How to create long exposure light photography using a lensball

Photographer and Affinity Technical Advisor Lee Dunican provides a quick guide to creating impressive lensball shots at home using a fingertip light and some simple editing techniques in Affinity Photo.

The items you will need to recreate this effect: a lensball, fingertip light and a camera mounted on a tripod.

Step 1: Scene set up

You only need a small amount of space to work in—a table or worktop, or even the floor can be used to set up the scene. For me, it was a table with a black table cloth and a mirror placed on top—this time, I used a large mirror, but I’ve used a small round one in the past.

Next, you need to position the lensball. You can use blu tack to keep it in place, but most spheres come with a small stand. I used a paperclip instead. If you position it and gently place the glass ball on top, it will stay in place. To avoid fingerprints, make sure you use gloves! It’s a mistake I’ve made all too often.

Scene set up

The next thing to do is set your camera up on a tripod and find the composition you like. I prefer to be front-facing, but at an angle, so I can see the lensball’s reflection in the mirror.

Step 2: Camera settings

This is where you can experiment a little as you’ll get different shots. After finding your composition, switch your camera to Manual Focus and focus on the sphere. The settings that best suited me were ISO 100, F8 aperture and a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds, but I’d recommend that you experiment and find ones that suit you. I also used the camera’s built-in timer set to 10 seconds to give me time to turn off the lights before the shutter releases.

Once that timer goes off, start to twirl and spin your light source around the sphere—fast or slow—it doesn’t matter as you can change the shutter speed.

The shooting process

Step 3: Developing the image

After selecting an image to work on, in the Develop Persona of Affinity Photo, I generally adjust the Exposure sliders, Shadows & Highlights, lowering the highlights in small increments to reduce the clipping. I also enhance the image using the Clarity and Vibrance sliders. You want to keep the background dark and make the lensball and the light traces pop.

Step 4: Making adjustments

After developing the image, I switch to the Photo Persona. The next set of adjustments I make are to clean it up, so I may use the Dust & Scratches adjustment or even the Haze Removal filter. After these, I switch to the Inpainting Brush Tool or the Clone Tool to help with any left over marks or elements that draw your eye away from the main subject. One of the last adjustments you can make is using an HSL adjustment, as you can change the colour from the original to something completely different.

The good thing about these types of images is that you don’t have to go over the top with adjustments if you don’t want to.

To see my editing process, check out the Timelapse video below:

A timelapse video of Lee’s editing process

Now experiment and have fun

For inspiration, here are some other light sources and techniques you could try.

Lensball with disco wand
Lensball with sparkler
Lensball with water spray
Two stacked images

To see more of Lee’s photography, check out his website and @ldunicanphotos on Instagram.