Introduction: Photographing Glassware

About: Retired Electronic Design Engineer. Member of The MakerBarn.

How can you take a good dramatic photo of an object that is transparent? This is what this Instructable is all about. Tabletop photography can be an exciting and rewarding hobby. Finding simple objects around the home and making interesting images is challenging. Glassware is especially challenging.

Step 1: Normal Lighting for Most Objects

This is a normal setup for photographing small objects. The object is placed on paper background material that covers both the foreground and background. The material follows a gentle arc from horizontal to vertical so that there is no hard corner that would produce a distracting shadow. This is call a sweep.

Two lights are used, a strong Key light and a softer fill light. The fill light intensity is usually about 1 stop lower than the key light. This allows a bit of shadow to show depth, but enough light to show detail.

Step 2: Normal Lighting Results

As you can see in the two photos, this lighting technique works great for the antique microscope, but not so well for the wine glass. In fact, if the background was brought up to full brightness, the glass would almost disappear.

Step 3: Bright Field Lighting

Bright field lighting can be done using strong lighting on a white backdrop, or if a translucent backdrop is used, the light shines through the backdrop. This transmits light through the object which is good for translucent objects, like flowers.

Step 4: Brightfield Results

On transparent glass, the bright field technique works best on object such a cut glass where the light is reflected, and in some cases, refracted.

Step 5: Take Advantage of Reflections

The wine glass can be a problem because it reflects light from the front and sides. What if we used this to our advantage? Note the black reflectors on each side of the glass.

Step 6: That's Better, Reflections Can Help

Here is a couple of examples using the bright field technique. As you can see, the wine glass photo is much more dramatic with the reflection on the black panels. The translucent wine comes alive with bright field illumination.

Step 7: Introducing Dark Field Illumination

Dark field illumination was first used in microscopes for viewing objects that were nearly transparent. The idea is to block the light from the center and provide oblique lighting from the sides. The transparent object refracts and reflects the light. The camera sees the refracted light.

Step 8: Examples of Dark Field Illumination

The wine glass suddenly comes alive and produces a remarkable image. The bubbles in the soda refract the light and show up brilliantly. The half full glass and bottle are also quite dramatic.

Step 9: Reflections Can Define Shape

Here are two dark field photos of a fishbowl. The first photo is pretty neat, but doesn't really show the three dimensional shape of the bowl. Setting a faux window, made of posterboard and some black tape, in front of the bowl produces a reflection that discloses the true shape of the bowl.

Play around with some of these ideas and see what you can make.

Makerspace Contest 2017

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Makerspace Contest 2017