BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Kathy Radford
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2006

Shoot firefighter's gear

I recently did some shots at a city fire station. When taking shots of the firemen's coats with the reflective stripes on them, should I be using the flash or not? I took them during daylight with the door open for the natural light and used the flash. They were a bit underexposed and I was wondering if the reflectiveness on the striping confuses the auto metering? Their clothing hanging on the racks, and boots and pants all ready to go make for some beautiful shots. Thanks for any help guys.
Kathy in NH

To love this question, log in above
8/24/2006 4:11:09 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Kathy,

Reflective strips, reflective tape and reflective traffic signs and the like, use the same technology. The construction:
Glass or plastic beads coated with a mirror finish glued to a base material. After the glue sets, the material is washed with a solvent specific for the mirror finish. The underside of the bead is protected from the solvent. The tops of the bead are washed clean. The end-product is a sphere silver coated on the back side. The material is unique because the reflective beads act almost exactly like a cat's eye. Stated another way, light shining on the bead will be reflected directly backwards beamed back towards the originating light source. As an example, the cat caught in the automobile headlight has eyes that seem to blaze (tiger tiger burning bright). The glow is bright only to an observer sitting just over the headlights (on axis with the light source).

Now if you take a picture with a flash mounted on the camera, the flash is practically on axis with the taking lens. As you compose you donís see the peril because you are looking at the scene illuminated by available light (not on camera axis)and not by light originating from an on-camera flash (on axis). When the flash fires, the other lights are pale by comparison and the multifaceted beads act like tiny directional mirrors that channel the light directly back at the camera. Over exposure surely results.

Bottom line is YOU CANíT SHOOT THIS STUFF WITH A CAMERA MOUNTED FLASH. You must use bounce flash or available light.

Alan Marcus

To love this comment, log in above
8/24/2006 12:26:17 PM

Kathy Radford
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/2/2006
  Thanks Alan. The other shots I took and posted one of them, I didn't use a flash and they came out fine. I thought the reflectiveness was the problem. Kathy in NH

To love this comment, log in above
8/24/2006 12:46:29 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.