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Glass needs light touch

Post Time:Sep 02,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:380

A few weeks ago a reader emailed me asking how to photograph jewelry and glassware.


She wanted to record them for insurance purposes. Glass is one of the hardest things to photograph. Its shiny surface can pick up every little reflection. To make a proper photo of a glass item you have to take great care.


Backgrounds can be very important when shooting glass. Because of the see-through nature of most glass, a plain, uncluttered backdrop is preferable. A white background will give the photo a light and bright feeling while a black one can be more dramatic.


Lighting is also very important when photographing glass.


Most light sources tend to be too harsh. When using a flash, it's recommended to use some sort of light modifier such as an umbrella or softbox. These will not only help soften the light but spread it more evenly, as well.


More important than the quality of light is its direction.


Whether you have a built-in flash or a hotshoe flash that fits atop your camera, the light that comes from them will be reflected directly back into the camera, causing unsightly and distracting highlights.


To light your object, try placing your light sources, whether off-camera flashes or regular light blubs, to either side of it. That should minimize some of the reflections and unwanted bright spots.


Many photographers use what's called a light tent (or light shed) when taking pictures of relatively small glass objects.


It's basically a small enclosure with opaque panels to shine light through to illuminate an object inside. Most use it with studio flashes, but they can be used with constant light sources such as incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.


Not only are they good for photographing glass objects, but they work on any small item that you want evenly lit.


Depending on the size and brand they can cost from $50 to $200, but you can easily make one yourself for a fraction of the cost.


I made one out of PVC pipe and some cloth from a fabric store. All you have to do is fashion a cube out of the pipe and connectors (the dimensions are up to you, but I wouldn't go more than 2 or 3 feet per side).


Then drape some white fabric, such as a bed sheet, over it and - voilà! - instant light tent!


Using the tent and a black background, I recommend placing one light source on either side of it and placing your subject in the center.


Against the dark backdrop, the glass will become nearly invisible, but its edges will catch the white highlights of the light coming through the sides of the tent and define the shape of the object and make it stand out against the blackness.


This technique can be used for both clear and dark or colored glass.


If you're using a white background (the most effective if you're shooting clear glass) there are two ways to light your subject in the tent.


First is just to shine a light through the back panel and backlight the glass. You'll basically be shooting the silhouettes that define the darkened edges of the glass. The second method is to add the technique used with the clear glass (the two lights) to the backlight. Not only will you get the silhouette that defines the shape of your object, but you'll also catch some subtle pleasing highlights that will give your subject some depth.


If you're using regular light bulbs, they may not be as strong as a flash, so reduced overall exposure may be a result of these techniques, meaning you'll probably have to use a slower shutter speed. Using a tripod is recommended to eliminate camera shake.


The last tip is to turn off or cover up any other incidental light sources such as overhead lights or windows, because they can be reflected in the glass.


You may not notice them having any effect until you actually shoot the picture, but they'll show up in the finished product. Reduced overall light may be a result of these techniques.


Photographing glass objects may seem like a simple thing but it's actually very complicated.


Whenever I do it, I learn something new. The one thing that's certain is that it is never as clear as glass.


Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or coto@recordnet.com. You can read his blog at www.recordnet.com/otoblog.


Source: http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AIDAuthor: shangyi

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