A Short Course Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Case Study—Transparent Crystal

 
The first step is to cut a round hole in a sheet of white paper. Light shining through this hole from below will illuminate the bottle and form a circle of light around its base.
 
 
 
This crystal and silver bottle really is two lighting situations combined. The first, lighting the crystal portion is like lighting any transparent object. The second, the silver band is different. We don't want to light it directly. It's better to have it reflect other lit surfaces.

The Assignment

The assignment is to photograph a transparent crystal bottle to show both its transparency and surface detail while also capturing the quality of the silver band.

1. Composition

The first step is to construct a three layer structure from paper and plexiglass. The first layer is the background paper, arrange as a curved sweep. Propped up on paint cans is a sheet of paper with a round hole cut in it for light to flow through. The final layer is a sheet of white plexiglass resting on four film cans. The plexiglass forms a kind of horizon where it meets the curved background paper. The camera is positioned so this horizon is relatively low, as a horizon would be in nature, and also to let the surface of the plexiglass show. The bottle is placed on the plexiglass directly above the round hole in the paper on the layer below.

2. Lighting

One light is placed low so it points up at the hole in the sheet of paper. Tinfoil is used to prevent its light from spilling onto the background. This light makes the bottle glow as if lit from within. The circle of light around the base of the bottle sets it off and separates it from the background. The edges of this ring of light are soft because the paper and plexiglass are separated by an inch or more. If they were sandwiched together, the edges would be sharper. On the right, a large fill card is added with a light shining on it to make it as bright as possible. This card is brightly reflected in the silver band. A second card is added on the other side of the bottle and it is illuminated only with spill over from the other light.

3. Camera Settings

There are no unusual camera setting problems although white balance is adjusted (as usual) and exposure compensation is used.

The bottle is placed on the plexiglass above the hole and seems to glow from within.

The first reflector adds a bright white highlight to the silver band. It also lightens the nipple so it's separated from the darker background.

The final fill card adds the second highlight to the silver band and also lightens the side of the nipple. The black band between the two highlights on the silver band is the unlit space between the two cards.


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