Exercise – Shiny surfaces

And so to the 11th and final exercise in the light section of the course* where we tackle the photography of shiny surfaces.

Fig.01 - Mouse with reflections
Fig.01 – Mouse with reflections

Shiny surfaces mean direct reflections and so the camera, flash, photographer and surroundings are likely to be reflected in the subject’s surface.

This is my wife’s mouse where she saves one pound coins. Until it was emptied last week, I had not been allowed this close. It is made from a polished but dark metal and as can be seen in fig.01, when photographed reflects the light source, the sky and our garden fence.

Fig.02 - With cone, light near camera
Fig.02 – With cone, light near camera
Fig.03 - With cone, light near floor
Fig.03 – With cone, light near floor

The suggested solution is to create a cone of translucent material that surrounds the subject and the lens, meaning that only the insides of the cone and lens will be reflected in the surface of the subject. Being translucent, light can be passed through the cone (diffused transmission) to light the subject without its source being visible. Careful placement of the subject relative to the lens means that its reflection can be ‘hidden’ in an area of the surface that is not reflecting back towards the camera, in this case the slot in the top.

Fig.02 shows the result with a speedlight held next to the camera (outside the cone) and on very low power. The flash wasn’t diffused. Doing so would have softened the light further and smoothed the results. Fig.03 was shot with the flash close to the ground in front of the mouse.

Where the material overlaps, the amount of ambient light reaching the subject changes and results in the patches visible in the surface. Had I been a little more patient in building the cone and had some tape that was actually sticky, I could have resolved this and produced more even results. I used two sheets of A3 matte-surface drafting film to form the cone and a speedlight for the light source.

Fig.04 - With cone, zoomed out
Fig.04 – With cone, zoomed out

This was a useful exercise and with a little more patience (or a light tent) the problem of surface reflections can be solved fairly easily. I’m sure that this technique will come in useful at some point in the future.

*I’ve missed ‘Light through the day’ for now, but like to think that I’ve covered most of it in the colour temperature exercises and in my assignment.

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