Reflect On This, That, And The Other


As a studio photographer I wish to pay respect to Steve Sint. He’s an American professional who makes a large living from weddings and advertising shots. I have always enjoyed his books and articles and have found them to invariably be right on the money – his advice on the use of the Hasselblad for weddings made it so much more successful. Now his big book on studio still life is even better.

He is dynamite on the reflection – getting one when you need it and scotching it when you don’t. I look back on a lot of my tabletop car shots and wish I had read that book earlier – I have made some howlers. I suspect that I would be able to reconstruct the exact layout of the studio at any one time by looking in the reflections on the polished surface of the models.

You can do that on real cars, if they are shiny and dark coloured. Look into the side of the paint and find your own face and then notice the rest of what is behind you. In some cases it is what makes the shape of the car real – the distortion of the scene seen in reverse in the paint.

It is the reason that some illustrators of real-life scenes that are destined to be the backdrop for expensive cars also record the scene behind themselves even as they shoot the landscape in front. Their secondary files are then analysed and essentially repainted in post processing onto the shiny paint of the real car. Sounds time consuming, because it is, but we’re talking $200,000 motors. They can sell ’em and they can afford the computer time.

I generally fill light the models with a giant soft box, but if I am not careful where I place it the image of it in the shiny panels destroys all hope of realism. Closer is better, but the rest of the lighting scheme must support the visual idea of seeing that large panel. The Oldsmobile in the heading image came out pretty well, but even I am left wondering what it is exactly in that reflection.

Worst-cases see a hard point source or even worse – the image of the camera and/or the furniture and me in the chrome bits.


Time to consider a large secondary scene at the edge of the table that will reflect onto the side of the body – a hole will have to be cut for the lens to poke through and some sort of lighting will be needed on the scene to make it show up. I already have a light blue gel filter modifying the light that is fired onto the ceiling so that it will colour the shadows a little blue – that is in keeping with the intense nature of the blue skies that we see naturally here.I think by the end of concocting the lighting scheme even Steve Sint will be proud of me.





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