Can you use a lensball with a phone camera?

So you would like to take some incredible images with a lens ball while using your smartphone camera? You have come to the right place. I will give you tips for creating professional-looking lensball pictures. Let’s dive.

It is possible to create images using a lensball with your smartphone camera. However, you will need some additional equipment like a tripod, remote shutter, macro lens, and cleaning cloths to create professional-looking results. 

Before I start explaining how you should use a lensball with your phone, let’s see how lens ball photography works and why it is so popular these days. 

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Lensball photo from palmtrees with crystal ball
Picture by Moonhead

What is lensball photography?

Photographing with a glass ball, also called crystal ball photography or lensball photography, is a unique form of photography. The glass ball refracts light. In this case, a crystal ball ensures that the light is refracted, and you see the underlying image reversed. These are refraction photos.

The background appears out of focus, while the entire scene appears in focus in the reflection of a water droplet, lensball, or transparent marble. You will get a special depth-of-field effect you won’t be able to reproduce without a spherical shape. 

When you start shooting with a lensball, your images will have a unique effect. The environment or background will simply stand upright while the scene in the crystal ball is turned upside down. You can get creative with using this effect.

Lensball City Photography
Picture by Mark Smith

Which lensball do I need for phone photography?

The glass or crystal balls you use for this form of photography are available in all kinds, sizes, and price ranges. You can pick one up from Amazon for a little over 15 dollars a piece or around 30 dollars for a crystal ball pack of three. 

Most bulbs come with a storage bag, cleaning cloth, and a stand to set them up. However, the glass can quickly become damaged or dirty, so ensure you store and clean the bulb properly before use. You will see it in your photo if there are fingerprints or scratches on your crystal ball.

The best lensball for smartphone photography is about 80 mm in diameter because of its versatility. But if you carry a lot of gear, choose a smaller one. Also, don’t forget to bring a macro lens when you use a small crystal ball. It allows you to get closer to the smaller ball and still have no problems focussing.

Larger lensballs often give you higher-quality photographs because more of the image will be in focus because of the amount of glass that reflects the scene. It is possible to create lensball images with a 100 mm ball without using a macro lens.

Lensball Kit from Amazon
Lensball kit from Amazon

Do yourself a favor and buy a lensball kit from Amazon with three crystal balls to choose the right one for every scene. You can find the one I have been using for the past two years on my favorite gear page.

How much does a lensball weigh?

An 80 mm photography lensball of top-grade crystal weighs around 650 grams or 1.43 pounds. 

Moment Macro Smartphone Lens
Macro lens from Moment store

Which lens should I use for lensball photography with my phone?

You won’t need a specific lens for lensball photography, but you can create better results using a macro lens. First, it allows you to create a shallow field depth, resulting in a blurry background with or without the aesthetically pleasing bokeh. Secondly, you can get a much larger and more detailed image of the crystal ball.

➽ Try the Macro lens from the Moment store. It is my all-time favorite, and you can also find more Moment smartphone lenses on my favorite gear page. It works less than one inch away from the subject and captures the tiniest details. I have tried many other cheaper lenses, but they always have issues with distortion and black edges or vignettes. 

Can a lensball cause fire?

When using a lensball in bright sunlight during hot and dry weather, you can cause a fire. It is because the ball acts like a magnifying glass. So please be very careful using this piece of equipment in direct sunlight. Don’t leave the crystal lenses unattended in the blazing sun. They can get extremely hot! Try not to burn your hands as well, and test the warmth of the glass before picking it up.

Lensball sunset photography
Picture by Wouter Penning

Can a lensball break easily?

A lens ball is glass and breaks easily when dropped from some altitude. Therefore, placing it somewhere safe while taking images is of the utmost importance. Make sure it lies on a stable surface, or use a lensball stand with a suction mount.

Taking professional-looking images takes time, especially when using fragile equipment. So be mindful of your environment and yourself. For example, don’t look through the glass ball directly into the sun. Be safe and keep the location you are shooting in safe as well.

9 settings and best practices for lensball photography with a phone

Here are my best tips for lensball photography with your Android or iPhone:

  1. Take images from the same level or lower than the lenssball so you can capture the background of the glass instead of the floor.
  2. Focus on the crystal ball by using autofocus or manual focus. Most smartphones can use manual focus from the Pro, Professional, or Manual Mode from the native camera app. 
  3. Bring a macro lens using 80 mm (or smaller) crystals to get close and create a blurry background.
  4. Use a tripod to steady your phone and get clear pictures.
  5. Use a lensball stand or suction mount to prevent the ball from shattering on the floor. 
  6. Bring two cleaning cloths—one for your phone’s lenses and one for the ball.
  7. Try taking an image with a lensball of a reflection. The image inside the ball will appear upside down due to refraction. So the reflection in a pool of water is upside down, and the ball will flip again.
  8. Make sure the subject is well-lit. All photographs benefit from some light source, but it is essential with lensball pictures. Photographing with the sun from behind (yourself, not the subject) will get the best results. Try photographing during blue and golden hours. 
  9. Edit the image with Photoshop, Lightroom, or Snapseed. You can even turn the photo upside down when you have a very blurry background. The lensball will be in focus with the subject in an upright position. It is possible to adjust the amount of blur in the environment with one of the mentioned apps.

Can you get an in-focus background with lensball photography?

It is possible to get an image with an in-focus background and lensball while using a smartphone. However, you will need to use a technique called focus stacking. It means you will take several photos, focus on a different part of the scene, and stack all the images together post-processing in photoshop.

➽ Learn all about focus stacking in this blog post

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