Photographing glass looks so easy !

mdk-igugu-2009One type of photography that we do regularly is called packshots, which are photographs of  commercial products used for marketing, advertising, or brochures.  Very often this  entails taking shots of glass items and this is where it gets very tricky !


Looking at such a packshot (wine bottles in my examples) you can be forgiven for thinking “so what’s the big deal ?” since it looks like just a normal bottle of wine. However, any photographer who has ever seriously attempted to photograph glass or shiny metal items will be quick to point out that these are some of the most difficult subjects to photograph successfully.


Light coloured bottles introduces more complexity, you now need to consider accuracy of colour too.

The problem that faces the photographer is reflection – glass and metal objects reflects light which can really spoil a picture. More often than not these reflections are unwanted and detracts from the photograph. That does not mean that all reflections are bad, you do need them else the picture will look dull and flat, but the photographer needs to manage the type and amount of reflections – and this is the difficult part.

To test the validity of what I’m saying is easy – next time you have a camera at hand do yourself a favour, find a glass object and take one or more pictures of it. Have a good look at your photograph and identify the reflections (easily done, your pic will have many – trust me) and then try to take the same picture , this time without the unwanted reflections or better still, with only selected reflections.

You are in for a nasty surprise – you might be able to avoid some of the reflections by altering your position, or the position of the subject matter relative to your light source, but I bet you will end up introducing new reflections that were absent in your original picture!


Other than accuracy of colour, if a back-label is present on a transparent bottle it introduces even more reflections and shadows, adding to the photographer’s woes!

You might find yourself spending many hours trying to get this all figured out – I know, it took me four full days of hard work before I finally could get one photograph to look half decent. This was a number of years ago and drove me up the wall, but I eventually got the hang of it.

You can of course  resort to using post-production software such as Photoshop to alter your picture and remove unwanted reflections, but that is a bit like cheating and not really successful – sometimes it is just better to do something in the proper way and not to rely on software to fix mistakes – glassware is a prime example. Use software to add some final touches if necessary, but take the photograph correctly as a start!


To add even more challenge to the task, try photographing a glass object that contains gold or silver trim – like the gold trim on the label of this bottle.

So next time you see a photograph of a shiny glass or metal object, please spare a thought for the photographer who took the shot!


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