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Thread: Crystal lit with dark background

  1. #1

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    Crystal lit with dark background

    This crystal vase was given to my wife and me as a wedding present nearly 30 years ago. It really is helpful to shoot high quality crystal such as this rather than glass used in my earlier photos that has lots of imperfections.

    Unlike those photos of round glass, this object has many flat sides. The only parts that are rounded are the corners. It was amazing to see the different effects that could be achieved by rotating it just ever so slightly before finally deciding on this composition.

    The largest version has to be viewed to eliminate the moire. C&C encouraged, as always.

    Crystal lit with dark background
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 29th October 2012 at 12:46 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Looks good to me, mike. I can't really give any feedback, because i've never tried this type of photography.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Thanks, Steve. There is a flaw in the image. It's really tough getting it 100% right.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    I also cannot offer any C&C but I find it very interesting. I can certainly appreciate the effort to which you are going to explore this type of photography. I'm enjoying your journey!

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    really well done I like the result
    Tony

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    You must have either done a lot of cleanup, or you have a dust free space. I tried similar once, on less expensive glass, but found to my amazement it was very difficult to eliminate all the dust.....(I have dogs and cats, it is impossible here, let me tell you!) Very crisp, clean shot. I like it.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    I'm not used to this way of photographing, cauld you take a picture or explain the set-up thank you
    Tony

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Thanks, everyone!

    Nat: Nope, very little cleanup during post-processing and definitely not a dust-free space. First, I wash my hands to remove all oil from my skin. Then I clean the glass with Windex using a cloth that has been washed so many times that it couldn't have any lint left in it. I then use a can of compressed air to spray away as much dust as possible. However, my makeshift studio is in a 60-year-old storage room that has stuff stored on all walls and in the exposed rafters. Worse yet, the room opens directly to the outside. This type of photography often requires raising the black point, which also helps hide any dust that settles on the glass while I'm making final adjustments and shooting.

    Tony: You're really gonna be sorry that you asked!

    The most important part of the setup for photographing glass in this style is to ensure that everything in the room but the subject is so dark that no unwanted reflections will appear in the glass. I'm working in a small storage room, so using just one light illuminates everything in the room. The only way to render everything except the subject dark (non-reflective) is to create a black tent. This can be done in a tabletop style but I knew I was going to be doing a lot of this type of photography over the coming years. So, I took the time to create a 5'W x 5'H x 10'L space with a black rug on the floor, a black false ceiling that is temporarily lowered while I'm shooting, and three sides made of black hanging fabric. (The fourth side is a concrete wall not used in this image that is painted white for use as a large reflector.)

    The order of doing the setup, not just making it happen, is also really important. I cut a piece of black foam core the same aspect ratio as my camera sensor. I hung that from a boom and I also used the same boom to hold a large, circular diffuser immediately behind the black board. I placed a light source so it would shine toward the diffuser and the black board and ultimately back light the subject. It's important that the light source is large enough to shine light around all four sides of the black board that is the background.

    The next thing to do is to determine the tabletop. I knew that I wanted a highly reflective surface that would produce a reflection at the base of the subject. The three most common choices for making that happen are a mirror, shiny black acrylic, or clear glass. I used clear glass set on a pair of sawhorses that -- you guessed it -- are covered in black fabric.

    I then positioned the camera so it is facing the black background, the circular diffuser behind that and the light source at the rear. I also positioned it at a distance from the black background board so the field of view is exactly the same as the board, not larger and not smaller. (This is very important for reasons that I won't take the time to explain right now, as this post is already too long.)

    As counter-intuitive as it is, the very last part of making the setup is placing the subject on the tabletop and moving it back and forth until I get the look that I want. The distance between the subject and the camera affects not only the magnification but also the size of the reflections of bright light that define the edges of the glass.

    There is a bit of fine-tuning the adjustments along the way. One example is that I made sure the black background was hanging sufficiently below the glass tabletop so I could minimize the appearance of the horizon.

    Last, after focusing, I exposed for the black background and shot a couple more frames using incrementally less exposure. Though using less exposure darkens the reflected bright light (notice that most of it is actually light gray, not white), it also darkens the background. I ended up using exposure compensation of -3.67EV.

    The initial goal is to make the glass appear clear by lighting only the edges. However, it often helps to define the shape of the glass by reflecting light back onto the subject using a white reflector. In this case, the subject had flat sides that, when turned in a particular position, would reflect to a small extent the white diffuser that extended beyond the black background. That explains why I didn't have to add any other reflectors to my setup, whereas normally I would need to do that.

    I expected to have to block light shining toward the lens to prevent flare. Fortunately, there was no flare in this setup and I really don't know why.

    If you're interested in this stuff, the book, Light: Science & Magic, explains every detail and more.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 29th October 2012 at 07:01 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Thank you Mike, I will try this week to replicate the set-up and I will post the result.
    glad to be off this week so i cauld try this...
    thank' s Tony

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Looking forward to your results, Tony! Knowing that you're actually going to try it makes me feel better about providing the otherwise boring details of such a long post.

    By the way, another variation on the look is to add light to the bottom of the background so it produces a gradient from bottom to perhaps halfway up the background. I tried it but wasn't satisfied and didn't want to take the time to refine my effort. Part of my problem was that a slight though unsightly texture in the background was revealed when the light raked across it from below; the lit area of the background was no longer smooth. I think using felt would provide a smoother background when lit this way. If you try it, be sure to place the light source below the background and behind the subject.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 29th October 2012 at 06:44 AM.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Two more details, Tony:

    I forgot to mention that it's important to prevent the camera from being reflected in the glass. I cut a hole the size of my lens hood in a black sheet of heavy paper, the kind you can get at an arts and crafts store. I then hung that sheet on my lens.

    It's also important that you aren't reflected in the glass. I used a wireless shutter release and stood behind the light source where I didn't think I could be reflected in the glass. Just to be safe, all my clothes were black.

  12. #12
    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Mike,

    Thanks for a very interesting thread, ive got some jewelry to photograph for someone when i get home i will be trying your techniques and will post the results.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Mike, I can't see it here in my office but I did get a look at it before leaving for work. Crystal clear picture (no pun intended, well maybe a little ). Seriously though, great job and explanation to go along with it. It does seem to involve a lot of time, effort, and skill to get this kind of image.

    Based on your recommendation and those of others on the forum, I bought a copy of "Light Science and Magic". I haven't got very far yet, but I hope to be exploring some of this type of photography in the future.

    Thanks for the image and how you went about getting it.

    Serge

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Quote Originally Posted by unmerited View Post
    Crystal clear picture
    Shame on you, Serge! Your mother taught you better, I'm sure.

    Seriously, thanks for the kudos. You're right that the process requires a lot of time and effort. If spending your time that way is enjoyable (it is for me), it's very rewarding. If not, it's probably a total pain in the neck.

    There are so many tweaks that have to be made: How large should the background be? How large should the tabletop be? What's best, shining the light through a diffuser or reflecting it off a wall or some other large opaque surface? What method is best to ensure that nothing around the tabletop and subject reflect light? Should the background be lit for added interest? However, now that I have done it a few times and made notes, it's becoming easier and more intuitive. Even so, I mentioned in an earlier post that this image isn't 100%.

    Tony: It might help you to know a few other details. I used a 14" x 21" background positioned in a horizontal orientation and a 35mm lens on a camera with a 1.5 crop factor. The glass tabletop is 24" x 24" of which about 20" x 24" is useable (is unobstructed by the sawhorses). The background is touching the rear of the tabletop. I used two hot lights placed side-by-side as my light source positioned just a few inches behind the diffuser and the background board. The subject, which is about 5" x 5" x 6", reasonably though not entirely filled the frame.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 29th October 2012 at 02:01 PM.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    It would look better with a double Glenmorangie...and am not being flippant.

    It 's lovely but needs a little something

  16. #16

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Thanks for motivating me to look up what a Glenmorangie is. Now that I've done that, I figured out on my own what a double Glenmorangie is.

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    I really like the photo. What does your "studio" look like? I have wanted to try my hand at these kind of photos for fun but I really dont know what kind of "studio" I would need to use. would this type of set up be good for shooting flower portrates?

    Could you post photos of it or send them in a PM?
    Last edited by Tri Danimal; 30th October 2012 at 07:48 PM.

  18. #18

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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    You wouldn't need to use this type of setup for shooting flowers, Daniel. It's designed for a very specific application -- shooting clear glass using a dark background. Fortunately, you'll need a much less complicated set up for shooting flowers because, unlike glass, reflections of everything in the room won't appear on the flowers.

    Though I think I understand the requirements of a simple setup to photograph flowers in a studio situation, I've not done much of it and don't want to provide an explanation for fear of being a bit misleading. You could probably search the Internet and find lots of explanations or start a new thread here at CiC to ask about that. I'm sure you'll get informed responses.

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    Daisy Mae's Avatar
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    Re: Crystal lit with dark background

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Thanks for motivating me to look up what a Glenmorangie is. Now that I've done that, I figured out on my own what a double Glenmorangie is.
    You've got to remember that where I am from an empty glass isn't seen as a work of artistic merit...it's seen as a crisis!

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