Photographing highly reflective products like glass, gems, and metals can be very tricky even for experienced photographers. In order to master still life photography, you need to know how shape and control light, as well as how to eliminate reflections. Luckily, we have got a few tips and tricks to help you on your way.
How to photograph glassware:
To give a “crystal clear” appearance to glassware you may want to use a simple approach called the “backlighting” technique. The advantage of this set up is that it flatters any glass object by taking advantage of its transparent nature.
The key light should be placed behind the product and be softened and diffuse. To emphasize the natural lines and contours of the product, you can use dark boards placed on each sides of the object.
In order to expose the subject properly with the backlit technique, the background has to be overexposed.
How to photograph watches or sunglasses:
Other glassy reflective products like watches or sunglasses benefit from side lighting. First, set up your object on a large clean surface, such as the surface of suspended roll of white paper that flows continuously from its suspension point to beyond your camera. This bright surface reflects the light back onto your subject and will get rid of any foreground reflections. To balance the light, soften lighting on one side of the object and place a reflector on the opposite side.
Use a combination of a tripod, a high aperture (f/11) and a low ISO setting (ISO 100) to get sharp images. Also, try to shoot the object from a higher level so that your camera is at an angle, facing down towards your subject. Do not hesitate to play with the light but just always be sure not to illuminate the object from the face on, as it can cause spot glares.
How to photograph metallic objects:
Metallic objects are not easy to photograph as they reflect everything around them. In order to minimize these distracting reflections we will use the “two-lighting” setup. Position your object as previously described, on a large clean surface.
Place two large diffused studio lights on either side of the subject. Make sure your subject is softly illuminated. As described previously for the backlight technique, if you are loosing the contours you can play with dark boards to accentuate the lines of the object.
Using a tripod, shoot slightly down at an angle towards the product. Strobe lighting (flash) is by far the best mode of illumination for metallic materials.
To avoid surplus post-production, be sure to wipe away fingerprints and dust from the object.
We hope these set ups will give you a solid foundation for shooting reflective objects. The rest is up to you: experiment, play and find your signature lighting; it can be beneficial beyond product photography!