Photographing reflective glass/ceramic artwork

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by jessehull, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. jessehull

    jessehull TPF Noob!

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    Hello!
    First off -NOT a photographer... I don't even kid myself about that.
    I'm actually schooled as a studio artist w/ an emphasis in ceramic chemistry.
    A few of the glazes I produce are semi-matte to matte, but most are gloss (e.g. reflective!)... and some of these are glossy and dark.

    The best example is the glaze below with cobalt blue crystals floating on a jet-black background:

    [​IMG]

    The lidded jar image above came out OK, except for that wavy reflection underneath, and I did have to do digital editing to correct the color. The next one however, is crap, IMHO:

    [​IMG]

    You can pretty much shave in the reflection these give off, & even career photographers say it's like taking a picture of a blank TV screen from 3 ft. away (I actually got a good laugh out of that analogy).

    I've tried non-diffused focused light, but since my space is limited, they leave large hot spots due to the distance their set at.
    I also use a large 5X5X5ft diffusing tent (smaller tents & cubes just left huge "window pane reflections"). The larger tent does a better job with the less reflective glazes, but makes the gloss pieces look like their out of focus or coated with hairspray.:grumpy:

    [​IMG] Diffused (Light Tent)

    The best past photos I've ever had done were by a pro who shot them in a HUGE warehouse studio. Having all the space we needed, super intense lighting was set way back and he shot the work from several feet away. Any reflections or hotspots were tiny and easily edited out later.

    I lost that guy when I moved and I'm producing much more work than I was then, so I don't really have time to wait for photography appointments every time I get pieces ready for sale.

    Any suggestions on lighting, diffusing, photographing, etc. would be greatly appreciated.
    - BTW: If interested, you can view more of my artwork HERE -

    ~jesse.
     
  2. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    Can we have some images that the other photographer shot so we can reverse-engineer them and tell you how to do it exactly like he had them?
     
  3. jessehull

    jessehull TPF Noob!

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    I'll see if I can dig up those originals. I don't even post that older work anymore, and I was mostly only using the web-friendly jpeg versions even then...
    I guess the only thing is that even if you can reverse engineer them, it won't tell me how do take the pictures in the limited space I've got to work with.

    How about this...
    In dealing with curved, dark, and reflective surfaces --is brighter light far away better than dim light closer up?
    Obviously the settings on the camera would need to be adjusted in either situation --but are there general guidelines to follow in this regard?
    (A higher ISO captures more in dim light, but also creates more noise... so I'm guessing brighter light is better).

    I just don't want to run out and purchase more lights until I'm sure.
    Right now I have four 65 watt compact fluorescents (each at 3400 lumens /6500 kelvin) on tripods. Pretty basic... maybe even sub-basic, but I like the color they render.

    ~jesse.
     
  4. HBSA

    HBSA TPF Noob!

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    Hi Jesse

    Lovely pieces... well done.

    Sorry to raise an old thread, but what did you find worked for you? I have a client that also does ceramic work. She asked me to photograph the items for her website. I was thinking of building a light tent but it seems that did not work to well for you. Any suggestions?

    Thanks
     
  5. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Relatively cheap setup to try is as follows. I have used it to shoot some etched curved glass awards at work.

    Materials:

    One tall square cardboard box. (The golf/sports equipment packing box from UHaul is perfect)

    One small sturdy cardboard box or a small back light stand.

    One sheet of glass or plexiglass about 4" bigger than the top of the box.

    Background material ( your choice I prefer black) along with extra matching material to put in the box. This becomes important later.

    Extra strobe to place inside the box.

    Triggering device. I use pocketwizards but any will do as long as they will fire all the lights.

    2 additional lights on stands with softboxes. Umbrellas will work but are tougher to work with in this situation as you tend to get the support ribs showing slightly.

    Setup.

    First cut a door in the bottom of the tall box. Place one strobe inside pointing up at about 1/4 of the power you use for the other two lights. Line the inside of the box with the extra background material. Place the glass on top of the setup. Glass must be spotlessly clean. Place the object on the glass. Place this setup about 6 feet infront of your background material.

    Two softboxes above and slightly in front of the object to shoot. You will have to just work a little here to get the exact position. The shape will determine their final positon.

    Camera on a tripod slightly above the plain of the glass. Now you just have to play a bit until you get the lights where you want them with even lighting top/sides and bottom. If you want more bottom light crank it up a bit. This is especially nice if you are shooting a clear bottle or glass with a colored liquid in it.

    The lining will make the glass shelf the same color that the background is. If you are using a light or white background you may have to light it as well to get the same bright white. With black you can get a jet black sheet of glass that melts into the black background seamlessly.


    Sorry I don't have any photos available. I did this at work and all the shots are there.

    Here are a couple of examples of the kind of results you can get. Not mine.

    http://www.glassicaldesigns.com/products/glass/full_size/imgPopup.cfm?ClippedSquareclearlarge.jpg

    http://www.glassicaldesigns.com/products/glass/full_size/imgPopup.cfm?Faceted_Kryptonite-clear.jpg

    http://www.glassicaldesigns.com/products/glass/full_size/imgPopup.cfm?frostedchiplarge.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2009
  6. HBSA

    HBSA TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the detailed response Gryphon. It sounds like a winning recipe. I will put your advice to test and see if I can achieve such professional results.

    Thanks!!
     
  7. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For quick and dirty try getting a white shower curtain and stretching it out with your subject on one side and your strobe on the other (back the strobe up until you get full coverage on the curtain- unless you want more specularity in which case move it closer).

    The point is that the bigger the light source relative to the subject the softer the light and that's the only way it works.
     
  8. EhJsNe

    EhJsNe TPF Noob!

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    you can get some nice results with a small light tent (similar to this here "macro studio" Strobist: How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio ) and a couple cheap flashes. (or if your not using a camera not able to use an external flash, get some cheap lamps and position them where you would put the flashes.)
     

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