How To Photograph Glass Without Reflections and Shadows

Photographing glass can be challenging.

Naturally, glasses reflect light and that means having to work with different lights, sunshine filters, and angles. 

Beginner studio photographers might think of underexposing images.

Sure, it works but the final picture will lack the sharpness that renders it perceptively beautiful to the human eye.

But since you are here, reading this piece on how to photograph glass without reflections and shadows, we guess you are looking for the most practical tips, right? Excellent.

Then let’s jump straight into the meaty details.

How to photograph glass without reflections and shadows

How do you take pictures of glass without reflection?

1. Light the product from behind

This concept is also called backlighting and it is one of the most sought-after glass product photography methods.

To execute it, have your light source behind the glass so it can leverage the glass’ translucent nature and bring out an appealing crystal-clear nature.

However, the presence of a backlight can generate your reflection in the images. So try to wear black to remain invisible.

2. Putting the glassware onto a plexiglass

Plexiglass has become one of the must-have photography tools. It is pivotal in achieving desirable reflective properties.

One of the reasons why plexiglass is highly sought after has to do with its ability to work with any surface color.

Also, they allow photographers to shoot glassware from underneath. 

Even better, plexiglasses can create stunning embellishing overlays that result in uniquely entertaining images.

There are a few steps to follow when using plexiglass to photograph glassware.

First, place the plexiglass on a preferred surface. Then set the glass product on top.

Next, you may want to take a break from the flash to avoid radio glow.

Now, put two solid blocks on either side of the glass products to block out as much of the room as possible. 

Lastly, focus properly and shoot. Try a couple more shots and pick the ones with the best outcome.

3. Photographing glass on a white background

Many photographers who wish to use a white background work with strip boxes. For the process to work well, have two glasses.

Place the first glass upside down and the second, the one you want to photograph standing on the bottom of the other one.

Make sure the bottoms align symmetrically to shorten post-editing time.

Adjust the strip box distance to your desired distance and start shooting.

The bottom edge of the glass will spot dark reflective edges. You can get those edges to thin or thicken a little by adjusting the distance of the strip box.

Photographing detailed glass products

It’s easy to photograph general glassware through overexposure. The same can’t be said of products with reflective surfaces such as watches and sunglasses.

Below are some extra tips to ensure your photographs are free from glare and reflections.

1. Stay close to the glassware

Stay pretty close to your subject to avoid unwanted glare and reflection. This method should be observed by those trying to shoot subjects behind windows. 

By keeping the lens close to the windows, they (windows) become like a second set of lenses.

While worth attempting, getting close to the windows in a museum, a gallery, or a few other protected properties is highly frowned upon. 

2. Don’t bother with the flash 

Shooting glassware with the flash on will result in light bouncing right back into the lens.

The results?

Too much radio glow around your product to the point that it lacks professional appeal. 

Understandably, some places may be dimly lit. And anyone would be tempted to fire up the flash.

Instead, play around with ISO settings and shutter speeds to obtain good-quality pictures. 

A small reminder, when taking photos on some modes like Macro and Portrait, the flash might come on automatically.

So, switch to manual, aperture priority, or shutter speed priority to jail the flash. 

3. Leverage a polarizing filter

Even when you give it your best effort and care, reflections can still occur if you shoot from different angles.

You can have polarizing filters nearby to deal with such circumstances. 

There are a few tips to note while working with polarizing filters.

First, if you intend to retain some reflections, then don’t use them. Secondly, some glasses or windows are already polarized.

So throwing in a polarizer can introduce weird effects such as psychedelic patterns or rainbow strips. 

4. Try shooting with a lens hood

You can put your glare and reflection worries to bed if you use a lens hood.

The lens screws to the end of your lens and blocks out unnecessary light that could generate reflections. 

5. Be mindful of the angles you are shooting from 

It is normal ( and vital) to shoot from different angles trying to find the right spot.

Well, here’s some eye-opening revelation. Some of those angles are the culprits to your reflection problems. 

Like when trying to find the best angle, you’ll need to shoot from different angles until you find that point where reflections don’t appear in photos. 

A practical suggestion is shooting with telescope lenses. They can help you get very far away from objects and reduce reflection. 

6. Cover or switch off all lights that are not in use 

This is common sense in photography. But since there’s usually a lot going on, we all tend to forget this concept. 

Covering or switching off unwanted light sources will minimize the chances of glares and reflections emerging in photos. 

7. Blackboard black hole

If all other methods have proved futile, there’s one more trick you can apply using a blackboard black hole. 

Simply make a black box (reflector board or any blackboard) and cut a small hole in it, big enough for your lens to squeeze through. 

Then take a picture and see the outcome. The biggest flaw you can experience is a small hole that can easily be rubbed out in post-editing.

8. Frost the glass

Making a glass opaque can minimize reflections to a certain extent.

This is a popular food photography trick where items to be photographed are put in a freezer for a while. 

As you might guess, this method does not apply to some glasses like sunglasses.

Besides freezing, you can also resort to DIY techniques such as using hairspray or deodorant.

9. Combine multiple exposures

One of the most recommended glass photography tricks involves taking several photos and combining them in Photoshop.

To achieve satisfactory results, ensure your camera and glassware don’t move. Place your camera on a tripod for motion-free stills.

Play around with lighting to achieve different depths in each shot. Now, combine various frames that best fix the reflection problem.

Product photography post-processing

As was pointed out earlier, glass photography is not easy. You have to deal with shadows, reflections, and even exposure problems.

Depending on your product photography setup, your images are likely to spot some mild imperfections.

As such, you must do a bit of image post-processing to make your pictures look professional.

The first step is usually removing the background by making it clean and white. This makes the product photo stand out.

Use healing and cloning tools to clean out dust, smudges, fingerprints, and other existing imperfections.

When shooting glasses like wine, whisky, and champagne ware, you can flip images to achieve perfect symmetry. Tools like Adobe Photoshop, Luminar, Gimp, and DXO PhotoLab can help you do just that.

Glass photography setup

Here’s how you can go about setting up your glass photography process:

  1. Make sure the shooting area is safe. Remove any cords and cables on the floor.
  2. Clean the glassware so it is free from dust and smudges that will make post-production strenuous.
  3. Stabilize your camera on a tripod to get consistent stills.
  4. Use a plexiglass if you intend to employ different lighting techniques
  5. Adjust your white balance and exposure according to the lighting
  6. Lastly, experiment with different light techniques, angles, and other variables.

Final Thoughts

Now you know all the basics of how to photograph glass without reflections and shadows.

The trick majorly lies in proper object and camera placement as well as lighting. 

Once you get those two right, photographing glassware should be as easy as slicing through a cake.

There are a few more things you must keep at the back of your mind. When working with softboxes, play around with the distance until you find the perfect spot.

Also, shoot as many photos as possible. This gives you multiple reliable options.

Do not obsess over minute flaws.

Things like the absence of the glass ring and the dark edges in the bottom lacking symmetry can be fixed in post-processing. T

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