Camera secrets: how to photograph a reflective surface?

Suppose you want to photograph an object that is a mirror of some sorts?  Especially metallic objects that are curved, like a chrome vase, are hard to photograph. See the next example:

fig.1 picture of a chrome vase

This is a picture of vase that I took,  that actually reflects the complete surroundings of the studio, but you don’t see it. So what’s the trick?


The trick:

There are two ways you can do this:

  1. 1. Use photoshop
  2. 2. Use a technical camera

No photoshopping this time!

For this picture I’ve used a technical camera. This is a special camera that allows you to change the plane of focus or perspective. You can move the front and back side of the camera independent from each other. It’s called rise, fall and shift. You can also change the angle of the front and back sides of the camera. This is called, tilt and swing. What is does is that

fig2: a technical camera

First you need a totally dark studio. So that the vase is only reflecting darkness, or (almost) pure black. When you place the lights and the reflection screens, it will only reflect these and of course the camera and photographer. Next thing you do is wear black clothes, so you’ll blend in with the dark surroundings. I didn’t go so far to out to put on a black forage cap. But if you’re really into it, you can do that 😉

So now the vase is reflecting a white screen on the left side. On the right side of the vase there is no light. The further you go to the right, the light gradually reduces strength and it  turns to black. From behind I placed a rim light to accentuate the shape of the vase.

If I would use a ‘normal’ dslr camera, than I would see myself and my camera exactly in the middle of the vase. No matter from what angle I will take the picture, I will always see myself reflected in the middle of it, because the vase has a sphere like shape at the base. Here’s where the ethnical camera comes in. It has a neat little trick.


You can shift the front side of the camera, so that the perspective changes:


In doing so, I can shift the reflection of myself and the camera to the right, in the dark parts of the vase. Because I’m wearing black clothes you won’t see me reflected!



Please give me your comments..




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