How to eliminate reflections on glass when shooting with flash

Jan 30, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to eliminate reflections on glass when shooting with flash

Jan 30, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Usually, when we hear about reflection issues with photography, especially with flash, it’s on glasses. The type people wear on their faces. We’ve posted about that on here before. This time, we’re dealing with regular flat glass. Like that found in windows and doors. The same principles apply, although you do have a few more options.

In this video, photographer Rob Hall takes a look at the subject of reflections on glass surfaces when working with flash. He offers up a number of tips and solutions to help reduce or eliminate the problem entirely. Which will work best for you will depend on your situation. But armed with these techinques, you’ll have a much better chance of getting the shot you want.

YouTube video

As you can see from the video, and this handy diagram below that Rob created, the basic principle of “angle of incidence = angle of reflection” holds true whether it’s a pair of glasses on somebody’s face or a sheet of glass in a window. But it’s a big problem that a lot of photographers still struggle with. Especially so, when, you darken down the ambient exposure and add flash, and the bright reflections become even more pronounced.

 

Every day I see photographs shot in peoples homes and workplace where flash has been used to light the subject, and in the windows, there’s an obvious reflection of the light source. And you typically want a nice soft and flattering light for human subjects, which means big modifiers.

I think the reason why so many people struggle with it is that “angle of incidence = angle of reflection” doesn’t mean a lot to most people. They need to see it demonstrated for it to click. Which is why videos like Rob’s can be very useful for those still trying to figure it out. He explains and demonstrates several different ways that you can help to reduce or eliminate reflections on glass and other glossy surfaces, by changing the position of the light, the angle of the light, the focal length you choose to use and other factors.

I don’t have to deal with reflective surfaces like these very often, as most of my people shoots are outdoors in the middle of nowhere. Occasionally, though, I do have to photograph people in interior locations, like homes and places of business. So, reflections do pop up occasionally.

  • The use of grids can be very effective at helping to eliminate reflections, too, as they allow the light to keep travelling forward towards your subject, but they block the light from heading towards the reflective surface behind them. They just reflect the black of the grid itself, which is black, so you don’t see it.
  • Feathering the light can also help, as you’re turning the bulk of the softbox surface away from the reflective surface, while still allowing it to case some nice soft light on your subject.

Combining both of the above techniques of using grids along with feathering together can completely eliminate the reflection in many circumstances. Another favourite method of mine for controlling reflected light is to simply block it from hitting the reflective surface.

  • Black flags are very useful, as is something like Cinefoil. These simply act to block the light and offer a dark subject for the surface to reflect instead of a bright white flash of light – remember, glass surfaces won’t reflect subjects that are darker than what is on the other side of them!
This is my best friend when it comes to controlling reflections

If you’ve been struggling with reflections in glass and other glossy surfaces, it’s well worth having a watch of Rob’s video. It contains a lot of great information, but do make sure that you practice each of them a lot.

There is no single method that will completely eliminate all reflections in every situation. But if you practice all the different techniques, then when you’re at a location and you see a reflection, you’ll already have some idea of the best way to wrangle it under your control.

Do you struggle with reflections?

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 responses to “How to eliminate reflections on glass when shooting with flash”

  1. Sada Avatar
    Sada

    or just use cpl filter and polarization foil on the flash head ;)

    1. Paul H Avatar
      Paul H

      That’s exactly what was going through my mind and I have used that before to remove reflections, but those photos were done on reflections without a flash, so will that also work on a flash reflection?

  2. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    There is one method I’ve used once or twice but it is suitable for speedlites and not strobes that big (though it might work if you get large enough polarizing sheet): I would place a polarizing sheet on the speedlite so its light would be horizontally polarized, while on the lens I would place another sheet vertically polarized. It will require some extra power for the speedlite but it works well for reflective surface AND I need to add this: the speedlite must be on camera. So yeah, maybe not the most creative solution but it does well for documenting I suppose!