Photographing Glass and Metal on Dark Backgrounds

Photographing glass and metal on blackHigh Precision Diamond Cutting Tool with Optical End Products Hi, and welcome to a new blog entry (finally!). I’ve been kept away from the blog for a while, but here I go again!

In today’s blog I’ll move slightly away from the jewelry photography realm, and showcase a job that we shot a little while ago. The client, K&Y Diamonds, is a global leader in high precision diamond cutting tools used in the automotive, aerospace, optical and medical industries. These tools are used to cut, shape, and polish object for their respective uses. Because most of their tools are small to tiny (2" down to microns), and that they are metallic and have diamonds, they contact us knowing that we work pretty much exclusively with small shiny objects. For this particular job, they wanted to have their tools photographed with "end products" besides them. They also stressed the importance of color, that the tools appear "high tech" and as sharp as possible.

I decided on using the blue color gel as the main highlight color in the series of images. Blue is a very typical color used in technology imagery: it conveys the right emotion to the consumer. Using orange, doesn’t do as well .

High tech tools under blue lighting increases their
Using blue light, we give a "techie" feel to products.

The setup was photographed on a large piece of brushed aluminum provided by a contact at Electrolux/GE. Collecting many different types of materials is really important for the product photographer: you never know when you might use a certain surface. The brushed aluminum worked great because the tool itself has a brushed finish – thus creating unity.

The tricky part of this job was the glass products: 3 pieces of glass used in the optical industry (the final end-product are eyeglass lenses). They posed some difficulties with respect to where lighting can be put, at what height and at what intensity. Everything gets reflected and warped via internal refraction.

The lighting setup I used was composed of 3 lights. The key light was a softbox mounted to the left of the camera, this illuminates the tool and gives the nice bright highlight on the diamond tip. A secondary, fill-light was placed further away to the right of the camera, and the intensity was reduced to simply bring back some detail on the tool’s right side. Finally, a blue colored gel mounted with barn doors was pointed on a black paper background approximately 3’ away, and 1.5’ higher than the setup. Raising or lowering this light affected the amount of blue that showed-up in the frame.

The options are limitless when it comes to painting with light. Using various light modifiers, as discussed in my previous blog entry, you can create stunning combinations, even without Photoshop. In this last image below, I have added a yellow gel on the camera right to give additional color. The pink/red hue was added in post-production via Photoshop. As a photographer, go as far as your mind can see (or a client's ability to pay for good work).

Photographing glass and metal on black, the lighting diagramHere's the lighting diagram to the top image.

Engine part shot under colored gelsUsing colored gels, we can sculpt a rather unexciting piece metal into something much more interesting (object is part of a car piston).