My October creativity project was crystal ball photography, and it was an interesting experiment into what works and what did not. Most of my shots were with the 24-70, as it has the versatility of some close shots and some wide shots. Some things I learned:
Compositionally, you can shoot tightly around the ball, or more wide:
Sometimes it is nice to line up horizon lines:
And sometimes you can completely ignore them:
I personally think either a match or complete mismatch looks better than an almost-but-not-quite match:
The aperture you choose will make for very different images! You can go for a more abstract background shooting wide open:
Or a more defined background with a smaller aperture:
Either way, I find it looks better if the edges of the ball are in focus, and that often takes an aperture of at least f/4 with my camera/lens combo. Here’s one where I didn’t get that and I think it doesn’t look as good:
Focus on the refraction in the ball rather than the background. Here’s one where I tried it the other way around, and I consider it a flop.
Sometimes it looks better to flip the image vertically so the glass ball is at the top. I did it with this image, because the background looked more abstract and the refraction makes more sense right side up:
But this one I chose not to, because there is enough of the background in focus that it made sense to leave it, and I felt my hand looked weird upside down.
Sometimes it makes sense to flip it horizontally, too. In these images, you can see that flipping horizontally makes the words more readable:
Sometimes holding the ball is the only way to get the composition and refraction you want. But I have found I much prefer images without my hand in them. I haven’t tried using someone else’s hand, but I know I don’t like MY hand in the images as much! I just know that I played with a bunch of different ways of holding my hand and I am not really loving any of them!
The thing about spheres is that they like to roll. Often they’ll roll away from you. It helps to find a small crack, divot or corner to put it in:
Or you can create your own on smooth surfaces. I’ve brought clear washers, buttons, a key ring, and sometimes just put some dirt or sand underneath it to prop it in place.
Make sure you polish the ball and don’t leave fingerprints! Sadly, I didn’t notice this one until I got home.
And last but certainly not least: The ball can make nice starbursts and flares, but it can also set fire to things! Right after I took this shot, I smelled smoke and realized the wooden handrail was burning! It you look closely there are a few wisps of smoke! Thankfully moving the ball made it stop and I dumped some water on it just in case, no real harm done.
Have fun shooting with your crystal ball and don’t set fire to anything!