More On Handling Reflective Surfaces

Anytime I set up lights for a photo shoot, I take advantage and shoot something else before breaking down the lights to free up my space. Metallic surfaces are usually tricky to capture and I was feeling for a challenge. The watch in this photo as you can see is very reflective and requires creativity to get the image right in camera. But as I’ve mentioned in another write-up, the trick to owning the lighting on reflective items is bouncing light. First I find a good angle to light from, when I’m happy with how the light behaves on the subject, then I focus on controlling it using flags and reflectors.

I used a three light setup to arrive at this final image. Two Alien Bees lit up the white background, and a third illuminated the watch through a scrim. The key light is positioned at an angle so it can be bounced off a white reflector. The scrim plays an important role here because it accounts for the smooth gradation you see on the silver parts of the watch. I use home made scrims built from tracing paper, wood and duct tape. My home studio has white walls, which doesn’t help because light bounces off the walls and ceilings, forcing me to use several flags to control any spill.


Image capture was on a Nikon D610 using a Tamron 90mm Macro. The final composite was done in Photoshop. I know I say this a lot, but it’s really important to get things right in camera and not depend on Photoshop for a great image. Photoshop though is indispensable when making that great image you’ve just captured into something that pops.

My creative direction, composition and lighting technique improves every time I take on one of these reflective items. From experience, I’d say there’s no other way to get better than to sketch it out on paper, and then shoot.