I recently took some photos of antique glass apothecary jars using a technique called “bright field lighting”. Glass is tricky to shoot because it is both transparent and reflective. If you are not careful, here you will lose the definition of the edge of the glass and get unwanted reflections and highlights.
In this shot, more about I used a white background and lit it with a single strobe facing the background and placed it behind and below the glass jar. The jar was on a table covered with white paper and placed on top of a clear piece of glass. I put black cards on each side of the jar to give more defined edges. I also used a reflector in front of the jar to increase the light on the label. The basic setup is shown in the lighting diagram.
I did some post-processing – changed the image to a sepia tone, using Lightroom and added a vintage photo to the background with Photoshop. I used a levels adjustment layer to increase the brightness of the label.
The next photo shows a basic image of a glass of water with a couple of drops of food coloring, shot using the same technique without the Photoshop work. In this image I adjusted the contrast and removed a few stray water drops using the dust removal tool in Lightroom.
Another way to photograph glass is by using a dark background with highlighted edges such as in the photo of the glass vase below. The strobe was placed behind a black background, which was placed in front of a larger white background. The strobe was facing towards the white background, so the edges of the vase were lit by the reflected light.
It is very helpful to use a tripod to aid in composing the shots and to help tweak the setup. Although I used strobes for these shots, continuous lighting will work too, and a tripod will allow you to use longer shutter speeds with no problem.
A great reference for lighting, including glass is Light – Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua.
Here are some more tips for lighting glass: