There is always a good reason to hone your photography skills indoors, and in this article, you’ll find out how that relates to the Lensball. Indoor Lensball photography is a logical step as the glass ball makes a great still life subject.
As the weather starts to turn colder in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll want to move your photography inside.
Continue reading to learn how to utilize your Lensball for shooting indoors, while avoiding some of the pitfalls.
What is Lensball photography?
Lensball photography is a genre that involves photographing through a glass ball, with a background image refracted inside the glass sphere.
NOTE: Lensball is a proper noun relating to a company that makes such crystal balls specifically for photography. A non-brand name one is good as well. CLICK HERE for glass ball shopping ideas.
Finding good subjects for Lensball photography
The Lensball works very well for landscape photography, and with some appreciation of its constraints, it can work well for portraits as well.
However, one of the most interesting areas that you can practice is. . .
Indoor Lensball photography
With other forms of Lensball photography, the subject in the ball is all-important. However, when the ball is used as a still life object, it then becomes the main subject itself.
But that does not mean the image appearing inside the ball isn’t also important.
With indoor photography, you can also practice light painting with the ball. It works great because transparent objects look good when the light is coming from behind them.
The Lensball as a still life object
Using the Lensball as a still life object can be a lot of fun creatively.
You could choose to use a simple background and just the ball, or perhaps place something behind the ball that works well as the main subject.
The subject should be chosen with care. You have two choices here, to hide the subject behind the ball, or incorporate it into the image background and the image inside the ball.
When you want to hide the subject behind the ball using a larger size Lensball is an obvious advantage. You’ll want to choose a small subject and place the subject close in behind the ball so it appears large inside the glass sphere.
Alternatively, choose a subject that works well both inside the ball, but also provides a narrative element to your photo in the area outside the ball.
The background is very important for a still life Lensball photo because of the refraction that occurs. You could choose one single color, but it’s in your interest to explore other options.
One of the best background types is one with two colors, where the lensball intersects the divide between them. This produces a visually interesting effect whereby the colors swap sides.
Other interesting backgrounds include patterns or a background where the ball is framed by the background.
With the lensball being a glass object some thought is needed when lighting your photo. The technique for transparent objects is to light the background, and bounce the light back through the ball.
If you’re using off-camera flash the best position for your lights is to be level with the ball. You don’t want the flash to be in front as the wide field of view will pick up the strobes.
Likewise, you don’t want to be behind because then the ball will pick up strong reflections from the flashlights on the surface of your ball.
With this in mind, a good light setup has your lights level with the ball, out of frame, and if you have a main subject point to it at a 45-degree angle.
Light painting with a Lensball
Indoor light painting with the Lensball is a great natural fit. With the light source usually behind the ball, you naturally get nice light that shines through the ball for the refraction effect.
Here are a few tips worth thinking about when setting up for this type of photo. The setup is the most important part of successful Lensball light painting.
The following are some tips to help you get started:
- Camera + tripod – A long exposure is required for light painting, so you’re going to have to set up your camera on a tripod
- Black background – Using a black background behind the ball will reduce the chance of the background showing up in your photo.
- Glass sheet – Place a sheet of glass (the equivalent size of an A3 piece of paper, or 11×16″ roughly) onto a table. Place some black paper underneath the glass to increase reflectivity.
- Lensball holder – The ball will roll away on the glass without a holder. Use the one provided with the ball. Alternatively use a keyring, or a staple bent into a square shape, as a wedge under the ball to keep it in place.
- Lensball – Finally place your Lensball on the glass sheet close to the back edge.
- A dark room – The room you choose should be shielded from direct or bright light. If you have a room with no windows (or dark blinds) this will be easier to achieve, otherwise, you may be restricted to photographing at night.
Taking the photo
Taking the photo itself should now be straightforward.
You can adjust how much reflection from the glass surface you want by changing camera height. The closer it is to the level of the glass, the greater your reflection effect will be. Try some up high, and some shots down lower.
The exposure time need only be long enough for you to complete the light painting, somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds will be sufficient. Choose your aperture and ISO for correct exposure, which means exposing for the light patterns.
Read more on light painting here:
- Light Painting Experiments to Improve Your Photography
- Three Special Effects for Night Photography
- Fun With Light Painting at Home
As with any form of light painting you can experiment with the tools you use. One of the best devices is a programable LED light stick. You could also use a torch (flashlight), a smartphone, or a string of fairy lights.
When light painting it’s usually best to paint from on one side of the subject, and behind the ball. Avoid painting from the camera position or the front of the ball.
NOTE: Notice that the light is being aimed at and painting on the background in these images, not at the ball directly. Doing so will result in a bright hotspot of light or odd refractions.
Discover a whole world indoors!
There are lots of ways you can use the Lensball, outdoors or indoors. Indeed it’s also possible to use the Lensball for indoor portraits, should you have a studio setup.
There is no better time to learn some new experimental photography techniques. So if you have a lot of time indoors then why not try these out!
At Digital Photo Mentor we love to see your work, so if you have examples of indoor Lensball photography please share them in the comments below.
Why not buy yourself a lensball today and get out and try out this style of photography yourself? Let’s see what you can create!
If you’re interested in learning about lensball photography, my course called Globalise, comes highly recommended. Digital Photo mentor readers can apply the following code to get a discount on any of my courses: DPM20.