Glass can be a pretty tricky thing to photograph, especially if you’re trying to accentuate the shape of the glass itself. For most product photography you’ll have your lights in front of the subject, maybe on a 45 degree angle, casting even light on the front of your subject. If you did that for something made solely of glass, it would get lost in the background and look really flat and lifeless.
To illustrate my point, I decided to take some shots of a bedside water carafe that I have. The point of this shoot would be to accentuate the shape of the glass in an artistic manner. Maybe not the best product shot if you were trying to sell these, but a good start I think.
The first example uses ‘dark-field lighting’. In this technique, you place the light source directly behind the subject, then obscure some of it with an opaque material (like black foam core or dark cloth). What happens is that the edges of the glass object are defined by highlight, while the majority of the glass object remains dark. You can also control the amount of highlight by moving the object closer (more highlight) or further (less highlight) from the light source. In the example below I was using a 36″x36″ softbox with a piece of black construction paper down the middle. The carafe was about 18″ from the softbox. No other lights were used.
My second example uses ‘bright-field lighting’. This technique is very similar to the above, except you place two opaque material on each side of your light source, revealing only a narrow slit of light (obviously not so narrow that it’s in the shot though). What happens here is that the edges are defined by shadow, while the majority of the glass object remains bright. You can also control the amount of shadow by moving the object closer (less shadow) or further (more shadow) from the light source. In the below example I was using that same 36″x36″ softbox, but I had two strips of black construction paper along the edges of the softbox. The carafe was about 12″ away from the softbox.
Given these two examples, I think that I prefer the bright-field lighting. An alternative shot that I would have liked to do would be to take the cup off the top of the carafe and place it in front of and to the right of the carafe. I think that would look interesting as well.
Which shot do you prefer, and why?