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10 Steps To Amazing Glass Ball (Crystal Ball/Sphere) Photography

South Parade Pier
South Parade Pier | Glass Ball Photography

So, what is Glass Ball photography or so called Crystal Ball photography and why is it fascinating?

If you ask any professional photographer, what makes a photo a “great” photo; most of them would say – a photo which shows a different perspective or a photo which shows something you have never seen before.

That’s where Glass Ball comes into picture – to give an interesting angle to the same mundane photo.

Glass Ball photography is based on Refraction fundamentals. Due to its round shape, light passes through the glass ball and inverts the image upside down. This would leave the viewers in awe.

So, if you are wondering what camera setting you have to keep for glass ball photography, what care should be taken and how should you deal with the composition, below are the steps you can follow to take the perfect shot.

Step 1 – Buying a Glass Ball

Obvious step is to buy a Glass Ball or lend it from some one. Normally 80-100mm diameter ball is good for landscape photography. Bigger ones are difficult to carry and picture looks very small in the smaller ones, so 80-100 mm is an ideal size.

I bought an100mm crystal ball on Amazon for just £16 but the results it gives are priceless. Buy it on Amazon.

Step 2 – Placing the Glass Ball

Place the crystal ball safely where you can get a good photographic composition. For example, if you want to take a picture of some monument, place it on a rock or hold it firmly off the ground. If you want to capture an ocean, place it on the beach. Levelling the ball is important as it gives an exaggerated fish eye effect and your subject not would be framed correctly inside the ball without this.

Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower | Glass Ball Photography

Step 3 – Safety of the Glass Ball

Make sure the ball is at a safe position and it won’t fall. As it’s quite heavy, it can hurt someone or if it falls, your glass ball photography dream might get shattered (You can buy another one, but still :p ). Also, when I was doing some seascapes, it was quite difficult to hold it over the sand due to the waves.

Step 4 – Composing a photo through the Glass Ball

Fill the subject within the ball. Make sure that your subject is perfectly framed within the glass ball as you would want it to be. For example, if you are capturing an ocean, see to it that there are some interesting subjects like Sun, waves, ships, rocks inside the frame to awe your viewer.

Victoria Pier Southsea
Victoria Pier Southsea | Glass Ball Long Exposure

Step 5 – Aperture value

Choose the correct F value. A very high aperture value will not get you a sharp photo inside the Glass ball and too low would not give you proper depth of field which you are looking for. I normally keep it from F/4 to F/6 depending on the photo.

Step 6 – Focal length

Choose the correct Focal Length – If you want to blur out the background and focus on the glass ball in your photo, you should use maximum focal length to capture your photo. For example, if you have a 18/55 mm Kit lens, try using 55 mm focal length. However, sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the subject with 55 mm when you move very close to it.

Macro lens is a good option for Glass ball photography as it will allow you to come closer to the subject and focus. Also you can use Telephoto lens. This would get you the desired depth of field.

Southsea Bandstand
Southsea Bandstand | Glass Ball Photography

Step 7 – Exposure value

Choose the correct exposure – Make sure that the subject is sufficiently exposed to get the perfect image. You can also turn on the Bracket mode of your camera, so that you can take the same shot in various (generally 3) exposures and then merge the images in Lightroom or Photoshop to create an HDR effect.

Step 8 – Creating an interesting twist

As you know you get an inverted image in a glass ball, rotating it will make your photo more compelling. This way, your subject is at the correct position and the background is inverted. This would appeal more to your viewer as they may not have seen such thing before.

South Parade Pier
South Parade Pier in a Ball

Step 9 – Initial processing

Blur out background and sharpen the subject. You have already used higher focal length and correct aperture to get the desired depth of field. However, to make it more obvious, edit your photo and try to blur out the background and sharpen your subject. As the glass which goes in the making of such crystal balls is not of the best quality, you might not get a very sharp image.

Step 10 – Retouching your photo

Reduce some highlights, add some shadows, tweak the exposure, adjust the saturation, add clarity to the subject, reduce the noise, increase sharpness. Add that vignette effect to the photo so that you can get your viewers’ eyes to focus on the subject and not on the unwanted background.

Over to you

There are many creative ways to use Glass ball for your photography. You can capture landscape, portraits, do long exposure photography, take some still life photos; sky is the limit!

If you have taken any such photos using glass ball or you have any tips to share with the readers, please put that in the comments section and share this article with your friends and family.

Kill’em with your “shooting” skills!

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1 Comment

Oct 24, 2019

Just been given a glass basle as a present. Found this session very helpful, thanks Andy

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