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16 Jun 2015
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Shooting Reflective surfaces: Make your work stand out, not shine


As a stain glass artist, or granite floor specialist, your work is a reflection of your art.  Speaking of reflection, working with shiny materials (glass, granite, marble, treated concrete etc.), is not easy to photograph.  Especially with your regular point and shoot. With 15 million people on Houzz a month – 84% plan to decorate or redecorate their home, and 48% plan to remodel – A good portfolio will make you stand out from the rest.

I’ve interviewed some crafts people and my clients why they think their previous shots were shot so poorly (stain glass artists, counter and floor specialists). Photographers (pro or not) must understand the material that is being shot. They also need to know how to light the material properly: Does it need to be lit from behind (like stain glass)? Or does the reflection off the surface need to be reduced (marble, treated concrete)? Will wetting your material show off fine details (veins on granite)? Consider how you would like your work to be viewed by others. Do you want your face reflected on the surface, or would you want to show off the veins on that good cut of granite?


Below are 3 key things to consider when shooting reflective surfaces – if you so dare.



In most situations, this may not be easy to do. White walls, however, are best so that colour and other obtrusive objects won’t appear in the material you’re shooting. Different reflections in the material can make your next client look at the pretty colours of your last client’s kitchen instead of your product. To resolve this issue, take the material out of the colourful room and place it in a room with white walls.  If the product is fixture, consider placing black or white boards around the reflective surface. This will help eliminate any colour to reflect of your product.  The fewer interruptions of colour and objects reflected on the surface of the material, the better.



A built-in flash on your camera or iPhone just won’t cut it. Sorry. That light will bounce directly off your reflective surface and your client will see nothing but an orb. To rid the orb, rid the flash on your camera (if possible) and place it off to the side of the material. Most importantly, diffuse the light with a diffuser or cover it with something transparent like wax paper or parchment paper. By doing this, you break the light up from a harsh beam and light will disperse itself across the surface of the material. This will ‘soften’ the light, making shadows and reflective lines less jarring.



Open the curtains pull up the blinds and the let the sunshine in. Images would look best if the sunlight doesn’t beam through the room. In fact, a cloudy day or shooting early morning would work best. Direct sunlight can make orbs (did I say that again?). What you’re looking for is diffused lighting. Again this light will spread across the material like butter. Something you want to capture in your shot.

To shoot shiny surfaces requires a bit of skill and ingenuity – and maybe a few years of practice. Your time is valuable, so why not use it wisely? Before you stoop and shoot – your shiny floor – consider calling a professional and get it right the first time around.