Have you ever thought of capturing distinct frames using a transparent spherical ball? If you are trying to photograph some unique frames, then you must try crystal ball photography. In this article, we will go through everything that you need to master the art of refraction photography through crystal ball photography. 

What is Crystal Ball Photography? 

Cityscape in lens ball

The photography that involves the use of a crystal ball sphere/lens ball in the frame, is known as crystal ball photography. Here, you will be capturing your subject/frame of interest inside the spherical ball. 

Crystal ball uses the refraction phenomenon for image formation inside. The image formed inside the crystal sphere will be in the inverted format. Overall, you will get a fisheye view inside the crystal ball sphere.

Get Used to It

After buying the crystal ball sphere, don’t start shooting immediately. Go out with the ball and see different subjects and frames through the sphere.  

It will give you a better idea of what scene suits the best for crystal ball photography. Thus, you will come to know whether to use it or not.

Which Crystal Ball Sphere to Buy?

Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

There are many factors to be checked before buying a crystal ball for photography.

1. Size 

Crystal balls are available in various sizes. It comes in 20mm, 30mm, 40mm, 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, and 100mm diameter. 

Bigger the size better will be the use. But, you should also keep an account of the weight factor. If you go for a 100mm one, it will weighs more than 1 kg. So, it would be tough for you to carry.

I have tried the 40mm and the 80mm one. I find the 80mm crystal ball to be the right choice. 

2. Quality

The quality of the image depends on the quality of the crystal ball sphere. Lens balls made of K9 crystals are good for photography. You should also check for the reviews and review images to see the quality.

Whenever you are looking for one, make sure that the description contains “For Photography use.” Otherwise, the optical quality of the ball will not be good. So, you will end up in bad images. 

3. Color

I recommend using a transparent glass ball. You will also get colored glass spheres. But, these colors will not be suited for all scenes. From my experience, it is like giving a color cast to the refracted image.

Camera Gear and Accessories

You can either use your smartphone or any other digital camera for crystal ball photography. For the best quality images, I recommend DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. You will be capturing landscapes inside the lens ball most of the time. So, an excellent wide-angle lens would be the right choice.

It is good to have a tripod. It allows you to compose and frame your shot correctly. Use a remote trigger or inbuilt camera timer for the shutter trigger. It is to eliminate all possible sources of shake. 

But, you may not be able to carry the tripod with you always. So, you may end up shooting handheld also.

Which Lens works Best for Crystal Ball Photography?

As you know, there are different types of camera lenses. I tried doing crystal ball photography with all possible lenses in my kit. Thus, I found the following lenses to yield good results. 

1. Macro Lens

Macro lens is the best to capture the subject details inside the sphere. But, make sure that there is a good distance between the camera and the sphere. Otherwise, your reflection will be more prominent on the ball.

2. Medium Telephoto Lens

Medium Telephoto range of 200mm to 300mm is another good option. It is good if you want the crystal ball to occupy a significant area in the frame. 

3. Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens will help you to capture the ball along with the background. So, use it if you intend to frame the scene with the background. You will get similar results with a smartphone.

Where to Keep the Crystal Ball Sphere? 

lens ball snow photography

There are many places where you can keep the sphere.

1. On the Ground

You can keep it on the ground. But, make sure that the surface has enough grip to hold the ball. Place it gently so that you don’t scratch the crystal surface.

2. Hold it with hand

The other option is to hold it in your hand. It will be difficult for you to hold and shoot at the same time, especially if you are using a DSLR camera.  

So, if you have a friend with you, it is better to ask him to hold the crystal ball for you. 

There are multiple ways to hold it with the hand. The hand coming from the left, right, top, or bottom of the frame are the usual ways. You can even keep it inside your palm.

3. On Top of a Rock/Boulder

If you are shooting outside, then you can also keep it on top of rock or boulders. But, make sure that it rests safely without rolling.

Crystal Ball Photography Tips

Lens Ball Photography

I will share some crystal ball photography tips which I found useful in the field.

1. Don’t Get Too Close

If you get too close to the sphere, then you can see your image on it. So, try to keep some distance between the ball and the camera.

2. Keep the Crystal Ball Clean

I recommend keeping the crystal ball inside the pouch which comes along with it. You can also keep a microfiber cloth or lens cleaning cloth for cleaning. 

Make sure that your hands are not dirty before handling the crystal ball. Otherwise, it will leave unwanted fingerprints on the sphere. 

3. Avoid the Base 

Most of the glass spheres come with a wooden or glass base to hold the ball if you buy with the base option, better to leave it at home. 

If you use the base with the ball while capturing the image, then it will not look natural. So, better to avoid it in the frame.

4. Capture Reflection with Refraction

You can try to get the reflection of the ball with the refractive image inside the frame. To get this, you need to keep the ball on small water patches where reflection will be visible. You can also use other reflecting mediums. Consider reading water reflection photography guide for more tips.

5. Sphere Alone Frame 

If you are using a telephoto lens, then you won’t be able to capture the blurred background also in the frame. 

So, you can go for a sphere alone frame with the refracted background image inside the sphere. Some scenes look better this way. Here, the crystal ball occupies the majority area of the frame.

6. Frame within a Blurred Frame 

Crystal Ball Refraction Photography

With the crystal ball, it is tough to get the background also fully focused. So, you can go with a frame with in a Blurred frame technique with your wide-angle lenses. 

Here, the crystal ball sphere which is in focus will have the scene within. The background of the frame will have a blurred view of what is inside the ball. It is a kind of frame within a frame composition technique.

7. Multiple Balls in a Frame

If you have multiple crystal balls of different diameters, then you can use both in your frame. 

Here, you will get a different perspective of the same scene inside the two spheres. 

8. Flip the Image 

The refracted image is an upside-down frame. So, try rotating the image by 180 degrees. Thus, your frame inside the sphere gets corrected. 

This flipping method works well when the sphere occupies most of the frame. 

9. Shoot in RAW format

Always capture the image in RAW format if your camera supports it. RAW will help you to post-process your images in a better way without losing details.

You will have to retouch your final image to make some exposure and white balance adjustments.

Safety and Risk Factors

Lens Ball Refraction Photography

You need to take account of the safety and risk factors also.

1. Holding Against Sun

I strongly recommend not to hold the ball against strong sunlight. The magnifying effect of the sphere will concentrate the Sun rays.

So, It can burn your hands, put surroundings in flame, or cause pain to your hands. I have experienced this effect myself. 

2. Dropping the Ball 

If you drop the crystal ball by accident, then you will ruin it completely. You will be left with a broken ball or a sphere with lots of scratches. So, handle carefully.

3. Placing on the Ground

When you place the spherical ball on the ground, ensure that there are no sharp objects. It can damage the ball. So, you should inspect the field before placing the ball. Place it gently. 


So, unleash your creativity. Get a crystal sphere and give it a try next time. It won’t cost you much.