Photographing a mirrored ball

Once you got your mirrored ball and taken some pictures of it the first question you ask is how do I use these in my 3D software? This is what I do, this may not be a perfect or best solution but it seems to work fine, if you fine an easier/better/quicker way please let me know.

Once you have taken your picture, we will need to distort the image so we can use it as a spherical envronment map. There are a set of free Photoshop plugins PanoTools that you will need to do this. Download and install these plugins before you continue.

Open your photo in Photoshop and crop it tightly to the ball.

Next use the Panotools filter 'Remap' with these settings:

Click 'Prefs' and make sure it has these settings:

Click the OK button and a new window will open with a warped image that looks something like this:

Next use the Panotools filter 'Adjust' with these settings:

Click the 'Set' button and enter the size of the output image (2:1 ratio) and make sure that the Position Yaw/Pitch/Roll is set to 0,0,90

Your image should now look like this:

There are two things wrong with this image. The reflection of the photographer and the pinched area which represents the area behind the ball. The best way of getting rid of these 2 problem areas is to take 2 pictures with the camera position rotated 90 around the center of the ball.

Repeat the above process with the 2nd picture but change the Yaw/Pitch/Roll to 0,90,90. This should unwrap the ball photo leaving a pinch and a photographers reflection in different places.

Then using all your Photoshop skills composite the 2 photos together removing the pinch and the photographer. This image is then suitable for use as a reflection map or a spherical environment map. (this sample was done very quickly at low resolution)

Some tips when photographing mirror balls:
Focus manually, auto focus cameras can have problems with mirrors.
Keep the camera as square on to the mirror ball as possible, even slight differences will be noticeable when you try to composite 2 images together.