Cup ball photography is a fantastic way to create compelling images, the type that will leave your viewers both wowed and inquisitive.
But how can glass ball photos function? How do you set up beautiful images? And how do you use a basic crystal ball to capture such striking effects?
In this article, I share everything you need to get started, including a lensball recommendation, plenty of tips, and even a few crystal ball photography ideas.
Let’s dive right in.
How does glass ball photography work?
Cup ball photography, also known as amazingly ball photography, uses refraction to catch unique images. A crystal ball ( lensball ) is placed before a scene; the scene is then refracted in the ball. Thanks to the magic of physics, you end up with an upside down image in the ball, that you can then capture with your camera.
As the professional photographer, you have ultimate control over your lensball image. For instance, simply by repositioning the ball (and by repositioning the digital camera with respect to the ball), you’ll capture different perspectives. You can also modify the aperture for superficial depth of field effects (where the ball is definitely framed by a blurry background), and you can change the distance from the camera to the ball for an interesting close-up effect. I talk about these techniques in greater details below.
1 ) Consider flipping the upside down image
Thanks to refraction, the image inside a cup ball is flipped. And that means you have two options:
- You can keep the inverted image and incorporate it into the structure. For instance, you can juxtapose the flipped image with the genuine scene in the background.
- You can rotate the image during post-processing, so that the ball’s image appears right aspect up. Here, you may want to obnubilate out the background with a wide aperture; that way, the flipped background isn’t obvious.
As you will see throughout this article, I personally use a mix of techniques. Sometimes, I like to keep the inverted crystal basketball image. Other times, I turn the image for a less disorienting effect.
By the way, if you want to create a sharp, right aspect up image but you do not want to do any rotation in post-processing, there is another option:
You can use the ball to photograph reflections . After all, glare are naturally upside down, however the ball will invert all of them for a normal-looking result.
second . Get on a level with your issue
It might be attractive to put your glass ball on the ground and shoot into it, but this will actually result in significant distortion, plus it will certainly create less compositional influence.
Instead, I recommend getting your ball up off the ground and on a level with your subject matter. The key here is to ensure your subject is centered in the ball, so feel free to move the setup around unless you get the composition you’re after.
Note that you’ll want to keep your hands out of the frame, so you can either wake up close and only photograph area of the ball, or you can perch the particular ball on an elevated platform, like a rock, a car, or perhaps a bench.
Naturally , there are exceptions to this advice. Sometimes, it pays to place the ball on the ground, especially if you plan to photograph puddles or leaf beds.
a few. Fill the glass golf ball with your subject
Unless you get close to your own subject, it will appear very small within the ball. So do what you may to close the distance, till your subject looms huge in the ball (and as a result the frame).
This might involve careful planning or even some creativity. The ball is like a wide-angle lens, so try to think about your shot as if you are photographing it at 16mm or so. Would the scene fill the frame from 16mm? If so, you’re fantastic!
four. Choose the correct lens
Yes, you can do cup ball photography with actually any lens, from ultra-wide to super-telephoto. But if you would like to maximize the impact from the ball, I’d really suggest using a macro lens (or a telephoto lens along with significant close-focusing capabilities).
Thanks to a macro lens, you can get close to the golf ball, which does two items:
- It lets you increase the size from the ball in your shot (in other words, you can get shut for lots of detail).
- It helps you create solid background bokeh , which is key if you want to flip the image and keep this natural looking (discussed in Tip 1).
A wide-angle lens can work, too, but only when the scene allows it. I recommend experimenting with a macro lens and a wide-angle lens to determine the effect you like greatest.
5. Pick the correct aperture
Set an ultra-wide aperture, and you’ll end up getting a beautifully blurred history and a sharp foreground. Arranged an ultra-narrow aperture, plus you’ll end up with a crisp foreground and a crisp background.
Neither is obviously better than the other; it just depends on the effect you want. If you’d prefer to create a blurry history (for example, you want to switch the image without a disorienting result), you might try using an aperture of f/4 or so. This can generally blur out the backdrop while creating a sharp picture inside the ball.
But be sure to review the image on your LCD afterward to ensure you get the result you want. In case you go too wide, even the ball is going to be blurred, and everything will become an out-of-focus mess. Furthermore, the depth of field depends on other factors as well, like the distance between the lensball as well as the camera, so experimentation is definitely a good idea.
6. Find a safe place to position the basketball
This is very important, specifically if you are photographing from a high vantage point. Balls are, well, tennis balls , which means that they love to roll, and you certainly don’t want your crystal ball rolling off a counter (or worse, a building). Best case scenario, it’ll end up with scratches – plus worst case scenario, it’ll smash and you’ll need to buy a brand new one.
That’s why I recommend putting the particular ball on a flat surface, as well as a crevice is better (if you can get one). Place the ball meticulously, then let it sit for some seconds. Even if the ball seems stable, keep your (or the friend’s) hands nearby, and watch it like a hawk, specifically on windy days. You need to do not want the ball to blow off in the middle of a photograph!
If you can’t find a good resting place, you may just ask a friend to keep the ball for you. Or, with some practice, you can support the ball yourself (though this really is always tricky; unless you are working with a tripod, you will need to hold the ball in one hand while focusing plus firing the shutter using the other! ).
7. Make sure your subject is usually well-lit
Almost every photo can benefit from a well-lit subject, but it’s specifically important for crystal ball photography.
Why? A strongly lit subject can shine through the ball whilst minimizing reflections. (Yes, those pesky reflections that come from in front of the ball and may show unwanted elements such as the camera lens! )
That’s why I recommend you photograph with the sunlight behind you and striking your own subject directly. Alternatively, you are able to photograph during the blue hour or at night, but aim to photograph buildings with gaily lit facades.
(On the other hand, glare can create interesting effects, therefore don’t be afraid to try out different lighting scenarios if you’re feeling creative. )
Glass ball photography versus standard photography
Are you wondering whether it makes sense to pursue glass golf ball photography? After all, do you really wish to play around with a lensball whenever you could be capturing a beautiful wide-angle shot of the same picture?
In this section, I’ve put together a quick listing of pros and cons – which will help you decide whether crystal ball pictures makes sense for you.
Glass ball pros
- A cup ball is cheaper than the usual lens and allows you to develop an unique fisheye effect
- A ball offers flexibility; you can move this to different positions in your scene
- You can use a large aperture in conjunction with the ball to produce bokeh
- Moments created with a crystal golf ball often have a more artistic really feel
- The ball creates a natural frame for your scene
Glass ball cons
- Larger glass balls are heavy to transport (in an already large camera bag)
- You need a macro lens to get the best results
- The edge of a glass golf ball produces distortion
- Getting a sharp image within the ball can be difficult
- The image in the ball can be upside down, which gives you another problem to contend with
In fact , here’s a quick illustration of an amazingly ball effect. First, we now have a standard wide-angle image of the scene:
And here’s the same scene, but shot with a glass ball:
What do you think? Which shot do you choose? The choice to use a glass basketball is yours to make, although I highly recommend trying it out. Personally, I feel the good qualities majorly outweigh the downsides (plus, you’ve made it this particular far in the article, which means you know all sorts of helpful tips! )
If you find crystal balls too heavy to carry constantly, you can try scouting scenes in advance, then returning for a second visit with only the device you need to get your photo.
Glass golf ball photography: final words
Well, generally there you have it:
Plenty of tips to get started along with crystal ball photography. You can, of course , need a crystal ball – which you can buy simply on Amazon for around $27 USD . Once the ball arrives, head to a local landmark and start experimenting. The list of subjects is really endless; you can start with a single tree, a church, or even a cityscape scene.
Now over to you:
Have you attempted lensball photography? Do you think you’ll start? Share your thoughts and images in the comments below!