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Crystal Ball Photography – my latest toy and project

Crystal Ball Photography

Crystal Ball Photography or Glass Orb Photography is certainly nothing new and has been done to good and bad effect by many photographers before. That said it’s something I have never done before and a challenge I am really looking forward to experimenting with in all weathers and locations. Here is an affiliate link to the crystal ball that I have purchased https://amzn.to/2wEiNZ5 if you use the link it costs you no more but I get a few pennies to help with the hosting costs of this website, thank you.

The Clear Crystal Ball is 80mm or 3.14 inches in size and costs £13.99 with free postage. The size of the orb may not sound very large but I have it here on my desk and it looks a perfect size for photography and a good fit for the fingers when it comes to holding it for some creative shots, 80mm is also a common size that many photographs chose for doing this type of photography, of course, an even larger orb would be great but remember, larger ones can be heavy when carrying them with the rest of your camera kit when out and about shooting images in the countryside or at the beach.

glass orb photography

So how does the magic of crystal ball photography actually work? In a word, refraction – Refraction happens when light passes through an object of denser mass, such as water or glass. When this happens, light is bent, and there is a distortion. When refraction occurs with a transparent spherical object something magical happens. An inverted image of the scene behind the ball is seen. The lens elements in your camera actually work this way as well. You can use a glass ball as an extra lens element, one you can move around your scene in all kinds of creative and artistic ways.

Things to remember when doing crystal ball photography:-

  • The refracted image in the ball will be upside down as you can see in the image above
  • The entire image can be turned upside down in post to make the refracted image the right way up or the image in the orb can be spun in Photoshop so all is the right way up
  • Glass orbs can be heavy to carry, I find 80mm just right and not too heavy
  • In summer crystal balls can magnify sunlight, watch your hands in strong sunlight or wear gloves to handle the ball
  • place the ball off the ground, for best results try and get above the subject
  • Fill the frame with the ball as much as possible otherwise, the ball can look a little lost in the frame
  • Shoot with the sun behind you, the stronger the sunlight lighting the ball the less shadow reflection you will get from the ball itself
  • Choose the correct lens and aperture, a macro or long lens is a good choice, as for aperture, f/4 is a good starting point if you want to blur out the background but lager apertures f/8+ can work well also depending on the scene and the effect you are trying to achieve.
  • The camera will autofocus on the front of the ball, use manual focus after that to try and focus in the middle of the ball for a sharper subject image
  • Be careful when placing the ball, the wind may blow it and make it roll!

Even though I have not yet been out photographing with my new crystal ball, those are the basic tips I have read online and watched onYouTube. The main thing, as always with photography, get out, experiment and most of all enjoy!

I would love to see some of your own crystal ball shots in the comments below 🙂

** All images in this article are stock images and were not taken by me.

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Tim Hill

I am a landscape/seascape photographer from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England. All comments appreciated and answered.

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