Have you seen all those cool photos on Instagram that seem to be taken through a crystal ball? Did you wonder what sort of wizardry is this? Well, we have some good news for you— this is a trend that is inexpensive and simple to try out. Yes, even amateurs can work miracles with this stunning visual effect. Lens ball is such a great little tool to experiment with and ignite your creativity. And yes, you can create a fish-eye photo without having to invest in a fish-eye lens.  Here is what you should know before embarking on your photo adventures.

Consider yourself invited

Lens ball is not some expensive piece of equipment reserved for pros. It is easy to find it on hubs like Amazon for around $20. The price differs depending on the diameter of the sphere. Regardless, compared to the costs of wide-angle lens for the camera, this is nothing. Just search for “Crystal Ball Sphere Photography Prop (Clear).” You can stick to smaller 2-3’’ globes because bigger is not always better you know. A 70-mm ball, for instance, weighs one pound, while the 80-mm one has double that weight. Try holding that with a straight arm for a few minutes and see what happens.

Back to basics

So, how does one use lensball correctly? First off, the globe needs to be set on a stand or directly placed in front of the camera. Both ways are perfectly acceptable. Just remember that in the latter case you must work with a flat, preferably higher surface. When that surface is also reflective, you create a mesmerizing, multi-layered spectacle. Of course, it is also possible to have someone hold the ball for you. Note that the image might be turned upside down, but you can choose to rotate it. It is best if the subject you are photographing is level with the sphere.

lens ball

General tips

There are a few general tips worth mentioning. Namely, familiarize yourself with the way refraction works. In a nutshell, when the light passes through the ball, it bents and that creates a distortion. Your camera lens operates similarly. Among other things, this means you should always focus on the ball to have a crisp, sharp image. On smartphones, you must tap the screen where the ball is. It may help to move around the ball and camera a lot until you find the perfect angle. Usually, you must get close to the object you want to capture.

lens ball

Weapon of choice

When it comes to the device of choice, feel free to use whatever you have at your disposal. Smartphone cameras are advancing by leaps and bounds and can capture decent quality photos. Newer iPhones, for instance, fit the bill nicely. It IS preferable to have your DSLR camera around. At the same time, remember that other factors affect the photo quality. For instance, it is essential to keep the ball clean. You can use the same type of cloth that cleans reading glasses. Do not allow fingertips and smudges to hamper the clarity of photos.

lens ball

Never play with fire

I would like to give you one word of caution. Lens ball is quite a powerful magnifier, which is to say that it can burn dry grass and other flammable surfaces. Also, the bright sunlight tends to create glares and reflections, making the ball look foggier. Heed the advice of pros and make the most of “golden hours” of the day to take photos— magic moments just before the sunset and just after the sunrise. Overcast days also do the trick in my personal experience.

lens ball

A surefire wow-effect

As we said earlier, the social ecosystem is teeming with lens ball photos. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. So, if you want to jump on the bandwagon, you can use #lensball, #glassspheres, and #crystalball hashtags. But, I would encourage you not to imitate others merely. Take photos that speak to you and unleash your inner artist. There is an ocean of inspiration waiting for your outside. Get ready to jump in and leave your audience curious and wowed.

lens ball

Time to get the ball rolling

Across the globe, the lens ball photography is trending. The beauty of this novelty technique is that it is easy to get started with it. The ball does not ask for much, and it rewards you quickly with breathtaking images.  Naturally, you should develop a deeper understanding of how refraction plays out, as well as basic tips for success. After that, you can have fun and get your creative juices flowing. Rest assured that the sphere will provide a lot of bang for your buck.