BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Damian P. Gadal
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/22/2002

Black Reflective Surface

Any ideas on what to use as a black reflective surface. Very reflective like a mirror? I tried to fun something like black glass at Home Depot... no luck.

To love this question, log in above
5/13/2006 5:41:01 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  I've been told to get black plexiglass. I was also told clear plexiglass would work and you could put whatever color under it you wanted and it would reflect the subject but that did not work for me. Very little reflection with the clear plexiglass. I tried spray painting one side of a piece of glass with black paint with ok results. It reflected a lot better than the clear plexiglass.

To love this comment, log in above
5/13/2006 8:28:24 PM

Damian P. Gadal
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/22/2002
  Where would you get black plexiglass? The kid at the hardware store had no clue as to what I was after or how to help...


To love this comment, log in above
5/14/2006 8:43:06 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well, black plexiglas won't do it because it's not mirrored so all you're going to have is a large black mostly non-reflective surface.
One way to do this, however, is to get a large-sized roll of mirrored mylar film, some 4x8 sheets of foamcore that's white on one side and black on the other, reflect the black side of the foamcore into the mirrored mylar and voila !!! Looking in the viewfinder, the black reflected in the mylar will produce a black reflective surface that you can place objects on or in front of.
Using large mirrored walls works, like closet doors, etc., but sometimes that's hard to set up. Mylar is much easier to work with. BUT be careful not to wrinkle it. It's somewhat like aluminium foil, but a bit more flexible.
Attach your foamcore using some kind of tough tape to make a vertical seam running down the entire panels, so the end result is that it's hinged and you can open it at a 45-degree angle to stand on its own facing the reflective surface. Make your seam fairly tight, I like using black gaffers tape for that, and make sure you can't see the seam in the viewfinder when you set your camera.
Both techniques are tricky to light but it works. You need to shoot in a space where you can get it totally dark and really control your lighting.
Both the foamcore and mylar are available from a company called Studio Specialties - Most medium to large photo stores also carry their backgrounds.
Take it light.

To love this comment, log in above
5/14/2006 10:02:25 AM

Damian P. Gadal
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/22/2002
  Thank you so much!

To love this comment, log in above
5/14/2006 10:15:17 AM

L. W.   Go to a store that does custom glass and mirrors for door, windows, walls, etc. Ask for black mirror and you can get it cut to the size you need.

To love this comment, log in above
5/17/2006 12:23:23 PM

Shirley D. Cross-Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2001
Contact Shirley
Shirley's Gallery
  What I've done for this is to place a regular piece of transparent glass over either black fabric or black foamcore. Works perfectly.

To love this comment, log in above
5/17/2006 5:44:05 PM

Anthony Cancelliere   I've had great results with painting one side of plexiglass with high gloss spray paint in thin coats... flip it over to the unpainted side and start shooting.... just remember to keep it clean so it's super shiny. and the black mirror idea sounds good.. I might try that one myself. unfortunately my local glas shop doesn;t carry black mirror or even the white glas/plexi so I can build a small lightbox.. guess I have to keep looking. good luck !

To love this comment, log in above
5/17/2006 9:59:51 PM

Michael H. Cothran   One of the previous posts is incorrect - Black plexiglas is the best way to go for a black mirror effect. But you obviously want to purchase the shiny, not the matte version. It can be purchased from a Plastics dealer in your area. Look in the yellow pages under "Plastic." It comes in 1/8" and 1/4" thicknesses. I use and recommend the 1/8". Simply specify the dimensions you desire, and they'll cut it to size for you. I use both black and white plexiglas in my own studio - mainly for jewelry, and have sizes cut to 8x10, 11x14, and 20x20.
In addition, the white plexiglas makes an ideal "softbox." White is available in an assortment of densities. For use as a softbox, you would want a fairly low density, in order to allow maximum light to pass through. Three sheets (maybe 11x14) taped together in an upside-down "U" make a great light box.
One word of caution - plexiglas is somewhat expensive, and scratches quite easily. Just be careful when placing items on it, or when cleaning it.
Michael H. Cothran

To love this comment, log in above
5/18/2006 11:40:20 AM

David King   An old studio photog's trick was to get a sheet of glass and spray paint one side of it gloss black. Several coats were used to give an even and solid coat, then the class was turned over, shiny side up (painted side down) and used. With this technique masks could be used to create "knock-out" areas in the black where light could shine through for doing "white Line" lighting on glass ware or for filling a bottle of darker liquid with light and visual life. if this were the intention then the painted side needed a good coat so no uneveniess showed through when the light underneath was on.

N. David King

To love this comment, log in above
5/19/2006 7:25:14 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.