeh around the ball. It is also important to note that using a wider angle lens can work only if your scene allows it.

4. Make the Glass Filled With your Subject

A great way to make your subject stand out is to get close to it. If you don't get close to the subject, it will make it appear very small inside the ball. I will recommend that you check if your scene would fill a wide angle lens, you are in luck if it does.

Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

5. Position The Ball In a Safe Place

You will need to find a safe place to position your ball. This is very important especially when you are photographing from a high vintage point. You will need to sit the ball on a flat surface, if you can find a crevice to sit the ball; that would be awesome. Make sure your ball is safe and it won't fall. Keep your hands near it at all times.

If you can't find a safe place to position your ball, ask a friend to hold the ball for you. Note that if you are working during a windy day, you will need to be extra careful, a strong wind can cause your ball to move if it is not in a secure position.

 Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

6. Make Use of the Correct Aperture

Don't forget to make use of the correct aperture for your scene anything you want to create refraction photography. When you use an aperture that is too small, it won't blur the background; on the other hand, an aperture that is too large will make it difficult to get a sharp image inside your ball. Ideally, I would recommend that you use an aperture that is around f/4. However, this will depend on the scene that you are photographing.


Don't forget that you need to light the subject in front of the ball. Every photographer understands the importance of having a well-lit subject. To achieve a great refraction, you need to ensure that your subject is well-lit. Don't be afraid to experiment, you can only get better with practice. Remember, to achieve this, you will need to invest in a crystal ball. Fortunately, you can get one here at Phonetographr at the following link:

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