Photographing Reflective Objects Macro Style

Hello everyone,

Today I would like to show you some examples of how to photograph reflective objects and of course I will discuss the info based on macro photography.

Unwanted reflection can be distracting especially when your subject is in your face like a Macro photo.  Of course it’s always fun when you’re artistically photographing reflection but that’s for a later article.

With many glass objects, like light bulbs, we can reflect light on the glass to create a black or white rim to show the viewer the depth of the object, but with this bulb I need to show the painted artwork.  So we must defuse the light.

When we photograph macro most of the subject is in the shot, which can be difficult when working with reflective objects.  As you can see from figure 1 the light bulb is very reflective; you can see me in the bulb.  If you want to view the figures up close click on them and to get back to the blog use your back arrow key on your browser.

Figure 1

In Figure 2 I put a tent around the bulb but as you can see that the refection of the camera lens is in the shot.  Not Good.

Figure 2

Figure 3 is and example of the tent I used.

Figure 3

In order to minimize the reflection of light hitting your macro shot, start with the example in Figure 4.  Set two lights on each side of the subject and cross the light source beams.  You will actually see the reflection diminish, but if you’re still having problems use a polarizing filter; that’s what I had to do for this shot.

Figure 4

Provided by,  “The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist’ by Margaret R. Lazzari

Provided by, “The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist’ by Margaret R. Lazzari

I purchased my polarizer from B & H – my favorite place to shop.

Figure 5

I knew that a black background wouldn’t work with this bulb so the white tent was perfect.  In Figure 6 you can see how I set up the object.  In Photoshop I removed the wire and cleaned up the bulb figure 7.

Figure 6

Figure 7

Of course I love to see everything up close so I gave my clients some fun shots of the inside of the bulb and the actual painting on the bulb (my favorite shot).

Figure 8

Figure 9

My next example is my fingernail.  If you have read my blog before you know that I love the creativity of my Manicurist Jennifer.  This time she put sparkles on my nail and I loved them so much that I had to photograph it.  As you can see from Figure 10 the flare is distracting and takes away from my sparkles so I photograph my nail with black velvet (velvet is excellent to use – it absorbs light so it won’t bounce on your subject) as my background. I diffused the light source hitting my nail with my translucent reflector.

Figure 10

Figure 11 is an example of my Translucent Reflector.

Figure 11

Now we can see my sparkles in figure 12, which puts a smile on my face 🙂

Figure 12

So remember…

  • Diffuse your light.  You can use a tent, white silk, white tissue paper, translucent reflector…
  • Use a polarizer filter on your lens
  • Cross your lighting – see Figure 4

Yes, it takes time to work on reflective objects and when you Macro you really see the imperfections but it’s worth it in the end.  You will have an awesome photograph to show your clients or just for your own self-gratification a picture that our eyes would not see if it wasn’t for your time and creativity.

Have fun!




12 Comments on “Photographing Reflective Objects Macro Style”

  1. fabel says:

    I’d like to start blogging but I have no idea which website to use? Which ones are the best?.

  2. Woh I enjoy your content , saved to bookmarks ! .

  3. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing tip on this topic. It is very useful information and I look forward to reading more about tents and and light boxes. Do you polarizers for indoor and outdoor subjects when there are unwanted shadows?

    • Thanks for the comment Helena,

      I use my polarizer when I have unwanted glare. Boy, did I get a lot of slack from other studio photographers. But let me say something about this…when I was in college and my professor taught us to photograph paintings he showed us what I was discussing in this post and it worked. So what I say to my readers….use whatever you can to get what you want in your photograph. Don’t limit yourself because the equipment was made for a particular reason.


  4. Amazing post. I have bookmarked your site. I am looking forward to reading more

  5. Jm says:

    How about a motorcycle helmet?

    • Thanks for commenting Jm! I was wondering if anyone was reading this post 🙂 A motorcycle helmet is the same. You must defuse your light and while you are defusing the light with whatever you want to use (tent, white silk, soft box) cross your lighting and use a polarizer on your lens. Use a tripod too. As you move the lights around you will see how they change the way your helmet will look.

      Good luck! If you have time or remember…post a link to the helmet you shot, we would love to see it 🙂 I could also give you some suggestions once I see the photog, if you’re getting frustrated 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s