Glass is one the trickiest surfaces to photograph since it is both translucent and reflective. Getting good looking reflections is the key to producing an image that will make your product look amazing. Here are a few basic set-ups that should get you started on your way to taking professional looking shots.
I recommend purchasing black Cinefoil or black paper rolled into tubes to give some dimension and edge lighting to the object. Cinefoil is an aluminum material that virtually soaks up light. It’s ideal for masking light leaks and/or eliminating unwanted reflections and it can be quickly molded to form barndoors and flags. Because it’s lightweight and durable it can be used many times over and be quickly positioned in place with tape, staples or adhesives.
Using a Cube
If you’re inexperienced with strobes, a lighting cube is the way to go. Light tents diffuse the light and provide a seamless background. Use a photoflood light set with daylight balanced bulbs as the main light source and a daylight balanced illuminated flat panel for bottom lighting. It is very important that all light sources match and have the same color temperature.
Lighting from Beneath
Light panels, typically used to view slides and negatives before the digital days of photography, are a fantastic option for photographing glass and even cosmetic products packaged with acrylic materials.
Position your object towards the front of the light panel so that more of the light is coming from behind your glassware, which will cause the illumination effect to travel father up the glass. The light panel can also be used in conjunction with a light cube either inside or beneath.
A technique often used by professionals is to light the object to achieve a graduated background. This can be accomplished with a pre-cut, graduated background that fits inside the light cube.
If you want your image to have a lighter background, place a light panel inside the cube with your object closer to the font of the light panel so that most of the light is behind the object. Place Cinefoil or the rolled black paper on either side to give a slight black edge to the glass so that it adds dimension and separation from the background.
Photographing on Black
For a more dramatic effect, try shooting on a black background. This works especially well if you want to convey a luxury, upscale feeling to the product.
Cut a hole slightly smaller than the size of the base of your objects. Place both the paper and the object on a light panel placed inside on the bottom of your light cube. Use only one light source place at the back of the cub and slightly above the black background to light the top of the product.
Softboxes are a highly versatile light modifier that produces soft even light that can create stunning still-life photography. Unfortunately many of its qualities make it a less than ideal solution for shooting reflective and translucent objects.
Reflections of softboxes on your object will not read well. Look closely at any high-end ad in a glossy magazine and you’ll be able to find what size and shape the photographer used. If you are going to go with softboxes, you’ll need to play around with distance and size to get the best results. The other solution is to have handy every size softbox possible from extra small on up to 6 feet which can by pricey to say the least!
The black edges of the softbox can result in unwanted black reflection or a sharp edge on the reflection. This can be resolved by taping white gaffers tape over each edge of your softbox.
Shooting with Vellum
To eliminate issues with softboxes and reflective materials, try utilizing a large sheet of Translum diffusion plastic and place it in front of your softboxes.
So now you’ve got a few tools to tackle your translucent objects and create superb images for your clients.