Refraction Photography: 4 Practical Suggestions (+ Examples)

Refraction Picture taking: 4 Practical Tips (+ Examples)

refraction photography techniques

Refraction photography is a  ton  of enjoyable, but how does it function? How can you get started capturing gorgeous refraction photos?

In this article, I’m going to share plenty of tips and ideas for stunning refraction shots, which includes both glass refraction and water refraction photography. I’ll also share plenty of good examples, so you know  exactly  what you can achieve!

So if you’re prepared to capture some photos much like this…

british flag reflection in water doplet

…then let’s get going!

What is refraction photography?

Refraction photography refers to photos that capture a refraction  effect , where light is definitely bent in glass, drinking water, or some other surface to make a subject appear very large, very small, or otherwise distorted.

Here’s a simple refraction photo, which uses a marble in order to refract the light and make a house look tiny (note that the image is turned upside down! ):

lens ball photo flipped upside down

Refraction pictures can be creative, mind-bending, and all-around great . It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone as a professional photographer, and the effect is insanely easy to pull off once you know a number of tricks.

Getting started with refraction photography: find a refractive object

To take a refraction photo, you’ll need an object that produces the refraction effect.

Any transparent object with a mass different than that of air will cause refraction, although the most useful refractive objects are spherical. And while it’s probable to get refraction through clear plastic objects, for the best image quality, I recommend you take through glass or drinking water.

Here are a few associated with my favorite refractive objects:

  • Marbles
  • Crystal balls (sometimes referred to as lens balls by photographers)
  • Water droplets
  • Sheets of cup
  • Wine glasses
  • Fish tanks

refracted in a droplet

This photo has been taken through the bottom of the drinking glass. The bubbles at the bottom refracted the light.

Now let’s take a closer look at several of your options (I share plenty of tips along the way! ).

1 . Try refraction photography using a glass ball

If somebody says “refraction photography, ” most photographers will instantly think of a glass basketball – because it’s user friendly, gets great results, and is (probably) the most popular object useful for this type of image. Glass paintballs are a great piece of extra kit to have in your camera bag, and offer all sorts of creative benefits (and they’re relatively inexpensive, too! ).

I like to use glass projectiles for landscape photography; you can perch them on a rock and roll, a car, or even your hand, then capture a stunning “tiny world” shot. The glass basketball is also perfect for architecture and also portrait photos if you use this properly.

I’d recommend thinking of the ball as an external fisheye lens . This shrinks and bends the particular scene, though it appears to  magnify  objects close to its surface. You should always find a stable surface – I recommend a wall of some sort – and make sure the ball is on the same degree as the object you’re capturing. Whenever you go to take a picture, watch the ball carefully. You don’t want it to roll away and split!

the lens ball flipped upside down

The Ferris wheel is refracted inside this glass ball, and the bokeh forms complement the scene nicely. I’ve flipped the image upside down, too!

2 . Use marbles for any distorted effect

If you like the idea of wild contortion in your refraction photography, after that I’d recommend using a marble. This is similar to shooting the glass ball (discussed above), but marbles offer a few unique advantages:

  • The glass may not be as good quality, which gives the grungier image
  • There will be more distortion as well as a smaller sweet spot in which the image is clear
  • They’re significantly lighter, which makes them easier to carry around
  • They’re easier to position on the surface without falling away from, thanks to the smaller size

Also, since marbles are so small plus light, you can carry two, three, or even a handful together with you into the field or the facilities, which allows you to incorporate many into a single shot:

marbles on a line

Now, marbled photography does come with a clear disadvantage: marbles are small , if you want to make the most of the refracted image, you should really work with a macro lens, or at least a lens that focuses close.

Of course , you are also free to get innovative with wider lenses plus incorporate the marble(s) in to the scene – it’s most up to you!

a few. Go crazy with water droplets

Drinking water droplet photography is done simply by pretty much every close-up photographer, and for good reason:

This looks gorgeous, and you can obtain great results from the convenience of your kitchen!

The key here is to create huge water droplets and/or make use of a macro lens. The falls will refract the picture behind them, so you can have lots of fun positioning different objects in the background, such as flags, flowers, and more.

Really, when it comes to water refraction photography, the sky will be the limit, so here are just a couple ideas:

  1. Water droplets on a glass surface . Spritz water onto a transparent surface with a spray bottle or a syringe, then add an interesting item underneath, such as a banner or a flower. Get while close as you can with a macro lens, then shoot!
  2. Droplets dropping from a tap . Right here, the goal is to operate a faucet, add an interesting background element (such as a linen of colored paper or – yet again! – a flag), then capture refractive droplets in mid-flight.   Here are some great examples of this type of photo. It might take a lot of trial and error, but the results will be worthwhile.
  3. Normally occurring water droplets . You can always hunt around in nature for interesting tiny droplets – such as water drops on spider webs just after sunrise, or water falls on grass or blossoms after a rainstorm. Of course , if you like the idea of shooting out inside nature but can’t wait for rain, just use a squirt bottle or syringe!
  4. Water tiny droplets on CDs . Place water drops onto the CD using a syringe. The larger the water droplets, the better! In that case photograph the mini-rainbows that appear. For a creative outcome, try turning the lighting off, then using a torch to light paint while capturing a long exposure.

Hopefully 1 or 2 of those refraction picture ideas tickled your fancy! Here are a few examples:

7 Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

I placed tiny droplets onto a translucent surface area, then slipped the Malaysian flag underneath!

water droplet refraction

The particular drop of water from a tap is caught mid-flight.

water droplets on a CD

Water droplets appear amazing when captured on a CD!

4. Fill a wine glass with water to produce some mind-bending results

Wine glasses are spherical, so if you fill associated with water, you’ll get a refracted image  inside  the glass. And wine glasses don’t roll away, so they’re safer compared to glass balls when placed on surfaces.

You may use a wine glass pertaining to purely creative images, you can also use it for portraits, landscapes, and more. You might even use the wine glass as a prop – held by a portrait subject, but refracting the entire scene.

Try positioning a filled glass in front of colored paper, like this:

refraction photography cup with paper in background

Cool, right?

Refraction photography: final words

Refraction photography is all about creativity, plus it makes for quite interesting photo projects. So head out with your camera plus a glass ball, grab some marbles, or try water refraction photography.

The options are endless, so go wild!

Now over to you:

Are there various other refractive objects you can recommend? Which of these suggestions can be your favorite? Share your thoughts (and refraction photos! ) in the comments below!

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Simon Bond

Simon Bond

is a specialist inside creative photography techniques and it is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His function has featured magazines including National Geographic Traveler. Along with over 8 years of encounter in lensball photography, Claire is an expert in this industry. Get some great tips by downloading his free e-book!
Do you want to learn about crystal golf ball photography? He has a course simply for you! Obtain 20% off: DPS20.

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