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.
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!
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?