(1 to 100 of 146 replies)
steveblackdog PRO 3:57pm, 23 April 2010
Well I hope the title has got some curious enough to open this thread and had better expain a little of what it is about.

The aim is to provide a project that almost anybody can try and no matter what the ability, by following along, will be able to get acceptable results. The subject might not appeal to all, but hopefully there will be something to learn. Now I confess to being a beginner myself and I was trying a lot of this for the first time, recording it as I went, thankfully, without too many mistakes. To give an idea of what you can expect to find, here is an example before we start to get a bit more in depth.

PLEASE NOTE : All the pics are clickable and larger versions available, just click on them. May be useful on the setups in particular. Also if you want to see the camera settings used, click on the "more properties" link on the right side of each photos page.


In order to make this so that as many members of the group as possible could try it, I have kept the equipment needed to a minimum. Even if you have a compact point and shoot camera, as long as you can turn off the flash, you should be able to follow along. I have to say though, an SLR (either film or digital) will make it a lot easier and the results more controllable. So here is a pic of the setup, I will follow on with a few notes to explain it.


I hope this shows how simple it is to set up for this and that you dont need a lot of space, this was all done on a small coffee table. Behind the coffee table is a white board to act as a reflector for the lights. A plain wall will work, but it needs to be smooth and white will give the best refections.
The lights are just normal desklamps fitted with 20watt compact flourescent low energy lightbulbs. If you are not sure what these are, ask and I will post a photo from which I'm sure you will recognise them.
You will also need a tripod or another way of supporting the camera for this, the shutter speeds used will not allow for a sharp image if you are holding the camera

Finally we come to the glass that we are going to photograph on. Now you dont need to use glass (more options in a moment), but in my opinion, it gives much better reflections than anything else. It does though have one problem, as do most clear materials, in that both sides of it will give reflections. Time for another photo which I hope will show this. If you look at the refection of the candle holder, you will see it is pretty messed up, as there are 2 refections close together.


The above pic was a sheet of glass with a piece of black card below it, which allows both surfaces to reflect. To overcome this, the best method I have found, is to paint one side of the glass with an aerosol of black paint, matt or gloss it makes no difference, just make sure the glass is polished first to remove fingerprints and the like. This will give you a black mirror in effect

Now you may be thinking, where am I going to find some glass :)
Well, probably the easiest for most people, will be to buy a cheap picture frame from a budget store, take the glass out and use that. One thing to be careful of though, most picture frames dont have the edges of the glass polished, so take care not to cut yourself. A strip of sticky tape along each edge witll help protect your hands.

As I mentioned above, there are alternatives to glass. The most popular is clear Acrylic sheet, this goes by different names in different parts of the world, Lexan, Plexi, Perspex are just a few that I can think of at the moment. This can be used in the same way as glass and will also take black paint in the same way. The biggest problem with Acrylic sheet though, is that it does scratch very easily and if you are going to use it often, continuous polishing will cause scratches in the surface fairly quickly. It is also more expensive than glass.

One final tip before we get on to taking some photos. To help keep your Glass or Acrylic sheet dust free and prevent the black paint from getting scratched in storage, a good idea is to cover it in clear food wrap, you know the stuff that is full of static electricity and sticks to itself. This will pic will hopefully help to show what I mean.


Well if anybody is still here and not got bored, time to take some pics, which I guess is why we are here. To start off with, a shot taken using the set up at the start. This was taken with my little Olympus compact, which I will continue to use for the shots of the various setups, but the photos of the subject will all be done with a DSLR (Canon 300D with kit lense), though wether you will be able to tell the difference, I'm not sure.


I hope you can see how the light reflected from behind works here. The board behind is reflecting the light forward and as the light fades as it gets higher on the board behind, it gets darker toward the front of the glass below. It is also worth noting, the reflection in the glass is all shadow. It is possible to also light from in front, but that is outside the scope of this piece, maybe I will come back to that at another time.

Now remembering that the reflection on the glass base is a mirror image of what is coming from the board behind, we will make use of this in the next shots. To start with, just placing a black bacground behind will give a completely different effect. Here is how it was arranged.


As you will see, the black card does not cover the whole of the background, just enough to fill the relection shown in the glass. There is still light being projected forward from the sides and above the black board. Next up the effect this gives.


I hope this illustrates how the light is altered by the black board behind and you will be starting to understand how this works. Worth noting here, is the way that it is getting lighter toward the foreground from where the light is hitting the background above the black board.

To help ilustrate this a bit more, lets add a coloured background instead.


So now we have a nice orange behind. Good and bright and should work well with the red candle in the holder. The orange is just two pieces of letter sized photocopy paper taped together with sticky tape. Note on the reflection on the glass, from this angle, you can see how it is brighter where it is close to the light source, gradually getting darker as you get further from the lights. This translates in to a gradual change from dark to light when you get down to camera level.


As you can see, this gives a completely different final image to the backgrounds used before. So lets try something else, rather than the nice warm feel of the orange, going to the opposite end of the spectrum, lets try a cool blue. Here it is all set up ready to go.


From this angle it doesnt look very special and it does look strange that the reflection in the glass is not filling the area. Thats just the angle it is viewed from. Here is what it looks like through the viewfinder.


Well, I think it is pretty cool anyway :)

I hope this has shown how playing around with the colours gives different effects and I'm sure there are many more out there waiting to be discovered.

I was going to leave it like this, but one more special effect to come to give a bit more of an abstract result. Here is how it was set.


As you can see, the black board behind is back in the frame. In addition to this, a piece of black card on either side to shield the light coming from the sides. What doesnt show very well here, is that there is a gap of about 1inch/25mm between the cards at the sides and the one at the back, which allows just a narrow beam of light through to reflect in the glass of the candle holder. Here is how it looks lit this way.


Note the way there is very little light in the centre and the narrow light has just illuminated the edges. By playing around with the postion of the lights and the ways you block it, all sorts of different effects are possible.

Well i guess thats as far as we go here at the moment. I hope some have stuck with it and maybe learnt something by reading through all this, but most of all, I hope it has encouraged some to have a play and experiment with something new.

If I have missed something, which is quite likely, or you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will try to answer as best I can. I'm hoping that some results may start to appear in the "Reflections" theme thread, or if you try any of this, please also feel free to add your results in here. At least it would let me know if this was worth doing ;-)

Rather than leaving with 13 pictures though, not that I'm superstitious :) I will sign off with one final pic from my trusty little compact, I hope you enjoyed it.

(1 to 100 of 146 replies)
Paul's Pixels 7 years ago
Phew Steve, your fingers must be 1/2 inch shorter that when you started typing this! Thanks very much for the post with the great explanation and it's an ideal suggestion for a thread. I, for one, will certainly be having a go at this. Paul ☺
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
LOL, not sure about the fingers, having trouble keeping the eyes open though, have spent several days putting all this together.
Glad you like it and hope to see some results, have fun :)
cwiddie 7 years ago
Oh Thank you, thank you, thank you! Its so well explained for a complete newbie!
I will be trying this tomorrow....I cant wait to have a go!
pictureman WA 7 years ago
Steve these are great!! what kind of lights are those?
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Good point Ron, I could have linked to them, but probably not much use to anyone outside the UK, though maybe the specs might help

The bulbs are just ordinary 20W CFL's and the lampholder incorporates a chrome reflector and wings, which are similar to having barn doors on, though fixed in position. Not sure if that helps any.
suenorth91 7 years ago

This looks fun can I ues my flashes?


steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Sure you can Sue, in fact flash is probably more versatile and my preferred method normally, as you know :)
sirwiseowl 7 years ago
I echo the comment above: Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is a wonderful presentation, easy to follow with awesome photos visually explaining each step. Congratulations! --- and another 'thank you' for your time and effort.
We are all going to learn and be much better tabletop photographers from this offering given by a very talented Steve!
Phew! I've read and tried to take on board this presentation----- got to go and have a lie down now, I think I've strained my brain
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Thanks Boss, glad you approve ;-)
I know how you feel, i'm off for another lie down as well :)
leeana_67 7 years ago
great job,love this
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Thanks everyone for the positive comments, even if most of you were already asking questions before I had finished typing :)

One thing that I have been asked about several times is the lights I used. It really doesnt matter very much, as long as you can restrict where they shine and it also helps if you are able to set the white balance on your camera to match the light source. For completeness, here is the type of bulb fitted to the lights I used for this project.

Paul's Pixels Posted 7 years ago. Edited by Paul's Pixels (member) 7 years ago
Hi folks,

Just sprayed my picture frame glass with matt black paint. I prepared and cleaned the glass thoroughly, made sure that there was no dust present, put paper down to catch any overspray, put the first coat on and ... where the h*ll did that dust come from? I'm just waiting for it to dry to see if the bits (and they are small) of dust are visible from the other side. My piece of glass is only 10x12 inches, so if it doesn't work out, I'm going to get some mirrored acrylic sheet (about £6.00 for an A3 sheet), which has the mirror on the top side of the sheet and doesn't cause the double reflections you get with a normal mirror. Have to treat it very carefully, as Steve says above. Paul ☺
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Should be fine Paul, you should see the back of mine, dust, runs and drips all over the place :)
pictureman WA 7 years ago
yeah paul the back doesnt really matter... It was a good tip I got from steve.. I picked my class (11X14) at good will.. I bought the frame w/glass for $2.00...

great set here Steve.. Learned a lot!!
TMurph51 7 years ago
Great job and explanations Steve!
woody329 PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by woody329 (member) 7 years ago
Excellent photos, great explanations. I like the way you explained about painting the glass. I have been using glass painted like this for years but have never seen it explained this well. Thanks!
Spherical Me PRO 7 years ago
You've spent a lot of time on this....and I really appreciate you showing and explaining every step of the way. Light and color is so much fun to play with, that's for sure, with some very interesting and beautiful results. I thank you for letting us have quite a few peeks into your setup. Have a great weekend!! You have inspired me to go and play!
Peintre d'une violette [deleted] 7 years ago
Excellent !!
Don McGurrin PRO 7 years ago
Great stuff. I can't wait to try it.
sanjay6502 7 years ago
So gr8 efforts for really experimenting so much and lot of thanks for taking pains for so systematically speading the knowledge among others.

You have explained it so well that a newbie can not claim that he does not know how to do it.......... only thing required is gr8 will power, efforts and practice... and then he will also start producing good shots.
Lot of thanks.
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Thanks everyone, I'm really pleased that this has been so well received, makes all the work that went into it worthwhile.
Paul's Pixels 7 years ago
Well, I finished my black mirror and thought that I would try an initial exposure. Frankly, I'm a bit dissapointed with the reflection itself. I thought that it would be better. I do like the lighting on the reflection though! But, Oh! the amount of dust that showed up in the photo. The spot removal tool in Camera Raw has worked overtime! It was only a test shot as well!

Reflection in black

Paul ☺
Chuck Lucas 7 years ago
Very nice tutorial Steve.
Another thing that can be used for small objects is a 12 inch piece of black granite tile, which here in the states is about $5, and it is ready to go, no painting.
For those interested in using flash, here is an excellent tutorial from strobist. Steve if you have a chance read this tutorial, I would like to know your thoughts on it.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago

Cant see much wrong with that Paul, the reflection looks pretty good and not an easy angle to pull it off from. You will find you get a much sharper reflection from a shallower angle, the more directly overhead you get, the more the paint, rather than the reflective surface of the glass will come into play. Considering the reflection is all from the shadow side of the mannequin, I'm surprised it has come out that well.

As for the dreaded dust, dont look too close at my images, I didnt do any dust removal on the ones in this thread and it does show :(
One tool I use a lot to try and get rid of the physical dust, is a simple block of wood, with a pad of masking tape (think it is painters tape in the US), sticky side out to try and pick up the bits that land on the glass. Here it is

Dust Buster
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago

Well, I never thought I would ever get mentioned in the same sentence as Mr Hobby, I feel very humble now.
My usual lighting is with flash and I have learned most of the techniques I use from the Strobist blog. That one in particular was a very big influence on the way I work and one of the first I read when I started to take my photography seriously. A really inspirational resource.

Wish I could find a granite tile here, believe me I have searched and all the ones I have found have sparkly bits in them, plain black doesn't seem to exist in my little corner of the world.

I'm glad you brought it up Chuck, I did mean to include a mention of granite tiles in the thread, but unfortunately, it slipped my mind while I was typing it up :(
Ben J. Boyle [deleted] 7 years ago
I couldn't find a granite tile without flecks in but I DID find 60x60cm black porcelain tiles, which take a reflection really well but like a lot of things are a bugger to keep dust free.

Black perspex/Acrylic is also readily available on eBay and works like a charm.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Thanks for adding that Ben, the more info the better
cwiddie 7 years ago
I'm still trying to get something decent...lol. but I am determined that I will post in this thread and the pool!
Firstly I was trying something that was too big height wise for the piece of glass that I sprayed to be able to be forward enough not to see the card and to get a decent reflection which was not chopped in half!. Then today I couldnt get the light right and I think is that I'm trying to do it in the day, I tried shutting off the light from window with black card.... pants!
Anyway, the point of this comment I suppose is to let you know Steve is not just reflections I am learning from this project and to let you know just how valuable it has been for newbie's (or perhaps its just that I am a fool)!
and more importantly....i'M STILL TRYING !
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
LOL, not too frustrating I hope.
That you are learning (even from mistakes) is music to my ears though. This is exactly what the group owner and myself had in mind when we were hatching the plan for this.
You made my day and I really look forward to seeing your results more than ever now. GOOD LUCK.
Paul's Pixels 7 years ago
A little better, I think. Black glass mirror with blue background.

Reflecting on eneloop Batteries

Really needs a bit more light on the front to get a brighter reflection, but at least I'm improving. Well, I think I am anyway!

C&C welcome.

Paul ☺
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Not much wrong with this Paul, excellent results and I'm really not sure it would be possible to get much better on the reflection. Plus it is really sharp when viewed large. I really like the blue as well, fits the subject perfectly, I'm impressed, must have had a good teacher, LOL.
Only negative and I really dont know how to avoid it, would be the blue reflection on the top of the battery terminals, if you figure that one out, let me know ;-)
Don McGurrin PRO 7 years ago
Ok Steve here we go.

A black piece of foam board under a piece of glass
the white board just holds up the green board.
Two lamps 13w / 60/w bulbs

playin #1

1/16 sec
apt. f.8
ISO 200

How it looked getting shot

playin #2
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Yay, great to see another having a play Don.
The lighting has worked well, I'm surprised you didnt get more reflection off the shiny surface of the can, but it has worked well. Has given a nice bright reflection in the glass as well. If you are going to dedicate that piece of glass to photography, will definately be worth getting a coat of paint on the back to kill off the ghosting in the reflection.
Really good to see you joining in, hopefully given you a taste for more experimenting :)
ciao_chao 7 years ago
Can I ask, does it have to be glass? I have a mylar type surface, but don't have a big bit of perspex or glass hanging about.
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
It could work, not tried mylar myself. The only thing I can suggest is to have a go. If it is clear, try a piece of black card under it, that should give you an idea if the reflection will work. It is certainly worth having a play.
SWRobison PRO 7 years ago
Great information. I can hardly wait to try all your suggestions.
Paul's Pixels 7 years ago
Arghhh, Steve,

How could you? I hadn't noticed the blue on top of the battery terminals and now it may as well be flashing as that's all that I see! There were a couple of things that I had noticed, that I should have re-shot for and that is the rotational angle of the vertical batteries is not quite uniform and the horizontal battery needs to moved about 1/10 inch to the right to avoid the slight overlap of the "p" on the rightmost vertical battery. Now who's being picky?

Perfect Paul ☺ (a bit like Peter Perfect, but better looking! LOL)
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
LOL, sorry Paul, thought you being the perfectionist would have spotted that one ;-)
I'm in two minds about the overlap of the horizontal battery, moving it left would give a better balance. Shame the designers didnt think the artwork through better. Look how much space there is above the name, they could have moved it up higher :)
I'm not going to comment on the better looking part, I think your avatar might be a bit misleading ;-) (so is mine)
ciao_chao 7 years ago

Was done with the mylar type sheet. It's not as crisp, but I have found a piece of old perspex now!
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Maybe not so crisp, but it does work. I think it looks a bit like water, certainly has possibilities for a different effect. Thanks for posting it.
ciao_chao 7 years ago
I found that perspex looks very dissapointing. The mylar is kinda a mirror like surface.

I know you dislike photoshop, but I think it's much easier to perfect it on a computer than a spending time building a studio.
Paul's Pixels 7 years ago
Not such an exciting reflection. Didn't have time to come up with a better idea:
Reflecting on HYBRIO batteries

Setup shot:
HYBRIO battery setup

Paul ☺
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Difficult to tell from the photo, but it does look as if it might be a bit soft. Maybe some movement or too shallow a depth of field through using a large aperture ?
Also looks like the perspex/plexi might be a bit scratched looking at the bottom right.
Certainly the Mylar looks better.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Yet more great results Paul, you certainly are putting that glass to good use. That set up shot is motivating me to get busy and improve mine, so thanks for that.
ciao_chao 7 years ago
Well shot, and you've reminded me to get round to sorting out a light tent.
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Was having a play with a piece of glass painted white, to see how well it reflected colour. To be honest the results were pretty disappointing and I think it will only get used where I want a clean white base in future, even the reflections of an object placed on it were pretty poor. This is one of the best, just a fake gem stone placed on it with a blue card behind to reflect the colour. Note how even in tone the blue is, no drama here, time to switch back to the black glass again :)

Little Gem 01

Same fake gem stone as the previous pic, with the addition of a bit of water. What a difference the black glass makes. The card behind was swapped for a nice bright orange and a couple of black flags placed along the sides to create the contrast. Hard to believe looking at this that the gem is a pale blue in colour. Best viewed large this one.

Little Gem 02
Fantastic tutorial!
Thank you for taking the time to explain everything!
ciao_chao 7 years ago
May I ask where did you'se all get your black glass from?
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Although it is possible to get black glass, it is expensive. You will probably find black acrylic (Plexi, Perspex, Lexan) is cheaper. The easiest though is to get a cheap picture frame and spray paint one side of the glass with a black aerosol paint (rattle can). This gives excellent results and by far the cheapest way to do it.
Hope this helps.
theD40kid [deleted] 7 years ago

I like how you've played with the colors :)

I did something like this about a month back-


I did the lighting differently, though
I used a flashlight taped to the inside of a shoebox from underneath the glass surface :)
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Yes, there is a lot of ways you can play with light and glass, this is only intended as a starting point to try and get people to start to experiment. Hopefully it will lead to other uses, the only limit is your imagination :)
Rob Fry [deleted] 7 years ago
Had a go at this today - only bought an A3 piece of glass though (clip frame for £2.40)
It had never occurred to me to paint the glass back black (D'oh!) in the past I've used black acrylic or picture frame glass that has a matt finish on one side but I'm loving the contrast the black mirror gives! Might get one of the glass table tops Ikea sell and paint it. They're really REALLY strong glass - much safer feeling than the will-break-if-you-look-at-it-wrong picture frame glass!

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Wow, thats a fantastic shot Rob, great reflection, lighting and so sharp. Now I'm jealous :)
Thanks for adding it to the thread, it shows what can be done very well.
nickmaslen PRO 7 years ago
I bought some acrylic and sprayed one side black and it really does work. Need to experiment with lighting to get deeper reflections.

Left and right 129/365 by nickmaslen
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Nice one Nick. It's great to see you gave it a go. As for the reflection, I think it suits the subject very well. thanks for adding it to the thread.
jcduarte98 7 years ago
Hello all!
Just a small test with a mirror and a black cloth.
Two strobes as back light and one in front.

A new kind of challenge

And a little joke about it, if you don’t mind:
“Pick-up one appetizer’s can.
Open the can and taste just a bit of its content, in order to understand what is going to be captured.
Prepare the set, considering what is going to be shown.
Adjust the lights, according to what is suppose to be photographed.
Be able to have everything ready and done, test and final pictures included, before everything that’s inside the dammed can is eaten.
Good luck!”
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
LOL, reminds me, I need to get some Pringles :)
Thats a different approach, I like it.. Thanks for adding it to the thread, it's great to see so many good pics being added.
Snapping Kurtle [deleted] 7 years ago
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Now that is a different approach. Dont think I will try the fire idea, probably burn the house down :)
Thanks for your contribution to the thread, it's nice to see something a little different.
olydemon PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by olydemon (member) 7 years ago
So Im really new to this and dont have the correct equip really. Last night i tried a few shots with a piece of picture frame glass. It seemed to give me a double reflection. The glass was over some black liner paper from a protfolio. I used a small tap light and an LED flashlight to illuminate. Also a tripod since this was a very low light setup.

2 subjects:


Crystal Flake
[Crystal flake]

Wondering how you get the larger photos? I can only seem to post small ones.
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Good to see you had a go at this. The double reflection is very common and comes from having 2 reflective surfaces on materials like Glass, Plexi or Mirrors. Placing the glass on top of a dark material such as paper/card unfortunatly doesn't prevent the bottom surface from reflecting. The only effective method I have found is to give the underside a coat of paint, best applied with an aerosol or rattle can if you prefer modern terminology.
It's a shame, that crystal flake has superb colors and would even work with a plain black surface under it. I hope you give it another go, I would:)

To get larger pictures to display, click the "All Sizes" icon above your pic on your photostream, then click on "Medium" size. Below the pic you will find the image code, copy that, then paste into the thread where you want your image to appear. Job done.
To change the ones here, click the "Edit" button at the bottom of your message, then replace your original coding with that of the "Medium" image.
Hope this makes sense.
olydemon PRO 7 years ago
Thanks for the feedback and the explination why I had a double reflection. I'll definatly be trying this again with a better setup. I'll even see if I can replicate the lighting again with the crystal flake. I wanted to stand it up on end, but the edges are beveled. Ill see if I cant make a support thats not seen in the frame.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
For those who have bought cheap picture frames to use the glass, I hope you didnt throw the back away, especially if it is the free standing type of frame.

Tabletop Reflector

With the addition of some white paper, they make excellent freestanding reflectors for tabletop use, or alternatively, attach some black paper, or even paint them black, to use as flags to prevent light spilling where you dont want it.
Can you tell I hate to throw anything away, LOL.
Rob Fry [deleted] 7 years ago
Did another shot last night:


Had to soften the back edge of the glass in Photoshop but other than that this is pretty much straight out of the camera (minus the dust!!) Thinking of sticking something to the back of the glass as the paint comes off REALLY easily! Half way through painting an 80cm x 150cm sheet of glass - how on earth am I going to protect THAT??
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Thats weird, I shot a Polo last night as well, not posting it after seeing yours though :) Nice shot.

Thats one big sheet of glass to protect the paint on, I find clingfilm works great on smaller ones, but thats not going to work for you.
Unfortunately, sticking an adhesive film to it would probably pull the paint off, though not tried it to test it.
I guess if you can find a sheet of card or paper big enough, it could be fixed using double sided sticky tape at the 4 corners, which are unlikely to appear in frame, that would give a bit of protection.
Another possible is bubblewrap, though I dont know how wide you can find that easily, would also cushion it on a flat surface.
Will have a further think on this and come back if I come up with anything.
Don McGurrin PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by Don McGurrin (member) 7 years ago
I like the black glass so much I will be doing a white one as well.

I did put some painters tape on top of the black paint. I did this to help prevent scratching. I then put on some felt pads to the tape. This gets the glass ever so slightly off the table and easy to pick up.

Here is what the backside looks like

steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Thats a really good Idea Don, not thought of painters/masking tape, with it being low tack, hopefully it wont pull the paint off. Will have to give it a try.

You might find the foam pads will go flat over time, no real problem if they do, just stick another on top of the flattened ones. Another option which I'm using is the same thing but in cork, I find these take weight better and keep their thickness.
I agree, it does make it a lot easier to lift up the glass if it raised off a flat surface slightly.

Good tips, thanks a lot for posting this.

Edit : Forgot to say, I hope you wont be disappointed when you paint glass white. It is nothing like as effective as the black, still has its uses though.
Don McGurrin PRO 7 years ago
One more

Paul's Pixels Posted 7 years ago. Edited by Paul's Pixels (member) 7 years ago
Another example, this time showing the effect of firing a flash with a gel onto the white background. Not entirely successful as there obviously was some colour casting despite the flash being on the background only. Exposure was difficult to balance as well, with the top of the tin being overexposed.

Subject was sat on black acrylic, lit with 2 x DIY softboxes, one each side, each with 2 x 25W daylight CFLs. Flash was Nissin 360TW at 1/3 power triggered by PT04 remote trigger/receiver.

No additional lighting to white background:
Black Acrylic, White Background

Flash with red gel to background only:
Black Acrylic, Red Gel Background

Flash with blue gel to background only:
Black Acrylic, Blue Gel Background

Flash with yellow gel to background only:
Black Acrylic, Yellow Gel Background

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Good to see the comparisons Paul, I can imagine how challenging it was to try and get the two different types of light balanced. Looks like the flash could have done with a little less power, especially with the blue, for some reason that seems to have more of a reflection on the top of the tin, did you change the position of the flash?
The lighting looks best in the red version to my eye, though I really like the yellow, all the different tones of yellow work very well together.
Great collection of shots to have added to the thread, thanks.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Tried your idea of putting tape on the back to protect the paint Don and it works a treat.
Thanks for the tip, I can recommend it to anyone else who may be considering it.
olydemon PRO 7 years ago
Hey guys, Im back. So I went to the local home improvement store and got 2 sheets of different plexi and painted them black. I then protected the back with packing tape. One sheet the paint didnt stick at all even though I bought "plastic" paint. But one sheet of plexi did take the paint. I did however already sorta scratch it when I was trying to remove watermelon juice off it... the idea didnt work well.

I did however manage a couple cool shots off it... I had a ton of dust to clone as well. May need to do these in the house, not out in my shop.

Anyways, here are the results. Please give feedback.

Transistor bug

Marble on Marble
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
A lot of people seem to get on with plexi/perspex, but like you, I find it attracts a lot of dust and is much easier to scratch than glass. The main reasons I dont use it anymore is the way that cleaning builds up static electricity, which in turn seems to bring every speck of dust in the room to settle on the surface. Even using anti-static wipes to clean it doesnt seem to help much.

On a more positive note, you have got a nice even lighting on the background on your pics and the reflections have come out well.
I would be tempted to reduce your ISO a bit as they both seem to be a bit grainy toward the bottom, though this might be partially down to post processing ?
I quite like the shallow depth of field on the transistor, but would go for a smaller aperture with the marble to get it a bit sharper, but that's just my personal opinion, you might have been aiming for the softer reflection.
Good progress.
olydemon PRO 7 years ago

Thanks for the feedback. I think with these shots I was shooting hand held, and with the lighting I had to bump up shutter to 125 (golden rule of shutter more than focal length). So with my 90mm that meant 125, My ISO was 400 and f2.8. So yea, narrow DOF, and a little grain. I may have also done too much messing in post processing. I usually shoot tripod @ Iso100. I would like to eventually get a shorter focal macro, or higher quality zoom lens. My stock sony one is ok, but nothing special.

I did get another plexi sheet and will try again to keep it scratch free, maybe keeping it in a cleaner environment, and not getting stick fruit juice on it..
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
Ah, yes sticky liquids, that gives me a chance to pass on another tip.
I have found the best thing for getting them off glass or plexi is moist baby wipes, followed up with a dry soft cloth to clean of the smears from the baby wipes. I find this works better than a something like Windex or other window cleaners.

Also for small scratches in plexi/perspex, a small amount of WD40 on a soft cloth seems to do a very good job of getting rid of them. I'm not sure it actually removes them, but it does a great job of making them disappear from view.
Hope this is of some help.
observed.by.diane 7 years ago
something else that works great for getting the sticky liquids off is pure white vinegar or half vinegar and water. No toxins that way too. Works like a charm.

I'm learning so much from this group about table top lighting. Thank you all for such useful information.

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Good tip Diane, I always forget about vinegar as a cleaning fluid. Thanks for adding it to the thread.
bruce-p 7 years ago
Thanks for the tutorial - I did not think anybody used 'hot' lights anymore. I only shoot by available light because I have been hesitant to go the full flash route (too complicated, and generally I do not need to freeze motion). 'Strobists' appear to have taken over the world ....

But this tutorial shows what I could do with today’s modern camera’s and ‘standard’ white balance adjustments and a couple of flouros! This is especially good as I am limited to shooting only on sunny weekends, and it is mid winter here at present!

Looks as if I am off to the local hardware store for a couple of cheap lamps and globes… And thinking it through, I can also get the white seamless effect much more easily this way as well (difficult with just available light).

I have two reflective bases which I use very regularly. Both are solid plastic ‘stuff’ (dunno what they are made off – picked them up from the hardware store). They clean well, and both give quite reasonable reflections (again, solely using available light and reflectors).

On this you can see my scrim, and the windows where the light comes through!


steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
G'day Bruce, sorry, have always wanted to say that and couldn't pass up the opportunity ;-)
Welcome to our little corner of the web, I'm really pleased that you found the project useful. Those are some great examples you have added and I'm impressed you managed the quality results with natural light. I will confess to being a bit of an artificial light addict, as I like to be in control I guess. It does help to create the entire environment and makes it easier to avoid unwanted reflections intruding on the scene. Having said that, I really like the reflection of the window in the water on your shot of the cork, very effective.

I hope once you get your lights sorted, you will share some more wonderful creations with us.
Have Fun.
brecklundin [deleted] Posted 7 years ago. Edited by brecklundin (member) 7 years ago

Thanks for the tips...here isa shot I took today which was not too bad. I used some of your suggestions to control just two bulbs in a dark room.

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
brecklundin Well done, that has come out very well. Nice lighting on the glass, it really brings out the pattern of the cut glass. I like the hint of blue in the reflections too. I hope you are pleased with it, I would be.
Vinnie W Photography (New Studio!) [deleted] Posted 7 years ago. Edited by Vinnie W Photography (New Studio!) (member) 7 years ago
Before I found this group, I had set up my own little "studio" to do some still-lifes. On one of my contacts page, he used glass to get reflections. So I ran out and got myself a picture frame and used available lights I had (Already had CFL in them). However, I was not aware of painting the back black to avoid the double reflection. But for me, I found that some subjects don't give that much of that. I think it depends on the angle you shoot from. Here is my example:

Some Never Make it Through

By the way, fantastic tutorial. I appreciate the effort!
brecklundin [deleted] 7 years ago
Steve: Thanks for the positive feedback. I was pretty pleased because, for me, clear glass can come out flat looking due to poor lighting, especially older pieces. They can come out with just a hint of yellow because of the manganese and lead (glass chemistry is a whole interesting field of it's own and I have learned ya need to understand the chemical make-up for types of glass to get close to the light which shows it off at it's best. Though the lead is what helps give the piece it's clarity and oily feel. Try a piece of older glassware with a flash and sometimes you get a very pronounced almost opaque yellow/gold cast. It's very weird but this time I did not need to do a B&W conversion to eliminate the yellowing. ;)

Anyway, the slightly cool temp was what I was going for in order to get the good clarity. So thanks a bunch for seeing that. I did try your trick of bouncing light off the top portion of the background to get a gradient on the jar but my glass was just too short for the jar height at only about 24". I do have a fun piece made about sometime between 1780-1840. Best estimate I could get is probably 1820-1840. But it might look really sharp with a more gradient background.

Still, I cannot thank you enough to the very well described process you use...so many don't offer such detail. I had considered painting the glass panel but just was unsure though I use a clear satin for one smaller which is nice as well for softer reflections. In fact the thought went through my head to use a clear satin layer with a black final coat to get a more diffused reflection. Same goes for some variations of white or other colors. Given a can of spray paint can be had at WallyWorld for under a $1 it makes experimenting inexpensive. I also might play with using a glass cutter to create a hole to allow under-lighting of certain pieces which I have done with varying degrees of success using painted cardboard or foam core.

Oh, almost forgot, this piece is not cut glass...it's from a period called Early American Pressed Glass (EAPG) so it's actually pressed glass. And yup, the idea was to emulate cut glass from the same period which was called, the "Brilliant Period" Cut Glass running from the late 1800's through around 1920ish.

BTW, to others out there...if you have any thrift shops in the area, you can usually find some nice HUGE framed prints behind glass, I am talking 30" or larger by 24" or so for under $10. You just need to be patient hunting them.
brecklundin [deleted] 7 years ago

WOW, really nice lighting and result. I'm still struggling to get those nice shadow areas w/o losing too much detail or the shadows being too harsh. Really enjoyed your shot a lot...gives me ideas...and for some reason the need to go out and buy a pint of strawberries for snacking. ;)
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Nice shot of the strawberries, the lighting is great for the subject, really works well.
You are right about the angle regarding double reflections, if you get it just right, you can avoid them to a certain extent. I notice you are just starting to get them at the very bottom of the image, though thankfully, it doesnt detract from the image.
steveblackdog PRO Posted 7 years ago. Edited by steveblackdog (member) 7 years ago
brecklundin No need to cut the glass if you want to light an area from below, just put a mask using sticky tape or similar over the area you want to keep clear, before spraying on the paint. Then remove after the paint is dry to reveal the clear window.
brecklundin [deleted] 7 years ago
d'oh!! hahahaha...gawds, some days I truly scare myself! of course that would be the way someone SMART might do it! In fact if I mask off a large enough area I could use "shims/patches" with different sized openings to allow for pieces needing more or less light.

Nice tip...thanks...
Shoop & Mikey 7 years ago
Thanks for another brilliant project, Steve. We painted black the backs of two pieces of glass from picture frames, a 4X6 and a 10X12. We haven't used the 10X12 yet, although I'm sure we'll get a lot of use out of it. But the 4X6 is the perfect size to showcase my LEGO minifigures. :)

Vanity 2

I took this shot twice, first with minimal lighting (above) and the second with a bunch of lamps. I found the only difference with the well-lit one was that I could see a lot more dust on the glass. Maybe it would make more of a difference with a larger subject and if I had used lights intended for photography, instead of just collecting the lamps nearby.

I love this group, it's been so inspirational. I hope no one minds if I resurrect old topics.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Dont think you need to worry about resurrecting old threads. The discussion part of the group is pretty much under used these days, so it is nice to see some activity in here. If you find something useful in the old threads, you can be sure others will too, so there is no harm in bringing them back to the top again.

Good to see you using the glass to good effect. Dont discount the larger sheet you have, even for small items like these. If you were to place your Lego figures on the large sheet, and further forward, you could lose the background from the frame, so the glass itself becomes the background too. This gives a completely different look and does away with the join between the flat base and the upright background. You can still have a coloured background behind, but this will show as a reflection only, very useful for introducing a gradient into the colour around the pieces.
Have a play ;-)
brecklundin [deleted] 7 years ago
I had a heck of a frustrating week so far...broke all three of my painted black glass panels. Two I kinda stepped on, my fault and the third was my new 24"x30" sheet I bought yesterday and snapped off a corner section while handling it during painting.

Really not a huge issue over all but on the new larger sheet I had problems painting the glass I never ran into before. Maybe it was the el cheapo spray paint I bought (house brand from Home Depot for $0.97/can) or it was just the glass was not clean under the protective plastic over it during transport. But I had sections where the paint simply would not stick which led to various attempts at spot paint stripping and eventually using a normal paint stripper and removing it all in hopes of starting over.

Well, I again had issues, this time there were isolated specks where paint would not stick as well as the same dust specks which stood out light crazy. Never ran into any of these issues previously.

I used my normal cleaners to prep the surface, a mild water & white vinegar along with newsprint paper so as not to leave dust specks or residue, resorted to my least fav option of Windex glass cleaner but I KNOW it leaves a residue...even tried a very mild solution of Simple Green as well to remove oil followed by 91% alcohol then water & white vinegar to get the surface squeaky clean....and still there were spots where paint would not stick.

I am thinking this might be the cheap paint at Home Depot is not the same as the cheap stuff at Walmart? Or maybe I just need to spend the family fortune and buy a couple cans of Krylon, including a can of black primer? Though I never needed any primer before. My real frustration is the dust specks and small spots where there is some sort of residue to which the paint won't stick. Hence the idea of using primer as a first coat, it will stick to almost anything so while it's somewhat overkill, it should fix the no-stick spots. The dust specks maybe a quick treatment with the plastic wrap just prior to painting will remove those. I was thinking peeling the plastic wraps back as I paint the sheet.

BTW, my plan to stop the breakage issue is I have a sheet of 1/2" drywall (sheet rock) which I am going to use some good construction adhesive to bond the drywall to the glass from behind. This should control flex and also add support so even if it falls over on my carpeted floor the odds of breakage should be minimal. If you have some lumber lying around 1/2" plywood or other sheet wood boards will work even better to back the glass. Or even building a wood frame to mount the glass to the front. But I like drywall/sheet rock or even concrete backer board for tiling which won't flex at all because they don't need a power saw to cut to size...and utility knife does the trick in like 10-seconds..

Anyway, maybe before I head off to Walmart for more paint and a new sheet of glass someone might have a suggestion about the paint issue....thanks?? ;)
Carla Marriott 7 years ago
So useful - here's my effort

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
From the description it sounds like grease, but with all that cleaning, I cant imagine how. So I would have to agree it is probably the paint :(
One thing that might be worth trying, is to spray the paint on very lightly, just a fine mist and allow it to dry before applying another coat. this gives a key for further layers to adhere to. I have found this to be effective on some stubborn surfaces, so it might work.
If not, I would suggest a different can of paint.
Good luck.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Interesting shot, the angle of the glass really makes you look twice, it's very effective and really nicely done.
Carla Marriott 7 years ago
Thank you, I used a combination of your instructions and some instructions in a camera mag. It's firing up my enthusiasm to do more still life like this. Thanks for giving me my mojo back
greg194799 PRO 7 years ago
Great instructions Steve, But now my eyes are crossed from all the reading. I can't wait to get started with this. I have been looking for some time on how this was done.
Thank you for the time that you have put into this.
steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
LOL, I try and keep the words to a minimum, my typing finger also gets used on the shutter, so dont want to overwork it on the keyboard ;-)

Great to hear you found your mojo Carla, they can be hard to find when they hide ;-)
Andes Simbolon 7 years ago
I'm a bit late, but here I go..
Perfume II
Digitalman1 7 years ago
Well done to all of you who have had a go at this project all images look great.

Steve thanks for posting this here as well.
djtidau PRO 7 years ago
This is my attempt. Something a little more low key.

steveblackdog PRO 7 years ago
Good to see the thread is still alive ;-)
Hopefully still proving useful and dont worry about coming here late, this helps to bring it back from the depths of the forum and will I hope, then reach others who may be new around here.
It is here as an aid to learning and I'm more than happy if anybody else wants to add to it, the more info the better as far as I'm concerned :)
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