What happens when you try to photograph watches, glasses, jewelry, or eyewear? You end up photographing whatever is visible in the reflection. Just like the way you can capture your reflection in the mirror, pointing your camera straight to the camera, will reveal reflections.
Reflective objects can prove to be quite a challenge especially when you’re just starting with studio lighting. But just like any skill, you can master it by finding what technique best works for you.
One of the main problems in shooting reflective objects such as glasses, bottles and anything that is metallic is that it bounces back anything around it. It can show your own camera or anything on your walls.
Tip #1 Don’t be afraid to experiment
Learning from faulty lighting mistakes can help you understand how to improve a setup and challenge your knowledge in lighting.
To do a little experiment on these reflective surfaces, place any metallic object in front of your light source, point the light directly at the object and take a photo. It does not matter whether you are using strobes or continuous lights, it will yield the same result. How did it come out? There will most likely be a large reflection on the object, with some harsh shadows casted.
Tip #2 Don’t light the object directly
The key to photographing reflective objects is to light what is being reflected, instead of lighting the object directly. This means that you have to use foam to cover any possible reflections that can be shown by the object. Especially for white product shots, surrounding the object with white foam or material can effectively remedy the problem.
It will look like the product is inside a white box, with a little peeking whole for your camera lens.
Tip #3 Use 2 Flash Heads with a 10-Degree Grid
As for the lighting setup, you can put two flash heads with a 10-degree grid at the back and an overhead beauty dish with a grid.
This can be a tad complicated, but everything depends on the type of reflective surface you are dealing with, which is why exploring different lighting techniques is healthy for your skill development.
Tip #4 Know the trick for shooting round reflective objects
Round reflective objects such as watches, eyewear, or wine bottles are more challenging because of the shadows they create. It’s not just the highlights that are problematic. You can use soft white lights in order to create highlights. On the other hand, you can use negative fill where you don’t. You can use black cards or flags for this. For round objects, you need bigger reflectors because smaller cards won’t cover the broad area that can be reflected in the surface of this object. But if you place a large card close to the object, you can offer complete coverage with highlights and shadows.
When shooting reflective objects, you’ll want to hide yourself as well as your gear in the shadows. This means controlling spill in order to keep yourself and your gear in the dark. Be vigilant about using black tripods, instead of silver. Be mindful of the clothes you’re wearing. Learn wear to stand.