Lensball Photography - Refractions, Creativity and Tips

Every so often it is a nice change to take my a lensball out with the camera. It is great to go take photographs that are different to normal and to get some different perspectives on usual subjects. It enables you to have a bit of fun with your photography and to then be able to share something more unique.

I thought it would be nice to take a look back at some of my practice and experimental examples and share some of them with tips from what I have learnt along the way, with my crystal ball.

reflection of a dog in lensball

Refractions and Reflections

The way it creates unique eye catching photos is that when you look through the ball it creates a fish eye effect of the whole scene behind it and also turns the image upside down. A mini, upside down, reflected image of the scene before you.

BaldHiker Retreats

Refraction is caused by light passing through the clear glass ball that is denser than the air and this causes the light to bend. The light changes speed as it enters the ball, and direction.

Our own eyes work the same way. As the light of an image hits the retina it becomes refracted and goes to the back of the eye. The reason we don’t see the world upside down is through the wonder of our brain and its ability to convert that image the right way up for us.

throwing a lensball

What Lensball To Buy

Before talking about size I would like to mention the quality. I buy mine from somewhere like Amazon and I like them, however be careful to read all the reviews before buying say the cheapest. For your lensball photography to work you can’t have any imperfections in the glass. It would just ruin every pic, especially as a lot of the time you may be using macro. The crystal ball should have no imperfections at all.

deciding which lensball


There are generally 3 sizes to choose from. Small ones are about 60 mm in diameter. Medium 80 mm and large are 100 mm or more. I am currently using a small one. There are pros and cons for all sizes and the main one being weight and space in your bag or pocket. It is glass after all and a large crystal ball in your bag or backpack can seriously add to the weight, especially if walking like I do with cameras, drone, dog stuff, clothing layers.

If you want to take the more iconic photos with the ball in your fingertips or on your hand then small may look small on your palm so you may want to up a size for that. Myself I use the small (60 mm), as camera position and ball placement helps me get the detail I need.

lensball pet photography

What To Photograph

There are so many fun ideas for lensball photos. As you can see, for I like to use it as a different way to capture pics of my dogs. Either posing or running and having fun.

Reflections within reflections can look super. Use the sea edge on a calm day, a puddle, or calm pond to get the sky inverted with the water against the backdrop.

If you are holding the ball you can move it around in any backdrop you wish.

Plain boring one or two colour backgrounds, with no real subject matter, make it hard to get something to pop out through the lensball. Buildings work great for sure.

any backdrop you wish

Taking The Actual Photo and Camera Settings

The focus of the photo is the ball and the contents within it. Therefore naturally the ball is the focus point for the camera.

In this kind of photography I normally put the camera in Aperture priorty mode. If you use a small aperture, as low as your aperture will go, you can get the ball looking crisp and in focus and give the background a silky effect, bokeh.

For focus either use manually if you like doing that or get the camera properly focused on the ball.

If you are using a smartphone then you can tap the screen where the ball is to get it in focus.

Sunlight. Some of these pics of mine here are spoilt a little by the bright light of sun reflection. I actually prefer non sunny days now for my lensball pics as this is taken out of the equation. Like in this pic of Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire.

get the camera properly focused on the ball


Yes this innocent looking glass ball may be just that to you but there are things to think about. On a hot summer day it can become a huge magnifying glass with similar effects. If you are using it on dry grass and the sun is shining through it just be mindful of this. You may see a bit of smoke but in extreme cases you don’t want to start a fire.

Also if you fly a lot like me you may want to just avoid hassle and put it in the hold luggage. You don’t want to be accused of having a heavy weapon on you.

Also you will see that I have sometimes thrown the ball up in the air to get an even more unique photograph. Like this one in York Minster.

unique lensball refraction photograph

Please note I was not carelessly throwing the ball up and letting it fall. I didn’t want to smash my lensball but more importantly I didn’t want to damage a floor that was steeped in centuries of history. I had double protection of a foam mat on the floor plus a helper catching the ball so all I had to worry about was pressing the shutter.

Be creative with a lensball


Have fun! Be creative. It is always good to try new things, experiment and produce new effects with your pics. I am learning new things all the time myself. You can go back and take a new view of a favourite place or thing to photograph.

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