What A Load of Old Lens Balls!

Fads often come and go in the photography world and it would seem that the Lens Ball is currently the latest craze. But how easy are they to use......



Lens Ball reflecting a tree
Lens Ball Photography

In recent years we have seen many photography trends from over saturated HDR and colour popping to name a couple. I must confess I have had my past obsessions. My HDR these days I like to think is a little more subtle but who still doesn't love a Red London bus set against a monochrome street.


The best way to describe a lens ball is to imagine the crystal ball used by the stereotypical seaside fortune teller. You may not see your future when gazing upon one but what you will get is a complete 360 degree reflection of everything surrounding it.


I had mine given to me at Christmas. Indoors I couldn't really find an inspiring use for it. Too many doors and windows being reflected around the house. It's actually quite bulky so not something you want to just throw into a camera bag on a long walk.


Living within in walking distance of Rochester; the Castle and Cathedral I have photographed many times, so I wanted to do something a little bit different. Here are my observations and tips from that shoot on how to use a lens ball effectively.



Rochester Castle reflected upside down in a Lens Ball
Upside Down Reflection

The first thing you will notice with a ball is that the reflection is upside down so some post production flipping will be required if this is not affect you want.








Plant and wall reflected in a lens ball
Reflected Surface


If you place the ball directly on the ground or wall, a lot of that surface will be reflected, which is fine for an image like this one. However it may not always be desirable.






For most of these shots in this blog; I balanced the glass mount and ball on top of my tripod, by lifting it off a surface I was able to get more of my intended subject into the reflection.



Rochester Castle reflected in a Lens Ball
Avoiding Sun Flares

As it was midday I had to be careful with my angles to avoid sunflares hitting the glass. A few spots on this image had to be removed in post production. As you can see the sun was very bright at the top right of the ball.







The next issue I was faced with was exposure. The image in the ball was coming out far darker than the brighter background when using evaluative metering. To compensate I switched to spot metering, one of the few occasions where I have found this to be more effective.


All of these shots were taken with a wide angle lens 17-40 mm. Set at around 35 mm with an aperture of f8. My focus was aimed at the subject matter in the ball which gave me a very shallow depth of field in the background areas surrounding the ball.


To capture both a sharp image in the ball and the background subject would have required two shots. One focusing on the actual castle in the background and one on the castle in the ball; then stacking the two images together in post production. Unfortunately I only had one tripod with me so was unable to keep the camera still enough between both shots. Something I will attempt on my next lens ball outing.


In post production I played around with some different effects to suit each image.



Rochester Castle reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle


Using the spot healer and cloning tools in photoshop I was able to turn the glass holder into a bubble shape so the ball looks like a water drop.









Rochester Castle reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle


A heavy black vignette and the cloning tool were used in this image to give it the plain black background.











Rochester Castle reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle


This background effect was created in photoshop with two duplicate layers. The top layer had a blur filter applied which was then masked to reveal the ball from the layer beneath.







Fenced Stairs reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle Grounds

This image I just simply applied a darkening vignette.











Tree reflected in a lens ball
Tree, Rochester Riverside

This one I left the background as it was because I wanted to show the original line of the tree branches. I also left in the glass stand. It makes the ball look like it's hanging and I didn't see it as being a major distraction from the image.






Here are just a couple more from the shoot.



Rochester Cathedral reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Cathedral




Rochester Castle reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle




Rochester Castle reflected in a lens ball
Rochester Castle

A great way to kill a few hours on your local doorstep and do something a little bit different.


Love them or hate them a lens ball will definitely get you thinking about light, reflection and composition.






To find out more about my photography classes, workshops and events visit my website:- https://www.louiseehubbardphotography.com


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rends from over saturated HDR to colour popping to name a couple. I must confess I have had my past obsessions. My HDR these days I like to think is a little more subtle but who still doesn't love a Red London bus set against a monochrome street.

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