Did you know that you are manipulating refraction every time you take a picture? It’s a phenomenon that causes a ray of light to bend when it hits a medium that can transmit light, such as a lens or water. As the light passes from one medium to another, the difference in density causes the light striking the surface to refract. When refraction occurs with a transparent spherical object, such as a crystal ball or a glass sphere, an inverted image of the scene is created.
Using refractions in your photography can often result in compelling images that intrigue your viewers. To get started, you will need a solid, clear, and colourless crystal ball. If you are using a DSLR, switch to manual focus and focus on the image inside the ball. For the best result, use a macro lens such as the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G or the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. With macro lenses, you will be able to get close to the ball and achieve a fisheye effect. Alternatively, you can also use a wide-angle lens, such as the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.8G ED for a wider perspective. The aperture you choose will depend on how you want your image to look. Use a wide aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field, rendering the background to be out of focus. This will emphasise the image appearing in the crystal ball. Alternatively, use a small aperture if you would like the background to be in focus together with the main subject.
Level your crystal ball with the subject you’re photographing, as a centered subject in the crystal ball will result in lesser distortion. Try to get as close to your subject as possible. The closer you are to your subject, the bigger it will appear in the crystal ball. Whether you’ve positioned the ball on a flat surface, a crevice, or even if you’re holding it, ensure that the crystal ball will not fall.
When experimenting with crystal ball photography, ensure that the light coming through the refracting object is strong. If your subject is poorly lit, you may see unwanted reflections from brighter lights in the vicinity appearing in the ball.
Avoid touching the crystal ball with your bare hands. Fingerprints will result in smudges, which can be distracting in your shots. It is also recommended to keep the crystal ball in the shade when you are not using it. The utmost care should be taken especially when using the crystal ball during the day. Light from your surroundings will be focused through it, producing a hot beam that could burn you, or even start a fire.