Fact No. 168. (Published on 6/29/2005)

Photographing Glass

Taking a photograph of glass can be extremely challenging. Hiring a professional can be outrageously expensive.

Here are several tips and some great links to help you take photos that do your work justice.

Diffuse the light. A small amount of glare is an important visual clue to the viewer that they are looking at glass. Too much glare, though, can obscure the object. To reduce glare, place something translucent between your lighting and the object being photographed. There are a lot of possibilities ranging from sandblasted glass or plexiglass to a white bed sheet. You can also diffuse the light by bouncing it off a white surface such as a poster board or even a white ceiling. Many lower wattage lights usually result in better pictures than a few bright lights.

Use a polarizing filter. Remember those sunglasses commercials where the person puts on the Polaroid sunglasses and all the glare on the swimming pool water goes away? It really works. If your camera accepts filters, buy a crossed polarizing filter for it.

Pay attention to the background (so the viewer doesn't). If the viewer is paying attention to the background they are not paying attention to your work. A wide piece of colored craft paper, draped in an arc so that the same length of paper is both under and behind the work, is an inexpensive way to create a seamless backdrop.

Use a tripod. This is important for a number of reasons. First it lets you fix the position of the camera while you tweak the placement of object and lights. Second, because the camera doesn't move, the exposure can be longer. Longer exposure means smaller aperture (the size of the hole that lets in the light). A smaller aperture means a shorter depth of field (the range that is in focus). That lets you keep the glass in focus and the background out of focus.

Invest some time understanding basic photography. Between the many courses offered by community colleges and the countless free resources on the web (see below), there's no reason not to understand the fundamentals. Just like with glass -- the more you understand about what you are doing the better the results.

And for those of you working with encased beads or paperweights, here's a special tip: Try putting the object being photographed into a container of water and taking a picture of it through the water. Presto -- all the surface glare is gone.

Related Websites:

Fused Glass

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