Photographers are becoming more interested in refraction photography, which is a fascinating subject. Refraction images, in which an out-of-focus background looks finely defined inside a crystal ball or a dew drop, are presumably familiar to you.
In this article, I’ll present a plethora of methods and ideas for creating spectacular refraction images, including both glass refraction and water refraction photography. I’ll also provide plenty of examples
, so you know precisely what you’re capable of!
What is Refraction photography?
Refraction photography is the capturing of a refraction effect, in which light is bent in glass, water, or another surface to make a subject appear very large, very small, or otherwise deformed.
Here’s a basic refraction photo that uses a stone to refract light and make a house appear tiny (the image is reversed upside down!):
Refraction Photography – 4 Practical Tips, Photographs of refraction can be innovative, mind-bending, and just plain cool. It’s a terrific way to push yourself as a photographer, and the effect is ridiculously simple to get once you know a few tactics.
Getting started with refraction photography: find a refractive object
Finding a refractive item is the first step in getting started with refraction photography.
You’ll need an object that causes the refraction effect to shoot a refraction photograph.
Any transparent object with a mass greater than that of air will induce refraction, albeit spherical objects are the most useful refractive objects. While it is possible to acquire refraction through translucent plastic objects, I recommend shooting through glass or water for the best image quality.
Listed here are a handful of my favorite refractive objects:
- Crystal balls
- Water droplets
- Sheets of glass
- Wine glasses
- Fish tanks
1. Use a glass ball to create refraction photography
When most photographers hear the phrase “refraction photography,” they immediately think of a glass ball – because it’s simple to use, produces excellent results, and is (possibly) the most commonly used object for this type of shot. Glass balls are a terrific piece of extra equipment to have in your camera bag because they provide a variety of creative benefits (and they’re pretty inexpensive, too!).
For landscape photography, I like to utilize glass balls; you can perch them on a rock, a car, or even your hand, and then take a magnificent “small world” view. If used correctly, the glass ball is also ideal for architecture and even portrait photography.
I’d suggest picturing the ball as an external fish-eye lens. It distorts and twists the scene while appearing to magnify anything close to its surface. Always find a sturdy surface – I prefer a wall of some kind – and keep the ball on the same level as the thing you’re aiming. When you go to take a picture, keep an eye on the ball. You don’t want it to break as it rolls away!
2. Use marbles for a distorted effect
If you want to experiment with wild distortion in your refraction photographs, I recommend using a marble. This is comparable to shooting a glass ball (described above), but marbles have certain distinct advantages:
The glass may be of lower quality, resulting in a dingier image.
There will be greater distortion and a smaller sweet spot with a clear image.
They’re substantially lighter, making them easier to transport. Because they’re smaller, they’re easier to arrange on a surface without slipping off.
Also, because marbles are so little and light, you can bring two, three, or even a bunch into the field or studio with you, allowing you to combine multiple into a single shot:
Refraction Photography – 4 Practical Tips
Now, there is one obvious downside to marble photography: marbles are small, so if you want to make the most of the refracted image, you should use a macro lens, or at the very least a lens that focuses near.
Of course, you’re also free to experiment with wider lenses and include the marble(s) into the picture – the choice is all yours!
3. Take advantage of water droplets
Water droplet photography is popular among close-up photographers, and for good reason:
It looks beautiful, and you can do it from the comfort of your own kitchen!
The key here is to utilize a macro lens and/or make huge water droplets. The drips will refract the scene behind them, allowing you to experiment with different backdrop objects such as flags, flowers, and more.
Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to water refraction photography, so here are a few ideas:
- Droplets of water on a glass surface. Using a spray bottle or a syringe, splatter water onto a clear surface, then place an intriguing item beneath it, such as a flag or a flower. Get as near to the subject as you can with a macro lens, then snap!
- Droplets of water dropping from a faucet Run a faucet, add an intriguing background element (such as a sheet of colorful paper or – once again! – a flag), and then record refraction droplets in mid-flight. Here are some excellent examples of this sort of photography. It may require a lot of trial and error, but the end product will be well worth it.
- Water droplets that develop naturally. You may always look for intriguing droplets in nature, such as water drops on spider webs shortly after daybreak or water drips on grass or flowers after a thunderstorm. Of course, if you want to photograph in nature but can’t wait for rain, simply use a spray bottle or syringe!
- CDs with water droplets Using a syringe, sprinkle water drops onto a CD. The greater the size of the water droplets, the better! Then, take pictures of the mini-rainbows that arise. Try turning out the lights and then using a flashlight to light paint while capturing a long exposure for a unique effect.
Fill a wine glass with water to create some mind-bending results
Because wine glasses are spherical, filling them with water results in a refracted image inside the glass. Furthermore, because wine glasses do not roll away, they are safer than glass balls when placed on surfaces.
A wine glass can be used for simply artistic photographs as well as portraits, landscapes, and other subjects. You could even utilize the wine glass as a prop, holding it beside a portrait subject while refracting the entire scene.
Try putting a full glass in front of a piece of colorful paper like this:
Refraction Photography – 4 Practical Tips
Refraction photography is all about being creative, and it also makes for some pretty unique photo projects. So get a camera and a glass ball, a few marbles, or try water refraction photography.