A Clever Way to Photograph Glass

Last week I shared an article about putting a granite tile to good use, there was one technique in that post that I wanted to expand and make a dedicated tutorial for because it’s one of the simplest yet a classy way to light glass.

What You Need:

  • Background (White Background – normally I use my white seamless paper)
  • A Granite Tile
  • Speedlight with Stofen Omnibounce or a gridspot

How to:

I place an SB-600 with a Stofen Omnibounce below the granite tile and pointed it at the Background. The purpose of the Omnibounce is to create a gradient effect on the background. The farther your speedlight is from the background, the bigger the gradient is.

Here, the granite tile is really close to the background (about 1-2 feet away). The light that will be coming from the background is the one that will light my glass.

Normally I shoot at 1/160 f8, ISO 200. And my speedlight is at ¼ power. 

Pretty simple huh?

Here are some shots using this technique:

Playing Around With Food Coloring

Playing with shapes

Using Gels on the background

Put CTO gel and CTB gel on my speedlight to get colors in the background.

Flame shot

For this shot I needed to shoot at a slower shutter speed to expose for the flame. I placed my camera on a tripod and instead of shooting at 1/160 (which will only show the light of my flash), I shot this at 1/10’s to expose for the flame (considered as ambient light). I used 70% solution alchohol for the flame. BE CAREFULL when doing this, the martini glass broke after doing this shot.

Defying Gravity

(Not Photoshopped) I’ll just leave you guessing how it was done. Pretty easy actually. – show us your guesses at the comments.


(Rise Up Philippines) Dedicated to my country, The Philippines.


  • Timothy

    gelatine ? :-)

    • http://www.adrianomartins.com/ Adriano Martins

      Yep, my guess as well.

  • Didrik

    that’s my guess to jello

    Looks very cool and clever.

  • Fred Smith

    Gelatine, Jello (same thing), or frozen water? I do not see condensation, but it could have been wiped off. The first photo was taken after giving the tile a jolt?

    I learned a lot from this article…thanks!

    • Rick

      Freezing water expands and would have broken the glass. (And incremental freezing to prevent breaking the glass would have clarity issues.)

      • Rui Vaz

        I could of course be wrong, but the water level would simply rise and not break the glass. I would choose gelatine and food colouring, but ice would work as long as you used less water to make up for the expansion. The glass would break or at least suffer internal pressure, if the water had nowhere to go, which is not the case here.

        • Rick

          Water expands in all directions as it freezes, not just vertically. I suggest you put a wine glass full of water in the freezer and see where it leads. Just don’t use a glass you care about.

          • Rui Vaz

            I never implied (or at least never meant to imply) that water expanded in any particular direction, much less upwards.

            I reasoned that, as water froze and exanded (in all directions, as you, correctly stated) it would meet a barrier (the glass at the bottom and sides). This barrier would force the remaining expansion upwards, where no such barrier exists.

            In any case I found a wine glass that the missus wouldn’t notice for a while (it’s one of the ordinary ones that we use less often), and took your suggestion. Far from even attempting to setup up a decent photo, you can see the results here:



            I still have the glass, thankfully, so one less crazy act to explain.

            That said: was I lucky? Possibly.

            Could there be a mechanism where the expanding water WOULD break the glass? It’s likely there is at least one, if not several.

            Maybe the water would freeze it’s top “layer” first, this would bond to a more favorable glass or to crystal and not “slide” as the remaining water expanded.

            In any case, it was interesting to test.

          • Pam Collins

            overlay or double exposure?

  • Thomas

    you paint the glass?

  • Morgan Glassco

    Jello. But I am curious about the angled glasses

  • Richard Henderson

    Excellent Tutorial. I read your original post and tried to get a black Granite tile to no avail. I will have to wait until I am next in a major city to source one. But in the mean time my iPad does offer the same effect when the item is not too heavy :-)


  • John

    I find it interesting that the reflections make the glasses look more interesting. It’s an angle thing I know, hardly earth shattering, but it caught my eye.

    • John

      More FULL, sorry

  • DonnaLouWho

    Just found this article…So is it gelatin?

  • Fred H.

    My friend works at Music Museum! Great ideas and technique!

  • Mensajero El

    I guess the color is Jello, after an hour in the frig, and it must be mixed with a lot of consitancy. Or a mixture of color food and Gelatin substence. Again, more Gelatin then water. The amount for each wine cup MUST be exact. For better distribution of weight.

  • mike

    black plexi will do for granite