How to shoot atmospheric photos of glass with just a couple of speedlights

Tips & Techniques

Photographing glass can be a very tricky topic if you don’t know how to approach it. It doesn’t react to light the way that most of the subjects we shoot do, because there’s really nothing to actually light. It’s all about the lit objects that reflect off it or refract through it.

You don’t need a lot of fancy gear to photograph glass, though, and in this video from Dustin at Workphlo, we see how we can photograph glass with a very simple setup utilising just a couple of speedlights, a small strip softbox and a diffuser.

It’s a fairly simple setup once you break it down. The glass is placed on top of a black reflective surface, and a gridded speedlight is pointed towards the backdrop to provide a nice round gradient behind the glass.

From the front, this comes through to add some depth to the thick base of the glass. Specular highlights are then added to the outside left and inside right of the glass from a second speedlight inside a small strip softbox shooting through a diffuser.

And then the image is cropped down to the final dimension to cut out the stand, the softbox and the side edges of the black platform, the result is a very nice clean image that shows off the form of the glass wonderfully.

There’s a little bit of post work to extend the background glow more to the sides, fade out the reflection on the bottom and just retouch a few of the imperfections in the glass. Overall, though, it’s a rather nice image which, although shot in colour, makes for a very effective black and white.

This isn’t the only way to “light” and photograph glass, and Dustin has covered other methods of lighting clear glass before, like in this Martini example. But it’s an interesting subject to try to photograph.

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