Clearstory Studios art photography sample photographs


Technical Notes:   Art glass presents some difficult technical problems for the fine crafts photographer. Glass is not only very reflective, but as is the case in this perfume bottle, also translucent. This means that the object must be photographed with light coming through the piece from behind to show the inner translucent details, but also with light from the front to show the form, outline and texture of the artwork. If the balance between the different light sources is not even, the results will often be disappointing. If the backlight is too strong, the colors of the glass will appear washed out or faded and the hues of too high a brilliance. If the front lighting is too strong, the luminous and clear inner details of the artwork will be lost.

Any source of illumination will also show up as a usually undesirable reflection, highlight or "hot spot" on the surface of the glass. With two-dimensional objects or slightly curved flatware, it is sometimes possible to eliminate or minimize these highlights by the angle of placement between the light source, object and camera. With a form such as this perfume bottle with its curved surfaces on all dimensions, to eliminate all highlights is virtually impossible.

Sometimes a certain amount of reflective highlight is desired to illustrate the nature of the medium or to emphasize the form of the object. In general it is better to have as few of such highlights as possible (as our eye interprets objects clearly lit from more than one source as "unnatural") and for the highlight to be as diffuse as possible - emanating from such a source as an overcast sky, a light-tent or a softbox, rather than from a spot-type light or even a photographic umbrella (the image of which can often be seen in fashion photography as a "star" in the spherical eyes of the model).

In photographing this piece by the well-known French glass artist, Henri Begou, a single large softbox placed directly overhead was the only light source. It was placed at such an angle that the intensity of the light in front of and behind the object were relatively equal. The very light part of the graduated background reflected enough extra light through the glass to illumine the interior and yet provide good saturation of the colors contained therein. The only highlight occurs at the top of the piece (where the graduation of the background is darker) on the stopper, which emphasizes its spherical shape, and at the small concave neck of the bottle. Black "fill cards" were used to reflect a fine outline around the outer edge of the bottle that would have otherwise made it indistinct from the background, or "invisible" in the area where the hue and values of both were relatively equal.

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