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Thread: Shooting reflecting metal?

  1. #1
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Shooting reflecting metal?

    Hi, the money I don't spend on photo gear, I spend on kitchen knives. It's time to shoot my collection again, and I was wondering if you would have some tips for me regarding the lighting. I was thinking about going to the lighting forum, but I don't know anybody there Here is an example:



    Ooops, bigger than I thought... Anyway, I have a (slightly too) small 24" 'light tent'/cube that I normally use and 2 or 3 lamps with 'daylight' bulbs that I can arrange around it. I usually set the tent up on the living room table and have the camera on a tripod in front of it, white balance is set with a grey card. But it's still a lot of trial and error to get the lighting right, because the metal - and sometimes the polished handles - reflect and throw unwanted highlights. I'm also not sure what the best backgrounds would be. I have tried just regular cardboard from the crafts store and different fabrics. The structured and colored ones can be a bit distracting and can make white balance more difficult (I have a nice blue 'velvet' piece but I have a hard time getting the 'cold' blue tone out). Black velvet has the best contrast but sometimes it's a bit too dark for my taste. Any better materials? BTW, some shots will be 'action shots' on the cutting board involving fresh vegetables and fish...

    I tried shooting with a P&S (Panasonic FZ7) and Picasa the last time (see the example), and this time I will be set up better with a GH1, shooting raw and Lightroom, but it would still be nice to get tips before I get started. I have enough knives to keep me busy for two days or more, so better preparation will pay off in the end. Any tips (besides cleaning the blades better the next time )? What lenses would you use for that? Other ideas?

    Thanks,

    Stefan

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    Senior Member m3photo's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    But it's still a lot of trial and error to get the lighting right, because the metal - and sometimes the polished handles - reflect and throw unwanted highlights. I'm also not sure what the best backgrounds would be.
    As you're shooting inanimate objects with a tripod there's plenty you can do. I'd shoot first for the handles and then for the blades and then in postproduction "put" the handles into the best blade shot - trying to light for both at the same time is a nightmare not worth going through now we can correct after the shoot. As for backgrounds an old favourite with knives is oiled slate.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Here is a link from a flashlight forum:

    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/...d.php?t=255554

    The kitzoom (Pana or Oly) should do just fine.

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Thanks, I never heard about either method. I'm just learning my first steps into LR and had avoided PP as much as I could in the past. Composing the picture sounds like it may take a while to learn and do on the PC, I'll see if I have the patience for hat... I'll definitely try them both. Any other thoughts?

    Stefan

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    There are a number of ways to approach this task.

    My personal take is to at least try to do it in-camera as much as possible (if nothing more than to increase your mastery of studio lighting) ... and resort to Post when or if it does become a nightmare

    One less discussed technique is called "Subtractive Lighting". This is where you start with a broad softer light that covers the whole subject, then use flags and cards to place darks exactly where you want them ... thus the "Subtractive" notion. The closer the flag, the darker and sharper edged it is ... the further away, the more soft edged it gets. If nothing else it's fun to goof around with this technique. You do need modeling lights on strobes to do this, (or be using continuous lighting) so you can see what's happening. I use pieces of 1/8" black Foam-core when doing this for smaller subjects.

    Velvet is a good idea as it is a light vampire and avoids adding further complications to the lighting scenario. If you want a color velvet to show up, you probably need a piece of velvet in the color you prefer that is at least a stop brighter so the color will show up in the image.

    One suggestion I'd make concerning composition is to have the knife edges all oriented in the same direction when shooing more than one. You'll be there for a month of Sundays trying to get edges lit properly when they are pointed in different directions ... or you'll be stripping more than just two separate shots in Photoshop.

    Have fun, I personally love these kind of challenges

    -Marc

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    Senior Member Tullio's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    A circular polarize filter should remove most of the light reflection on the blade while maintaining the luminosity on the handle.
    Tullio

  7. #7
    thearne3
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    You might try a google search: strobist knives

    Here is one of the links:

    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2007/04...ted-knife.html

    Strobist is an excellent source for flash techniques of all kinds.

    Best,
    Tom

  8. #8
    Abbazz
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    If you have access to it, the "Bible" of lighting techniques is the book Light Science and Magic by Fill Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua, published by Focal Press (ISBN 0-240-80819-3). You can read parts of it online here: http://books.google.com/books?id=QzL...age&q=&f=false. There is a whole chapter (Chapter 6, which is 36 pages long) about photographing metal objects, and the techniques used are far from simple. In fact, photographing shiny metallic objects is one of the most challenging tasks in photography.

    Cheers!

    Abbazz

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Very helpful tips, thanks. Sebastien, I just ordered that book, looks like I picked the right one. I also saw that there are a ton of tutorials on the strobist site, so much more to learn than I expected, but I will look into it, mahalo nui!

    Stefan

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    Member kwalsh's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
    A circular polarize filter should remove most of the light reflection on the blade while maintaining the luminosity on the handle.
    No, that doesn't work on metalic reflective surfaces, mirrors, or really any conductive material that reflects. Only works on glare off of insulators.

    There is, however, a technique that does. Illuminate the scene with polarized light (put a sheet polarizer in front of your flash) and put another polarizer on your lens and adjust to taste.

    Ken

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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Google a gent by the name of "Jim Cooper" (Sharp by Coop).
    http://www.sharpbycoop.com

  12. #12
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Thanks for the link. If there are people offering specialized services to shoot these pictures, I take that as a sign that it is complicated and my mediocre results so far were due to inexperience instead of lack of talent (it would be nice to keep that illusion for a while longer ). I'll definitely try it first myself, it's a nice way of bringing my hobbies together. I am making the handles from exotic woods for these knives, and trying to capture the beauty of some of these woods is one of the projects have planned for myself this year. Getting the deep 3-D effects of chatoyant woods like koa etc on pictures seems impossible, but I'll try to get better at it.

    Stefan

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    Senior Member m3photo's Avatar
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    Re: Getting the deep 3-D effects

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    I am making the handles from exotic woods for these knives, and trying to capture the beauty of some of these woods is one of the projects have planned for myself this year. Getting the deep 3-D effects of chatoyant woods like koa etc on pictures seems impossible, but I'll try to get better at it.
    Wrong Forum Stefan
    What you need is a large studio camera with a proper tilt and shift bellows for this.

  14. #14
    Tikkis
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
    A circular polarize filter should remove most of the light reflection on the blade while maintaining the luminosity on the handle.
    No kind of polarizer alone is able to reduce the reflections on metallic objects surfaces. The only (and classical) way of doing it is using cross-polarization. Which means to have a polarizer in front of the lens and also in front of the light source. I'm not sure whether big polarizing sheets for photographics lights are still available.

    One could always ask. Few companies that come in to my mind are Tiffen and Lee.

    Cheers

    Tikkis

  15. #15
    cwilt
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Control the reflections. Use black or gray to have a darker reflection.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by cwilt View Post
    Control the reflections. Use black or gray to have a darker reflection.
    That is a key thing. Exactly what Marc posted in detail.

    Stefan, What you are asking, frankly, sounds like something you need to learn from a lighting workshop followed by practice.

  17. #17
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Shooting reflecting metal?

    Definitely more complex solutions than I anticipated. I had a rather naive approach until now, but I'm excited to learn new things.

    Stefan

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