BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Tom L. Fettes

Photo of Glass and Jewelry

I have a Nikon D40. Is there a lens accessory that eliminates the hot spot created by using a flash when photographing glass or glass jewelry?

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1/10/2008 11:31:46 AM

John Rhodes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/24/2005
Tom, in a word, no. However, there are techniques for using flash that can reduce or eliminate the "hot spot". When I shot glazed pottery for a local gallery, I used a three-strobe setup with two difused slaves at 45-degree angles and a center master flash bounced off the ceiling. I moved the lights around and adjusted the intensity of each until I was happy with the results. You don't want to completely eliminate the "catch light", but you don't want it blown out either.

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1/10/2008 12:09:04 PM

William Schuette
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2006
  Tom, assuming you don't have three strobes here are some thoughts. You didn't mention whether you were using an external flash or the D40's pop up flash. With the pop up there is little you can do since the flash is permamently mounted directly over the lens. You can try to angle you shot a little to make the reflection less obnoxious. If you are using an external flash get a sync cord so you can take the flash off the camera and angle the flash to reduce the reflection. Finally, does the D40's pop up flash function as a wireless commander? If so, get an SB600 or SB800 and position it at angle to the glass and use the pop up to trigger it wirelessly.


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1/15/2008 5:07:03 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Tom,

What you want to do is called “Tent Lighting” lighting. To photograph shinny objects such as ceramics, glass, silverware and the like. The idea is to create a set-up that provided even bright light that eliminates reflections. OK you can do it yourself.

At the hardware store buy ¾ PVC white pipe and fittings ( ½ works but it’s a little feeble). Get some PVC clear pipe cement too. An inexpensive PVC pipe cutter won’t hurt and a hack saw too. Look in the lawn sprinkler section too. Some PVC pipe fitting used for this application can be helpful.

You are to construct a box frame using the PVC pipe and fittings. Try making on 3 feet (1 meter) square. Often the pipe and fittings fit together so tightly no glue will be needed. You don’t necessarily need to work with PVC however it’s cheep and light and strong. Again the idea is to create a box.

Now cover the box completely with white cloth. Bed sheet material will do however you might try drapery material. White fiberglass curtain material is ideal. It’s fireproof thus you can use it with continuous hot tungsten lamps. Also at the hardware store buy three or four clip-on reflector light fixtures. You can get the ones with 10” reflectors that screw on or you can use indoor flood bubs or the more durable outdoor PAR flood bulbs.

Using needle and thread make a flap for a trap-door so you can put your product inside the box or not cover the bottom so you can just drop the tent over the product. Use a sturdy needle and thread like a sail maker.

With the product inside, place lamps about and light using three fixtures. Coat racks make a fine holder for the pin-up lamps.

The camera peeks into the box via a hole cut in the tent material.

Knowledgeable photographers use a dulling spray of their own concoction. Some brands of hair spray work just fine and clean up with soap and water or alcohol. Try talcum power mixed in water sprayed on using old style insect sprayer (flint gun). The best accessory will be a polarizing filter as they suppress reflections from no-conductive surfaces.

Alan Marcus, Anaheim, CA (marginal technical twaddle)

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1/15/2008 8:14:50 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
  I actually bought mine at B&H and they're available for well under $100. Mine was pretty large and collapsed into a handy carry bag so it cost a bit more. It doesn't give you the satisfaction that comes from creating your own tent.

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1/15/2008 9:35:43 AM

"creating your own tent"

Does throwing a large white bedsheet over a small table count too?
Makes an excellent light tent, imo, for the odd one-off occasion that you need it. Like when you just want to test whether you like to do that type of photography more often but you don't yet want to spend a lot of money on something like that, because maybe after having done it it turns out you don't even like doing it.
But if you DO turn out to like it you can then of course simply 'build' a better frame. A custom frame. Based on your own knowledge of and experience with the technique, within your own set of constraints.
How hard can it be?

Sometimes life can be simple.

Have fun!

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1/15/2008 5:30:15 PM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003
Alan's response is a good one -- you need some sort of light tent. Just for the record they can be purchased in different sizes for very cheap prices from several Ebay merchants.
God Bless,

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1/16/2008 7:47:57 PM

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