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Photography Question 
Lucia I. Stanley

Shooting Floating Objects

I want to shoot items on a piece of glass, some see-through and some solid. The see-through would have the light behind, but how do you avoid seeing the light itself? For the solid objects, how do you avoid reflection if the light is focused on the glass to illuminate the objects? My goal is for these objects to be floating. Thanks.

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7/25/2008 6:39:08 PM

Hi Lucia,

"How do you avoid seeing the light itself?"
By placing it off-axis of a telephoto lens, using a snoot, and using a good lens hood.

"How do you avoid reflection?"
You may want to experiment with polarizing your lights and using a circular polarizer filter. Also, if you can identify the offending reflections you may be able to kill them by covering them with black non-reflective material or cardboard.
The best way to control reflections, though, is to use a light tent. But from your description I'm led to believe that may have to be a rather large one in this case.
Have fun!

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7/25/2008 8:41:04 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  W.S. is exactly right in terms of handling reflections etc. But if you want to photograph objects as floating then actually float them by using nylon filament of sufficient strength to hold whatever you're shooting in mid-air and match the filament to your background. Then just suspend the objects on some sort of rod or stand arrangement. Light them using reflected or at least very diffused light (not direct) to minimize or eliminate the reflection off the filament so it just blends into the background and can't be seen. In other words, light the object not the suspension line. Black or white backgrounds with matching line work well. If the line actually shows, and if you do this right it shouldn't, then you might be able to use a little PS to touch it out or blend it to the background.
To attach the line to whatever you're suspending, unless it's something really heavy like a bowling ball or a Hummer, you may have to drill a hole through whatever you're photographing. Or most objects can be suspended using some gaffers tape or even some kind of rig using contact cement. And if you suspend something like a Hummer, I'd recommend that you don't try and shoot it from underneath.
Good luck. Let us see how it turns out.

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7/26/2008 9:33:33 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  I made objects float by using a flexiglass sheet in the middle of a table in it was inserted. Beneath the table I placed a light on a stand using colored gel over the light. Then, I placed my White Lightnings around the object creating a main light from above, a fill and a background light. The background was sheets of white foam core which were secured together and over which was white roll of paper, which also stretched across the flexiglass. In the case, the object I had photographed was a crystal swan and the gel below made it look like it was floating on water. However, I've also used no gel and the swan appeared to be just floating.

I wish I could share the image with you, but Hurricane Lili washed the image off the slide a few years back.


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7/29/2008 11:53:49 PM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Lucia,

Shots of glass objects fall in the same category as silverware and jewelry i.e. these are objects with highly reflective surfaces. Consider buying or making tent lighting.

The idea is to create a condition whereby the object is illuminated by highly diffused lighting. This is light that has no discernable direction. This is a condition suggestive of super overcast day akin to a white-out snow condition.

Place your work on a table. You can use ordinary continuous lamps purchased from the hardware store. Best is 8 ~ 10 inch pin-up light fixtures. These are the ones with clamps an aluminum reflector. You can use pin-ups without the reflector if you buy reflector floods light bulbs. Likely 150 watts are best.

Over the table, form a canopy using a bed sheet or better a white cloth made of fiberglass. The fiberglass is available in the curtain depart. This is best because it is fire proof. The canopy is stretched tight suspended about 24 inches above the subject.

You can make a box frame from PVC pipe. Using ¾ inch PVC and PVC pipe fittings you can construct a square or rectangular frame. Cover with fiberglass cloth.

You light by mounting two lamps above the canopy or on opposite sides of the rectangular tent.

As to the illusion of floating, suspend the object with monofilament fishing line or place on top of a glass platform. Best will be frosted glass.

You can place a small lamp inside the stage, shining up through the transparent subject. You can also use a small lamp inside the stage, shining down on the subject to produce highlights. These accent lights are often needed to give an illusion of depth. Above all, use your imagination. This type of work is called “table-top”.

Best of luck,

Alan Marcus

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7/31/2008 7:13:55 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  Alan is correct about the tent. In fact, there is a PROMASTER SystemPro Lite Tent on sale at: . This is a company recommended by Kerry Drager and

While I've never used this particular product, the price is very reasonable. Most light tents, unless made yourself, are considerably more money.

Hope this helps.


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7/31/2008 1:33:52 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  You can keep light reflections from bouncing back to the lens by shooting at an angle to the glass. to keep the reflection off the subject is a different story.

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8/3/2008 1:31:14 PM

Lucia I. Stanley   WOW ! Fantastic suggestions everyone. Thanks for responding and I'll show off my work when done.
And, about the Hummer, I'l keep that in mind, Mark, but you have given me some ideas.

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8/4/2008 3:22:23 PM

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