The Best Practices for Photographing Metal Objects

Updated July 20, 2017

Photographing metal objects can be difficult compared to a normal object. The problems are caused by the object's reflective surface, which tends to display its surroundings, including the camera. Most of these issues can be avoided, however, with some clever lighting. Play around with the position of the camera and the lights for your specific object until you find an acceptable situation.

Lighting Principles

The most important principle to realise about lighting metal objects is that the object isn't "illuminated" by direct light. The object is illuminated by the reflection of the surrounding objects. So, if you want to light a metal object, you need to light the objects around it. For example, instead of shining a light at a faucet, place a white bounce card near the faucet, then shine light on the bounce card. The faucet reflects the shape and light qualities of the bounce card, resulting in a "lit" appearance.

Lighting Positions

In most instances, you'll use two lit bounce cards. The first should be about 30 to 45 degrees to the left or right of the camera, and should be placed as close as possible to the object (without entering the photo). This causes light to reflect slightly from the side and should fill the entire side of the object, resulting in a full and dynamic reflection. The second bounce card acts as a kind of "fill light" and should be placed about 90 degrees from the first bounce card on the opposite side of the camera. Again, place the card as close as possible. Play around with the angle and light hitting the bounce card to change the light reflected in the object.

Camera Position

Once the lights are set up, you can move the camera around (if you wish) to get various shots. Ensure, however, that the camera remains in an area unlit by the bounce cards. Metal objects can only reflect objects that bounce light toward them, so by keeping your camera in the relative dark, it will avoid showing up in the photos themselves.

Unavoidable Situations

In the circumstance that you are unable to hide the camera from reflecting back into the image, try "disguising" it. Take a sheet of black cloth, cut a hole in it and place only the front part of the lens through it. Hopefully, the sheet will absorb most of the light that hits it and disguise your camera's located as simply a dark region of the photo. Try other similar approaches if a black sheet won't work, such as a bush or some creative cloth positioning.

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About the Author

Richard Klopfenstein began writing in 2009 as a political editorialist for "The Independent Florida Alligator." Klopfenstein's expertise includes improvisation, comedy, design, photography and television production management. He recently graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism.