Kaleidoscope Photography

While it is easy to take pictures of the outside of kaleidoscopes, how do you take quality pictures of the beautiful images inside? 

It is also possible to take pictures of everyday objects like your flower garden or even your kaleidoscope collection as if they were inside a kaleidoscope. 

You can also turn existing digital photos into a kaleidoscopic pattern picture.

Here are the secrets to doing these things:

Taking Photos of the Images inside your Kaleidoscopes

 Taking pictures of images produced by scopes requires 2 steps:

  1. Taking the Picture
  2. Uploading  the Picture to a Computer and Editing the Photos

No one method works for either of these 2 steps since everyone has different cameras, computers, computer operating systems and software.  Here are some generalities to get you started however the best way to get good photos of kaleidoscopic images is try different methods and settings till you achieve success.

Step 1 - Taking the Picture

Taking pictures is a balance of 4 things; the scope, the camera, the light source and the shot setup.

The Scope

Three major issues exist with some scopes:

  1. Small viewing hole - This makes it hard to get a good shot inside the scope with a normal digital camera.  One way around this is to use a camera with a small diameter lens like a cell phone camera.  A better way may be to use a scope with a larger viewing hole.
  2. Liquid-filled object cells - The image doesn't stop in the pattern you want long enough to allow you to photograph it.  The images also move while the picture is being taken causing the photo to blur. The best answer to this is to use dry cell scopes
  3. The scope is so short that the camera lens will not focus.  See ideas below to resolve this.
The Camera

Use only digital cameras.  They allow for unlimited free shots and you can view the shot immediately after taking the picture in the camera's view finder. A good rule is to take many, many shots and then delete, delete, delete, keeping only the best (you get two opportunities to delete, once on the camera and again on the computer).
Today most of us have multiple digital cameras available to us.  If you don't have one or two ask around if family and friends have them Try working with as many different cameras as you can till you find what you need (may be multiple cameras)
The below photos were taken of the Feather and Leather scope with a Blackberry cell phone camera using only sunlight.  They were then uploaded to a computer and only cropped to center the image in the photos.
Most digital cameras come with lots of setting options.  Get to know your camera.  Try many different setups and keep a record of what works.  For better photo quality try a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera.
Here are some options and common solutions to try:
Automatic Mode - The digital cameras are good at adjusting and focusing so try this first.
Cameras lens is much bigger than the scope's viewing hole - Try a camera with a small diameter lens like a cell phone camera.
Image's colors are faded in the photos - First try a different light source. Next adjust your camera's white balance. It will adjust for poor indoor lighting.  A final option is a color filter to add on to your camera.
Scope image is too close to focus on - Try any of the following 4 solutions:
  • Macro Mode - Macro mode comes on most digital cameras and is generally symbolized with a little flower.  When selected, it will tell your camera that you want to focus on a subject closer to your lens than normal. Macro mode will also usually tell your camera to choose a large aperture so that your subject is in focus but the background is not.
  • Extension Tubes -   With some cameras you can use 'extension tubes'. These usually come in a set of three which can be used separately or together. They fit between the lens and the camera body and serve to move the lens further away from the image sensor (film). The lens will now focus on closer objects.
  •  Close-up Lenses - These are inexpensive and come in a set of 3 (+1, +2 and +4).  The +1 is for the furthest away and the other two get closer. The +4 is good for about 4 to 8 inches away.  They can also be combined.
  • Macro Lens - probably the best bet but much more expensive.
The Light Source

Good light sources are:

  • Sunlight
  • 100 Watt Halogen light
When shooting pictures thought a scope it is important to try many different angles to the light source.  It is a fine balance between too much light and too little.  This is best controlled by altering the angles to the light source.

Another issue is light from the light source getting in between the camera lens and the scope.  Placing a dark cloth over this area will prevent this. 

The Shot Setup

You will need to align the camera, the scope and the light source.  One common way to do this is the use a tripod.  With the tripod on the floor, setup up the camera/tripod so the camera is at the height of a table or stand.  Secure the scope on the table or stand so that it is close to the camera.  Use the height adjust on the tripod to adjust the height and move the scope back and worth and angle left/right to adjust closeness and angle between camera and scope.  Add the light source (best if it too is mounted in a movable stand). 

Some helpful hints are:

  • Turn off the auto flash on the camera.
  • Turn off the auto off on the camera.
  • Turn the camera on before setting up the shot (many camera automatic extend their lens when turned on.  Camera lens hitting kaleidoscope lens is bad!
  • Play with the lighting.  It is a key to getting sharp, vivid images in your shots.  Try different angles of the light source to the scope.
  • Play with the camera angle to the scope.  It allows you to get more of the image into the shot.  Don't worry about the extra dark area or centering the image, as you will crop the photo later to center the image.

Step 2 - Upload the Picture to a Computer and Editing the Photos

For this step you will need photo editing software.  There are many ways to get this:

  • Sometimes this comes with your camera
  • If you have Microsoft Office then you can use "Microsoft Office Picture Manager" (it comes with all versions starting with 2003, Office XP and Office 97 had "Microsoft Photo editor")
  • Buy a product such as Adobe Photoshop
  • Download a freeware product such as Photoscape

Upload the pictures to a computer and edit them with the software.

Start off by cropping the extra border around the image out of the photos.  You can also adjust the photos color, brightness and contrast.  Last you may resize the picture.

Taking Photos of Everyday Objects as Kaleidoscopic Images

For this you will need the following:

  • An 35mm Camera
  • A Conversion Lens for the Camera

Of course the hard part is getting the conversion lens for your camera.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Get a "Camerascope" made by Kaleidovisions on eBay since they appear to no longer make this product.
  • Get a "Scopelens" made by C. Bennett Scopes on eBay since they appear to no longer make this product.
  • Make your own - here is a link to someone who did this.  Note that you can control the effect (2 or 3 mirror and mirror angles) with this method.
  • Get the "Kaleidoscope Jelly Lens". The Jelly Lens Filter fits over the lens of your cell phone camera, web camera, or digital camera to create kaleidoscope effects. The shape of the lens produces 6 duplicated images. It has a self-adhesive backing & cover that can be reused and does not leave a sticky residue when removed. It also has a bungee cord that allows it to be attached to a camera or cell phone. It only costs about $5 and the reviews have been good.  Product is available on-line by searching on "Kaleidoscope Jelly Lens".
Below are two photos of the Camerascope.

Turning Existing Digital Pictures into Kaleidoscopic Images

For this you will need the following:

  • A digital picture you want to convert
  • A computer and Adobe Photoshop software

This link explains how to turn your picture into both 2-mirroor and 3-mirror kaleidoscopic images.