Post editing, post production or post processing as they are interchangably called, is one of the most essential steps in photography. Good post processing can turn a good photo into a great one emphasising the mood, emotions and strengths of the photo. It can also improve some aspects you may not have realised at the time of taking the photo.
We regularly receive lensball photography post processing questions from our Australian customers so we decided to give some pointers. A lot of the common best practices and advice relating to post production can also be applied to crystal ball photography, however naturally there is also more specific guidance that can be shared. Further, some of the post editing techniques such as how to flip the image in the lensball and make the lensball 'float' are used more commonly with lensball photography.
Keep in mind, this is not a comprehensive guide on post processing as that would probably require a few large books however we hope you find this useful!
There is a large range of photo editors to choose from and what suits you depends on what kind of functionality you need as well as your budget. The most well known are Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom which have an excellent range of functionality however if you are just starting out you may like to start out with a free photo editor (this link provides some good options).
Firstly, I will touch briefly on some of the basic post editing elements which you may already know about as they apply to all types of photography. There are others however I have selected the ones most commonly relevant to lensball photography.
Cropping is arguably the most important basic edit to consider in my view as you want to capture only what you really want and need for the image, any unwanted elements should be removed. For example, part of the background may not add any value to the photo and so you may want to remove it.
Remember, although it works well to sometimes have part of the background in the photo, you also want the image in the lensball to be a decent size enough to see. By having more of the lensball in the photo and a bit less of the background the overall image in the lensball can be enlargened / focused on more.
Exposure relates to the brightness of the image. If the photo is too dark add a bit of light in, and if too light add a bit of darkness. This may effect the contrast however you can use the contrast slider in Lightroom or similar in other software to make the brightest parts in the image brighter and the darker parts darker.
Occassionally you may like to emphasise colours in a photo in which case you can boost the saturation slightly. In contrast you may be wanting to for example emphasise dank weather such as rain or fog or the earthiness of an outdoor photo and decide to use desaturation in a photo.
If you are considering changing saturation you may like to experiment also with the vibrance as it will tend to enhance those mid-tone luminance colours whereas saturation will increase all no matter what the luminance which can result in unwanted levels of saturation on certain colours that don't need it.
1. How to Flip the Image in the Ball
Keep in mind though it is not always beneficial to flip the image in the lensball back the normal way up. Remember, one of the beautiful aspects of the lensball is the refraction effect and when you have a good photo the contrast between the background (what is not in the ball) and what is in the lensball (being inverted) can enhance the photo. So in essence, if you do want to invert the image in the ball have a reason to do so!
2. How to make the ball 'Float'
Of course throwing the ball up and catching the perfect shot is extremely difficult and not practical so I'll show you how to do it while attaining a better shot!
In reality, there’s no floating ball. It’s just a photographic effect. In order to create the effect, some post-processing work is involved.
So we do it a different way! To create the floating ball effect, you need some equipment to capture some photos.
Following are the equipment required to capture the floating ball photos:
The telephoto lens is used to compress the background to make the ball appear floating in air. A wide-angle lens can also be used if you choose to capture more of the background.
Following are the steps to set-up the equipment to capture floating ball photos:
To capture floating ball photos, the camera should be on fully manual mode which means you need to manually set the focus, aperture as well as the shutter speed.
Manual focus setting is needed so that when you remove the lensball from the frame the camera doesn’t lose the focus position. Similarly, manual settings for aperture and shutter speed are required so that the camera doesn’t lose the correct exposure for blending purposes during post-processing.
Choose appropriate aperture and shutter speed to capture your subject in the ball.
In the photo in the video for example an 1200th of a second, F.5 and ISO320.
For the floating ball effect, you need to take three photographs.
1st Photograph: Click the photo of the lensball with the image of the subject inside it.
2nd Photograph: Set the camera on a self-timer (for example 10 seconds). Then lift and hold the lensball a bit up in the air. Let the camera take the photo.
Post-processing is the stage where you actually create the floating ball effect with the three photographs from the last stage.
Recapping, the 3 images are – image of the subject, ball being held up and the background.
Import the three images into Photoshop and layer them. The base image will the one in which the lensball is placed over the tripod. The other two images will be used to remove the tripod stand from the base image.
Step 1: To remove the tripod from the photo, drag the layer with the background photo (3rd photo) on top of the base image layer.
Step 2: Create a black mask layer on the background layer. It will hide the background layer to reveal the base image underneath it.
Step 3: Use a white paint brush over the black layer mask to remove the tripod from the image.
Adding smooth edge of the Lensball
To add the smooth bottom edge of the lensball, the 2nd photo in which the ball is held a bit up in the air will be used.
Step 1: Use the selection tool to select only the bottom part of the 2nd photograph.
Step 2: Copy and paste the selected portion on the image in which you removed the tripod stand. Photoshop will automatically create a new layer.
Step 3: Drag the new layer (selected portion) over the bottom edge of the image. Use arrow keys to adjust the edges until it fits perfectly.
Note: If needed, adjust the brightness and contrast using the image adjustment option.
Step 4: Create a white layer mask and use a black paint brush to smooth the pasted area.
Step 5: Rotate the image to 180 degree using the image rotation option.
Finally you may like to make some final basic edits to improve things a bit further. For example, the background as well as the image inside the lensball may need to lighten-up.
Add some contrast firstly and then another filter is the Darken/lighten centre which has the option to either lighten the inner or the outer area of the image.
Play around with these filters to achieve the best final image based on your photo!
So floating the ball is a bit more tricky compared to inverting the image in the lensball but you can see how you've learned some good post production techniques now and you have used layering again.
You may also like to mix post editing effects - for example in the below photo you can see the entire image has been rotated upside down with the background view inverted (sky is at bottom, water at the top!) while the image in the ball the normal way up. Further, of course the ball has been made to float!
There is no limit to being creative with this kind of photography including the lensball post production process!
3. Shattering, Exploding or Dispersing Lensball Effect
Again, we are using layering again for this and in terms of the shapes or way its shattering you are simply experimenting with the options in your photo editor!
Check out this quick video which will show you the way this is done in post production.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about lensball photography post production and can apply some of this in your creative photography. To recap, I provided some photo editor software options. You've learned about basic crop, exposure and saturation especially as they relate to crystal ball photography. I also explained how to do some more advanced lensball photography post editing techniques including how we flip the lensball, make the lensball appear to float and make it look like its shattering or dispersing.
Now what will you try? Will you try some basic post editing like cropping your lensball photos better, flip the lensball, make it appear to float or shatter?
Please post any comments on whether this article was useful or your experience post editing your lensball photos as this may be useful for other readers and for myself!