One of the most effective ways of getting more out of your photography is to change the perspective. It’s a great way to explore your camera without needing to get additional equipment. The same concept can be applied to lensball photography, where a change in your lensball perspectives can lead to a burst of creativity with your work. It’s easy to think of lensball photography as a one-trick pony, rather like, say, a fish-eye lens. As any fish-eye lens owner will tell you though, there are plenty of ways to add creativity with that lens, and the same is true of refraction photography with a lensball.
In this article, you’ll learn about nine different lensball perspectives, and how you can go about using them in your photography.
1. The standard lensball perspective
The standard photo might vary from person to person. A lot of people choose the second item on this list, so this is of course subjective. In this type of photo, the lensball will be a significant part of the photo, it will absolutely be the main subject. Where you place the ball and the subject you choose to have within the ball are subjects covered in this article.
Typically the ball will be off-center within the frame, and will fill around forty percent of the photo. The remaining portion of the photo is likely to be the foreground the ball is sitting on, and the background that has been blurred out as part of this photo. This type of photo will be taken using a macro lens, or a lens with a long focal length.
2. The lens ball as part of the scene
A popular alternative to the above photo involves bringing the background into play. This style of photo will need a wide-angle lens, so you can get reasonably close to the lensball, while taking a more standard landscape photo. In this photo, the lensball has become more of an accent in the photo, yet it’s still a focal point for the image. You’re looking at using repetition in your image, with the background of your photo appearing inside the ball as an upside-down image.
There are a number of strategies you can use to enhance this type of photo.
- The tunnel – A classic in photography, this works very well with the lensball as well. Use the infinity point of the tunnel and place the ball at this point in the photo. The tunnel will then frame the photo, and there’s a good chance the image in the ball won’t be noticeably upside down.
- Holding the ball – Holding the ball while photographing it is a popular form of lensball photography. Using a wide-angle lens will allow you to hold the ball, and include a lot of the background in your frame.
- Flipping the image – As the background is prominent in your frame, you might want to use post-processing to flip the image within the ball. You can learn how to do this here.
3. Getting closer
In this photo, you’re using the ball much more like an external lens. Through the use of the macro lens, you can get close enough to the ball that you’re only photographing a portion of it. This allows you to use the curve of the ball as a line coming through your frame, with the main subject photographed within the ball. The outside of the ball will be blurred, even with a smaller aperture. With this in mind, keep the aperture to around f/8. This will give you a sharper image inside the ball.
4. Splitting the horizon line
A great technique to use with the lensball is splitting the horizon.
This works well because of the effect refraction produces. If you line the ball up with the horizon line, the inverted image in the ball will invert along this line. When aiming for this type of photo, it’s important to get the horizon line exactly lined up. Getting this wrong is as bad as not getting your horizon line straight on a regular landscape photo. The following are some ideas that will help you acheive this type of photo.
- Holding the ball – Holding the ball up to the horizon line with your hand can be effective. It’s tricky to get the exact horizon line. Take multiple photos until you’re happy the horizon line within and outside the ball is lined up.
- Minimal landscapes – In order to split the horizon line, you need to be able to see the horizon line. Look for coastal, desert or other locations that don’t have objects blocking this line.
- Use the tripod – With the ball steady on a wall, or perhaps a rock you could use a tripod. With the camera on a tripod, you can make sure the horizon line is lined up. Once you’re ready to take the photo you’ll know this won’t shift as you take the photo.
5. Bending the horizon line
The lensball’s fisheye-like lens properties can, of course, be used in exactly the same way as a fish-eye lens. You can bend the horizon line in the lensball by raising or lowering it away from the horizon line. This can be used to creative effect with your photo.
If there is a lot of interest in the foreground, you could include more of these within the ball. Equally, if the sky is really dramatic, and you want to include more of that, you can. Simply lower the ball away from the horizon line, and watch the line bend towards the top of the ball, and more sky fill the bottom portion of the ball.
6. Distorting your main subject
In addition to bending the horizon line, you can use the lensball to produce other distortions as well. Once again, think of the distortions a fisheye lens can make, and apply that to the lensball. You can use the ball to distort elements of your main subject, providing you can get close to your subject. This works well when the subject is smaller, so this won’t be effective with large architecture.
You can use this distortion to great effect with portrait photography. Here the aim is to distort part of the body, for instance, the eyes, to get a more creative portrait.
7. Photographing down onto the ball
A simple trick involves photographing down onto the ball.
Place the ball on the ground, and stand over the ball to photograph it. No inverted image will appear in the ball, but you will see a magnified version of what the ball is sat on.
This can work well for surfaces that have a texture. For instance, gritty sand or a pebble beach works well. Those photographers looking to create a series of lensball photos that have variety could attempt this style of photo.
8. A worm’s eye view
The worm’s eye view means photographing below the ball and looking up. The only realistic way to do this is holding the ball above yourself, or better still, ask someone to hold the ball for you. This will mean a person’s hand will be in the photo, so look to incorporate this into your composition as best you can. Finally, you’ll need to find an interesting subject to photograph.
The following are some subjects that work well for this angle.
- Tall buildings – When close together these can form a tunnel-like look when looking straight up. Place the ball at the infinity point of this, and take your photo.
- Repetition – When you’re standing under something like a roof of repeating umbrella’s or lanterns, you can use the lensball to capture this.
- Dramatic sky – Sky photos can work well if the sky is interesting enough. This type of photo will be more interesting with a strong subject.
Photos that involve reflection will give you a strong composition. Of course, you need to use the right angle to maximize this reflection. In this case, your perspective will be as low to the angle as you can get.
However, there are scenarios where you can get great reflection photos without the need to get on all fours. In both of these cases, use a circular polarizing filter to increase the strength of the reflection.
- Ball on reflection surface – In this case, you’ll need to get a low angle, so you’ll be on the floor. Marble surfaces or a puddle will work well here. Your aim is to reflect the ball itself in the puddle.
- Ball in front of reflection surface – In this case, you’ll see a reflection surface like a large pond. It’s obviously too large to place the ball into it, but you can still capture the reflection. The ball needs to be placed or held in a position near to the reflection surface. Now within the ball, you’ll see both the reflected and the actual image. These images will both be refracted, so the reflected image will be the one that appears the right way up.
Creativity is in your hands
A change of perspective is a great creative option for every photographer and can lead to some really compelling results. The lensball, when thought of as an external lens, is a great creative tool. When used properly, it is capable of creating a great series of photos under the one theme.
So if you have a lensball, you can go out and try some of these ideas. If you don’t have one, why not get hold of one?!
Finally, we love to see your photos at digital photography school, so why not share some in the comments section below?