Contrary to what you may be thinking, the Lensball does not conjure spirits or provide a glimpse into the future. What it does do, however, is create distorted upside down images that can be used to add a creative element to a variety of photographic situations.
Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball
The Lensball can be used to creatively enhance almost any type of subject matter but, before we get into that, a quick word of caution.
Because the Lensball is a sphere of flawless crystal, it magnifies the intensity of light. If you've ever tried to start a fire using a magnifying glass, this is the same concept except to a higher degree.
For best results, I recommend using the Lensball on overcast days or in shaded areas. Using it in direct sunlight can not only pose a threat to your eyeballs but the Lensball magnifies the heat of the sun so much that it will start a fire in a matter of seconds. Then it will burn your hand when you try to pick it up!
This is a serious warning, please don't burn down the forest!
Types Of Lensball
I ordered my Lensball from Amazon and there were plenty to choose from. So far as I can tell, all Lensballs are made from something called K9 glass or crystal and are pretty much exactly the same except for the size, name brand, price, and accessories.
I wanted a large Lensball because I thought it would render the best results so I chose one that was 90mm. The most common size seems to be 80mm and they come in smaller sizes too.
I recommend choosing a lensball that comes with an accessory kit that includes a tripod adapter with the little suction cup for the Lensball to sit in and a case for it too. The one I chose was from a company called Besnfoto and I made that decision based on getting the biggest Lensball with the most accessories for the best price.
Using The Lensball
My favorite way to use the Lensball is place it directly into the environment and make it part of the composition of the photo. Personally, I'm not a big fan of placing the Lensball on a tripod or of hand holding it as both of these methods detract from the organic, magical qualities that the Lensball creates.
The best lighting conditions for using the Lensball are on overcast days or around sunset on sunny days. The angle and intensity of the light at sunset make this an unlikely time for the Lensball to start fires and an excellent opportunity to pump up the dramatic quality of the image.
Aside from the Lensball itself, there is also the issue of what lens to use on your camera. I don't know that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer to this but I usually use a mid range lens like my Sigma 17-50 2.8 EX. This lens provides a wide enough focal range to deal with most situations.
As you can see, the photo above is pretty wide (around 17mm) to include the shape of the tree in the background whereas the photo below is more telephoto (closer to 50mm).
Even if you are including a good deal of background in your image, be sure to always focus through the Lensball as what you see through the sphere is the subject of the photo. Because of the the distortion caused by the curved glass, it is a good idea to stop down a bit in order to have a sharp image in the ball. I recommend going down to at least f8. Interestingly, even by stopping down, the back ground will still be thrown out of focus thus creating effecting separation between the subject and everything else. The reason for this is because the image displayed through the Lensball is effectively only as far away as the distance between the camera lens and the Lensball not the distance between the camera lens and the actual location of the back ground.
Because of the way the Lensball magnifies light, the scene in the ball will typically be brighter than the scene around it so check your exposure carefully to make sure the subject is not over exposed.
Upside Down or Right Side Up?
The image seen through the Lensball will be inverted which creates an interesting dilemma. Depending on what will create the most visually interesting final product, you may want to consider turning your image upside down so the image in the Lensball will be right-side up.
Incidentally, in the image below you can see that I am hand holding the Lensball. This is my least favorite way to do it but, in this particular situation, there was no other way which just goes to show that there is an exception to every rule.
While I am generally not a fan of placing the Lensball on a tripod, one exception to the rule is sunsets. To photograph an open-sky sunset, a tripod is the best way to go. The tripod itself will generally be below the horizon line and should therefore by concealed by darkness anyway.
For best results with sunsets, it helps to shoot at an up-angle and it also helps if the Lensball is in a stable position, hence the need for the tripod. As a special bonus tip, if you align yourself just right between the Lensball and the sun, it creates a type of Aurora Borealis affect around the edge of the ball and it's super cool! The angle has to be exactly right though, no margin for error, and this would be almost impossible to accomplish if you were trying to hold the Lensball in one hand and your camera in the other. A tripod is the only way.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.