How to use reflections in sun glasses to enhance your images not distract
I remember when I was studying photography that the most difficult assignment we were given was photographing shiny objects. I stupidly chose to photograph a pair of orchestral cymbals (ie. shiny all over with multiple angles). The next most difficult thing after that was probably the sunglasses. Those reflections are necessary, you don’t want to remove them altogether, but you do want them to enhance the product, not detract from it. And that’s just product photography! What happens when you’re using artificial light with a person wearing sunglasses? How do you avoid those cartoonish round white blobs?
Gavin says that usually, we try to avoid reflections in glasses and sunglasses, but sometimes it just looks great, and it’s worth taking the time to experiment and see what you can get. He has the following tips:
- Try a side profile portrait: Position the light in front of the model until you see the reflection in the centre of the sunglasses. You can use another light behind the model to light up the backside of the head and create more interest and separation from the background.
- Use the modelling lamp (if you have one) to see what you’re getting before you start taking photos. This way you can guide your model into the right position to get the effect you’re after, or simply reposition the light.
- Try using a single round light overhead and ask your model to look up. If you don’t want the subject looking up, just move the light lower so that it’s in line with the eye line.
- Try different types of sunglasses as they all have different curves and that will affect the way the light reflects off them.
- Bonus tip: Try adding a diffuser in front of the light to add a subtle gradient to the reflection. Also, experiment with different sizes and shapes of light sources. A larger light source will look different than a smaller one, and equally different shapes will produce different effects. You could even get fancy and try using a gobo!
So after all of that playing around with reflections, what do you do if you want to eliminate the reflections after all? Well, its simple, and also not so simple if you’ve ever tried it! Remember the rule the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. That basically means that the angle that the light is hitting the glasses needs to be different from the angle the camera is viewing the glasses in order to not see the reflection of the light source.
Phew! Sounds complicated, but actually not so much in reality. Move your light source around if you can until you can no longer see the reflection in the camera. Try moving it up and down as well. Of course, as Gavin says in the video, it won’t necessarily mean that the light source is in the most ideal position for the portrait. It’s about compromise ultimately, and you can always try tilting the glasses or try a different pair to see if that helps.
In the end, it’s about having a bit of fun and seeing what you can do with the reflections! Enjoy!
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe