Lighting Highly Polished Teapot - Help

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by bazz fa''razz, Jul 25, 2012.

  1. Hi all,
    I need help shooting this teapot. All I have to work with is a 4x4 cubelite, 2 lowel tota constant lights, 1 light with large soft box, and an 18-55mm lens. I tried shooting it in the tent but I don't like the results. There are way too many reflections. Can anyone give me any quick advice on this?
  2. Looks like the lighting is pretty uneven on this one or is that the actual color of the pot ? Another question is the background supposed to be grey or white ?
    I remember doing this assignment when I was taking a studio lighting class a few years back. I did not use a softbox, but I did use a Tent with 2 diffused hot-lights at 45 degree angles, also a poralizer filter on the lens.
    I stood back far enough from the Tent and used a moderately long lens to avoid my reflection appearing on the pot. If I remember correctly some people in the class shot through a white sheet placed on the front of the Tent, but you could see the hole in the white sheet on the reflection.
  3. Can anyone give me anyquick advice on this?​
    Not really. There is a chapter (well several) in the book: Light the Science and Magic that deals with photographing reflective surfaces. It is worth the read and obviously posting a chapter in a forum wouldn't be "quick" advice!
    Charles_Webster, Ed_Ingold and Jochen like this.
  4. Back in the olden days - using 5x4 film and a monorail - we used to control reflections by spraying the surface of silver and suchlike with a dulling spray. This took the extreme shine off and saved a lot of airbrushing or retouching. You can make your own dulling spray with a solution of milk and water, but you need a very fine atomiser and the patience to apply the spray in thin layers. If you try to apply it all at once it'll just run.
    Secondly, the cube you're using is far too big. You need to get the tent a lot closer to the pot to avoid that great expanse of unlit grey underneath it, or sit the whole thing on a translucent product table and underlight it.
    Thirdly, a square tent for a round object is a bad idea. Get some draughting film or other translucent material and surround the pot with a simple cylinder or cone - no corners to reflect. Or you can buy or make a conical fabric tent if you do a lot of that sort of thing.
    Fourthly, there's no easy way to avoid the black hole where the lens pokes through the tent. That's where the dulling spray comes into play, but you'll probably still have to clone, heal or airbrush and smudge the lens reflection away in PS.
    BTW, a polarizer is of no use whatsoever in reducing specular (mirror-like) reflections.
  5. BTW, a polarizer is of no use whatsoever in reducing specular (mirror-like) reflections.​
    Or, IIRC, reflections from a conductive surface, like metal.
    Another vote for Light: Science and Magic. It has a whole chapter on lighting shiny metal things, and is well worth the money.
  6. You need something like a light tent or very large light panels on both sides and in front. You may have to cut a hole in the middle of the panel to shoot through then retouch it out. You can also use a tilt shift lens and shoot at a low angle in front and shift the lens to correct the parallax. Then again retouch any unwanted reflections.
  7. Depending on the final result you're after, the easiest route with the gear you have would be a dark field setup. This would be done by placing your softbox behind the pot (both resting on a table top so that the base of the pot is even with the bottom edge of the softbox). The softbox can be on a stand, just let the front edge rest on the table. Position the pot so it's in middle of the softbox, then block the light from the center of the softbox with a piece of black foam core or whatever's handy. A picture here is probably better than words:
    The above setup produced this result:
    Note that you will achieve only rim lighing. Detail in the frontal areas of the pot will be diminished or lost without some additional fill. Here is an example of a non-reflective subject, lit by a beauty dish, together with a reflective element lit by dark field:
    This exercise might be worth doing even if the expected final result is not your goal because someday you'll want to use it for another project. Working out a scheme for illuminating the pot fully will be time consuming but worthwhile. Avoid the use of dulling spray unless you want the pot to look... dull. I recommend you fully investigate this site, starting with this link.
    Good luck and have fun.
  8. I forgot to mention in the post above that the key concept to keep in mind when shooting reflective objects is not to focus on lighting the object itself, but rather the object's environment. Maybe this is overstating the obvious but it's so fundamental that it can't be left unsaid.
    Such is the case with water drop photography. You can directly light the water until you're blue in the face (first photo) but you'll never get as good a result as you will when you light the water's surroundings (second photo):
    The speculars in the water are the result of direct lighting, but all the shaping and tonality come from the foam core behind the water which is getting the full focus of the snooted speedlight.
    If you've never shot water, try it sometime on a cold or rainy morning when you've nothing better to do. It can be pretty addictive. :)
  9. Howard you are comparing apples to oranges. The is a difference between lighting glass and lighting chrome don't you think?
  10. just google chrome tea pots or even the company all clad and see what the pros are doing in there brochures. What I have seen is exactly what i first thought of. Large white light panels in the front and what i just learned is set them up as a pair with a little space between them so it creates a black line reflection going up the tea pot. The key is the light panels must be tall enough to create a continuous reflection without a break. Also I see some shots done shooting down on the object showing the reflection of the white shooting table. You may be able to put both softboxes together and booom it directlly over the tpot to light up the white tables reflection as you shoot at your downward angle. Adjust the angle to what looks best. You will obviously need more foreground white table to keep a continous reflection on the pot.
  11. Howard you are comparing apples to oranges. The is a difference between lighting glass and lighting chrome don't you think?​
    Reflective subjects are difficult to light whether they are chrome or glass. Lessons learned from one can often be applied to the other.
    Did you even bother to look at the link in my first post?
  12. lessons learned from one can can be applied to the other? Why not just give the lesson asked for? Your other lesson is very good and exactly what a person should do when lighting a glass or bottle or something translucent. I did not mean to belittle your response and if I did i am sorry.
  13. Generally, transparent or translucent fine glass objects do not intensely reflect everything that is in front of it the way chrome objects do. In effect rounded chrome objects are like the security mirrors in retail stores ... which clearly sees everything. The lighting techniques are often quite different.
    I shoot a LOT of chrome objects, the most difficult being chrome wheels done for GM each year. I admit to wincing when the wheel is chrome as opposed to brushed aluminum or a painted surface : -) Each chrome wheel presents a different lighting problem because they are all shaped differently ... some concave, some convex, and some a little of both.
    The secret of shooting highly polished reflective objects is first observing what they do in real life. Not only do they reflect everything around them, they are usually somewhat lit from above ... by the sky in the case of a wheel, and by household lights indoors.
    White sweep background, soft-box on a boom arm at a 45 degree angle above to start. To kill any front reflections place a large foamcore sheet in front of the camera with a hole to poke the lens through. That the lens shows up in the surface as a spot is not an issue with digital capture and photoshop.
    Then proceed to use the notion of "subtractive lighting". Add pieces of black card that reflect back into the surface, and creates the shapes and curved reflections to define shape. These need not be geometrically perfect depending on the object. It is actually creative and fun to do ... unless it is 10 wheels needed by the next day ... then it is just work, LOL!
    Ed_Ingold likes this.
  14. I have found success using a light mounted polarizer in combination with a lens polarizer. It's not perfect, but it gets much of the nasty reflections under control. I've yet to try this technique with a troublesome bottle of drink that is curving in two directions. I used this technique in the attached photo.[​IMG]
  15. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    OP bazz fa''razz was last seen: May 23, 2013
  16. For an highly reflective surface, much of what you photograph is what is reflected, rather than the physical surface. You must still focus on surface details, but concentrate on lighting the environment.

    An ordinary soft box, as used in the OP, clearly shows the opening left for the lens, looking awkward and out of place. IMO, it is better to leave the 4th wall open and completely dark, showing no trace of the camera or room. You can create a high key background with a 5-sided box, or a dark background by illuminating only th the top and two sides. Illuminate the panels evenly, so that you don't see hot spots in the reflections. It doesn't take sophisticated studio lighting, nor especially bright lights. You can use hardware store variety work lights at a distance for uniformity, as long as you shield them to avoid excessive spill into the room.

    Crossed polarizers, the universal amateur solution, have no use in this project and few other lighting challenges. A dulling spray works (milk was applied in the past, but is very hard to remove), but belies the actual surface of the object. Get creative, and you won't get sued for damages by the client. Better yet, you will get called again.

    If you don't have a copy of "Light - The Science and Magic," get one! It's in its 7th edition with no signs of stopping.

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