In addition to glass, shiny metal is one of those materials that are very tricky to photograph. Metal objects require specific lighting to bring the best out of them and make them look appealing and not overly bright and reflective.
If you want to learn how to properly light metal items, Jay P. Morgan comes to the rescue. In this video, he gives you some useful tips and guidelines on lighting and photographing that tricky, shiny metal like a pro.
As an example, Jay photographs a beautiful dagger with a shiny blade and a gorgeous metal handle. When he points the light straight into it, it reflects it and shines bright in the image. It may seem like a perfect solution – but it’s really not. It makes the blade look dull, almost like plastic, and loses all of the details.
So, instead of shining your light straight into the product, you want to create a gradation on the metal. Jay guides you through his process of building a lighting set for this particular blade, and he starts by bringing in a black card at the same angle as his softbox. Even at this point, the result is already much better!
However, since the overall shot is a bit dark, he adds a white reflector to bring back some of the highlights. Then, he adds a light at the back, with a blue gel to add a bit of a cold vibe to the steel. Finally, he adds another white reflector on the other side of the dagger.
Other than playing with lights, reflectors, and flags, you can also adjust the angle of the product you’re shooting. Jay uses a bit of putty to slightly angle the knife towards the camera, so the logo on the blade really stands out. At the end of the video, you can really see how the image improves and the knife gets more details as Jay builds up the lighting set.
Last but not least, when you shoot shiny metal objects, pay attention to the angle of incidence a.k.a. the angle of reflection. You’ll find a helpful explanation about it here. So, the next time you have cutlery, knives, guns, jewelry, or anything shiny in your shot, remember these tips and play with light to get the most details out of those reflective objects.