How To Photograph Reflective Surfaces

Shooting with a mirrored background can create an interesting image as well as some unique lighting challenges. Lighting reflective surfaces can cause that light to be bounced around your scene. This can lead to lens flare and if shooting with a mirror backdrop, everything in front of the mirror will be seen.

Photographing Reflective Surfaces

woman standing in front of mirror

I most often run into the need to shoot with a mirror backdrop in product photography. It is a great way to show off all sides of the product in one interesting shot. It’s a real eye catching perspective but it’s also tricky to get right.

You will need to use two light sources. For one of your sources, use a strip light that is narrow enough to not be shown in the mirrored background. For the second use a strobe. It will not be possible to keep all the light out of the reflective surfaces so you will need to keep it as minimal as possible and edit the remainder out in post production.

The hardest lights to remove in editing will usually be those on the product or subject so keep those out of your scene. Lights on mirrors will be easier to edit out so if you must leave any reflections, keep it to these.

Intensity and Direction

young woman holding piece of mirror, multiple reflections in mirror

I like to use V shaped reflectors when dealing with reflective surfaces. These are usually white on one side and black on the other. The black side is perfect for this lighting situation. Position your reflectors with care and you can seriously reduce the chance of flare by controlling the direction of the light.

This technique will produce a well contrasted light that is great for bringing out subject details.

Final Touches

You should also keep a number of black blankets on hand when shooting reflective surfaces. You will want to cover light stands, and seems between your reflectors to prevent them showing up. If shooting a mirror background, cover the mirror seems in black blankets as well.

And don’t forget about yourself! You don’t want to be showing up in your images, so wear black clothing the day you shoot. This will greatly reduce the chances of you showing up in your images.

Conclusion

And that’s all there is to photographing reflective surfaces. Whether you are shooting products or portraits with mirrored backgrounds, these techniques will allow you to capture quality images without lens flare. The keys are to use a small strip light and a strobe for your lighting sources. V shaped reflectors positioned to minimize reflective light on your subject and black blankets to put on key surfaces.