Photographing Clear Glass in Natural Light

This is an example of taking indoor photos of glass with no special setup. The sun and windows are all that are needed to backlight the glassware. I set the camera to auto exposure and macro mode. Besides focusing close-up, the macro mode keeps the distant objects out of focus.

  1. The first photo was taken in a sunlight stream coming through the window on the left. I held the object in the sunstream, while I stood out of the light. I pointed the camera toward the beige floor carpet about 3 feet below, which was not lit by the sunstream. The extreme brightness of the glass caused the camera to darken the backdrop to black so that it entirely disappears.
  2. The second photo is taken in a different daylit window, on the shady side of the house. I sat on the floor about 4 feet from the window and used the white wall under the window as the backdrop. I held the object lower than the window so the bright reflections on the glass would be of the window frame and blue sky (not draperies and not outside patio or neighboring rooftops) and pointed the camera toward the wall under the window. Again, with brighter light coming through the object, the camera darkened the backdrop to black.
  3. The third photo was taken because not everyone wants a hand showing in the photo (although it does help show the size). As soon as I put the glassware on a surface, I could no longer fool the camera into making a black backdrop. So in the last picture, I placed a black cloth under the glassware and set it on a cardboard box or chair in the same location below the window that I used for the second photo. Light is coming through the glassware from the window above and I am aiming the camera in the direction of the window wall. Because of the black cloth, the camera signaled me that a longer exposure would be needed and that I should steady the camera (so I steadied the camera against the box). This last setup is also more likely to pick up reflections of the surrounding room.

This is just one method of backlighting an object. Another method involves using a white backdrop and lighting the backdrop. Only transparent items should be photographed looking into the light like this (backlighting). All other solid and opaque items should be shot with the light source behind the camera and/or off to the sides, otherwise you will get distracting reflections and bad colors.

courtesy of shipscript
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