Posts Tagged ‘techniques’

Cool Background Ideas – Light Painting & Smoke!

March 29th, 2011 2 comments
Pink Potion

1. Pink Potion & Smoke - Exposure 2.5 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100

Here are the resuts of some quick test shots using black lights, smoke and light painting.

The subject was a vintage glass bottle with a ground glass stopper. I noticed a lot of these in the shop of Yusuf the chemist in Mombasa in the movie Inception! As a chemist, I’m always interested in vintage laboratory and apothecary items.

I made the pink fluorescent liquid by soaking the felt insert from a pink highlighter pen in some water. It worked really well! Here’s more information about how to make liquids that glow under black light.

For the black light source, I used a UV Cannon and a 12″ UV fluorescent tube.

I generated the smoke using a stick of incense. To light up the smoke, I used a Paul C. Buff  X800 White Lightning strobe with a pink gel, and a 10º honeycomb grid and barndoors to prevent light spill on the bottle. The background was a black nylon fabric. The bottle was placed on a piece of white foam core.

I’ve used smoke quite often as an interesting background – it works best with a dark background and backlighting. In this case, I had the light to the right of the camera and behind the bottle, out of frame. For people, I have a fog machine that gives great smoke effects on a larger scale.

To get the above shot, 1. Pink Potion & Smoke, I set the camera on a tripod and used second curtain sync (slow sync) and a 2.5 sec exposure and CyberSyncs to trigger the flash. I was below the table with the smoking incense, using a remote control to trigger the camera.

Pink potion & nebula

2. Pink Potion & Nebula - Exposure 71 sec, f/9.0, 100 ISO

For the next shot, 2. Pink Potion & Nebula, I used painting with light to create a nebula-like effect. For the the background, I used white seamless paper with a black nylon fabric covering it. With the black fabric in place, and the camera set to bulb, I started with a couple seconds of blacklight, then shut them off. While the shutter was still open and the studio in darkness, I removed the fabric to reveal the white seamless paper, I painted it with a Maglite flash light, with a blue gel over it some cool the light a bit, then closed the shutter with the remote. It took a few tries to get a background that I liked!

Pink Potion & Abstract

3. Pink Potion & Abstract - Exposure 48 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100

The third shot was done in a similar way as the second, except that I also used an LED flashlight and did not use the blue gel on the Maglite. The LED flashlight actually has three separate beams so it created trails in groups of 3, making an interesting abstract design.

If you are in need of a unique background in your still life or product photography, you might want to give these a try. If you have some similar examples, please share links to them in the comment section!






Tips for Photographing Glass

October 13th, 2010 2 comments
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Glass Apothecary Jar

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.

Lighting Setup for glass

Lighting setup for glass

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.

Glass Lighting

Lighting Glass with Bright Field Method

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.

Glass on Black

Glass on Black

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:

Lighting glass
How to photograph transparent and glassy objects – Tutorial
Tips on How to Photograph Glass