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  1. #1
    Administrator Pete's Avatar
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    photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    I found a very interesting thread at photo.net re: photographing spheres/marbles. I wanted to mirror it here, as it's right up our alley...

    We're still always on the lookout for marble photo tips - marbles definately impose their own special challenges when trying to capture them in a picture...here's the post:

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    Ron Reimer , Dec 09, 2002; 11:21 a.m.

    In photographing artists' work, I've come across a real challenge: three to six inch solid glass paperweights and "marbles" that have 3D layers of brightly colored detail within them. The issues here are:

    depth of field
    eliminating reflections [natural window light and reflector cards desaturate the bright colors projected on the surface]
    background [client prefers a graduated background to contribute depth and form to the image]
    intersections of light and dark areas of the sphere perimeter with the light and dark portions of the graduated background shadows {no dark shadows]
    form [with no highlights, it is difficult to give the images a spherical quality].
    Before I start experimenting with polarized light and black circular cards behind the spheres, I thought I'd see if anyone had already figured this out.
    Answers
    Ellis Vener , Dec 09, 2002; 11:52 a.m.

    Light the surround and not the object. Polarizing either the camera or the lighting or both might be of some but minimal help because ofthe spherical refractive (as well as reflective) nature of the subject relative to the light source size.

    Ariel Lopez , Dec 09, 2002; 03:43 p.m.

    I like to shoot paperweights with light coming from beneath. This can be the only light source, so you won't have to worry about reflections at all. Just cut a hole in whatever you have the object on top of, and place a light underneath. This will make the object appear to glow from within, and can give a little edge to the rim of the object to suggest the form. You will have to play around quite a bit with the set up to get it right. Good luck.

    Michelle Cox , Dec 09, 2002; 08:22 p.m.

    Fancy meeting you here, Ron...


    I have nothing constructive to add. Just wanted to say welcome to photo.net.

    Ron Reimer , Dec 09, 2002; 10:18 p.m.

    Ariel's suggestion might work fine for large marbles, but the bases of the paperweights are opaque and bottom lighting leaves the objects inside the glass sphere in shadow. Ellis' suggestion creates a haze on the surface of the sphere, effectively desaturating the colors of the objects within if the surround is white, or creating a color cast if the surround is colored. So far my best results are placing the sphere on glass above black velvet with side lighting at 45 degrees and a polarizing filter on the lens. The glass eliminates shadows, the black actually saturates the colors and seems to make them more vivid. I've shot orchids on black backgrounds and they look great, but black is an acceptable if not mandatory background for orchids. I'm not sure this is the case with paperweights. Most photos I've seen have had light to dark gradient backgrounds and I'd like to offer some different lighting options to my client. Any other ideas? Thanks Ellis and Ariel!

    Tom Meyer , Dec 10, 2002; 12:06 a.m.

    If your client is selling to the end user, try the Martha Stewart/ Pottery Barn method. Use real daylight at a real window with real trees outside in a real dark room on a desk or table with real shallow depth of field. It might be an option to offer, after you've spent a day or two building a tent with a lens hole on top of a plex sweep (or black velvet or whatever)... t

    Frank Jason , Dec 10, 2002; 12:56 p.m.

    Once I did something that was similar, and I lit up the spheres not by underlighting, but by taking a high-intensity lamp that had flexible fiberoptic outputs and pumping watts and watts into the spheres from behind (the 1/2 in. dia. outputs came through holes in my background). It was interesting...


    I don't know how large your spheres are. Could you try illuminating them in that manner but with small flashlights, like the little mag-lights?


    Sincerely,

    KEN hughes , Dec 10, 2002; 06:40 p.m.

    you could as mentioned light from behind, but to lower nasty reflections spray the back of spheres with a matt/dulling spray.


    or you could light it with reflections, by having a large softbox type material (usually some type of sail cloth) overhead or to the sides with a gradient lighting effect coming through the cloth from your light source so that this gradient is reflected in the sphere.


    its kind of hard to describe...

    Ron Reimer , Dec 11, 2002; 06:17 p.m.

    Frank's suggestion of back lighting won't work if the light source is small since the sphere acts as a lens and focuses a hot ring of light on the inside of the camera side surface. I might try a lightsource the size of the sphere placed near the focal point of the sphere, wherever that may be, and see if it evens out the lighting on the camera side. The problem here is that figures inside the sphere cast shadows on one another, especially on those figures on the camera side of the glass. Opaque spheres, obviously need to be lit externally, and large white light sources desaturate the color of the spheres. Too bad you can't light these things with "black" light that would saturate the colors and eliminate reflections of the light source in the surface of the glass. Isn't light fascinating?

    Chris Pandino , Dec 20, 2002; 02:24 p.m.

    Ron,
    I was going to second Ariel's idea of lighting from beneath, but you noted that the felt underneath would block the light.

    I would try something like the Red Wing Cocoon light tent. Place lights/strobes left, right and behind and you should be able to do this with no problem. They are pretty cheap, unzip for easy access, and diffuse the light wonderfully.


    Marbles Lit From Underneath with Flash and Diffiser
    Jake Jacobson , Nov 02, 2003; 04:14 p.m.

    My mom owns an antique store that carries paperweights so im frequently photographing them. I've picked up a few techniques. First, if your taking them on a black backround you should cut out a round white piece paper to fit the bottem. To capture the depth of the paperweight put a film canister under it and balance it on top of the paperweight. To avoid hot spots from lights I use a lighting cone.

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    Re: photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    wonderful medium-sized marble made from hand glass, swirled and formed then over coated with clear crystal and shaped into a small globe.
    frangi

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    Re: photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    How in the world do you get a picture of a marble with the black light on it. Flash or no flash the thing is always washed out and you can't tell that it glows.
    neha

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    Re: photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    I darken the room and use a longer exposure time. You also need to experiment with which type of light setting works best with your camera. (incandescent, sunlight, flash etc.< I have owned cameras that just wouldn't take good UV pictures. Or maybe I could not get the settings correct
    CACs make me smile, Galen

  5. #5
    Administrator Pete's Avatar
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    Re: photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    You definately do not want to use a flash. The only light source should be the fluorescing marble itself (No need to include the blacklight in the photo). Since this will be a very dim light source, a long exposure time will be needed, so don't even think about holding the camera with your hand. If you use a tripod (with a remote trigger for the camera, if possible) will ensure a focused photo with a long exposure. Just make sure the subject doesn't move either.

  6. #6
    Senior Member That Girl's Avatar
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    Re: photographing glass spheres (paperweights, marbles)

    I've had good luck with a regular point and shoot camera.

    Trick was that I used photoshop to adjust the color so that the areas which were supposed to be dark really were dark. If you darken the purple areas around the glowing object, the glow pops more.


    One other thing I learned was not to put brightly glowing objects with slightly less brightly glowing objects. The slightly less glowing object really gets washed out in the process.

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