Photographing glass signs and mirrors

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Roderick Treece
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Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:09 pm

As anyone that has ever tried to photograph a gold leaf glass sign or mirrored sign knows it is one of the most difficult things to do. Having some commercial photographic experience from my college days has helped me a bit but mostly it's trial and error in finding out what works and doesn't work. I also look at the photographs from other artists work. One that stands out are the photographs that Larry White had professionally done that are on his web site. These are among the best in my opinion and I have based my photography on those elements that where used.
While I am working on a glass piece I try and shoot detail shots which seem to be the simplest way of showing off small sections. Often times you are able to get a good reflection in the glass and show a small important section of the piece. Unfortunately this does not happen very often while photographing the entire piece which is way I turn to setting the piece up to be photographed with back drops and lights.
I try and keep it as simple as possible in the beginning and add elements as I go. If I can place the piece on a colored background for instance and use the natural light and reflections from the studio the shot can happen very quickly as in the first photo of the Running dog. I like to be able to have good focus, show detail and add reflections so you know it's glass. If I can I try and place the reflected images or light sources out of focus so they don't distract from the piece. Without some reflections on the glass the photograph will end up looking like a painted sign, not glass as is the case on a few of the last photographs I posted.
I almost always place the piece in front of some sort of backdrop . This could be a wall and table covered with black fabric or as is the case with the last photos I posted a black photographic backdrop. I place the piece about 1 1/2 feet away from the wall to create a seamless look. Set the camera on a tripod and start to work on the setup of the shot. I might try adjusting the angle of the piece first to capture existing reflections in the studio. If I need to control the foreground I will place another backdrop in front of the piece and add lighting to that. Then I work on adding needed lighting to the piece. As I add an element I keep checking the image in the camera to see how it is working. Slowly trying to build up the image to create a something I think will be informative and pleasing.
I bracket my shots which means shooting as many exposures as possible to be able to get the lighting right. Then take the images into I Photo to see what I have. If there are any that look like they may work then they are brought into Photoshop for adjustment. I have limited knowledge of Photoshop so hopefully someone else might chime in to help here. Normally I try and keep it simple again and adjust the image for key stoning ,color balance and touch up of unwanted things in the image.

Hope that all helps and make some scents.
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Undersea Mirror.jpg
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Roderick Treece
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:12 pm

This last photograph was done by a professional photographer that I hired . He had to do alot of post shoot work in Photoshop to make the image work.
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mirror photo4.jpg
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Ron Berlier
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Ron Berlier » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:14 pm

Rod, very helpful information. Thanks for taking the time to put it together and post it.
Ron Berlier
Wherever I go, there I am.

Tyler Tim
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Tyler Tim » Sun Apr 21, 2013 6:58 pm

Roderick Thanks Much.

I have picked up a back drop and hope to have some light stands in shop soon.

Guess this means I have something to sharing... :D
Sure I paint thing for my amusement and then offer them for sale. A brushslinger could whither en die from lack of creativity in this plastic town my horse threw a shoe in. :shock:

Roderick Treece
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:21 pm

If I were to buy lights now I would go for LED light panels instead of incandisent bulbs. Their inexpensive and give plenty of light.I will try and find some info about them for you.
As for the back drops I use medium grey with a texture painted on it and black. I have white but never use it.

BruceJackson
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by BruceJackson » Tue May 07, 2013 9:08 am

Good post Rod,

I like your consideration of controlled reflections. As you note, if you photograph a piece of glass work without any reflections, there is no visual hint that it is glass.

I have several shots of my work like this, when I have used a dark reflected backdrop to completely remove extraneous reflections. While the details may be clearly shown, it looks like it could be a print and doesn't convey the "glassiness" of the work.

I'll be changing my thinking about this next time I set up a studio shot. Thanks.

Roderick Treece
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Tue May 07, 2013 5:44 pm

Hi Bruce,
Glad you liked the post. Here is the last mirror I just finished and man was it hard to get all the detail in and still make it look like it was a mirror. I had to do quite a bit of post Photoshop work to create reflections on the glass.
One thing I have been concidering for awhile is to project a scene onto a backdrop to reflect into the mirror like a pub scene. Might be interesting.
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Anthony Final SM.jpg
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pat mackle
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by pat mackle » Tue May 07, 2013 7:22 pm

I find that photographs of mirrors, where the focal plane of the mirror is sharp, and the reflected image of the surroundings is slightly/moderately blurred come off quite well. Especially if the surrounding decor is intentionally themed to compliment the mirror as Rod mentioned like a pub or bar scene.

Mike Jackson
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Mike Jackson » Tue May 07, 2013 10:06 pm

glasslighting1.jpg
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Here's a very old shot I took in the garage. The sheet is a light amber color that gets reflected into the gold leaf on the sign. Roderick showed a similar setup with a black background. Knowing the burnished gold will reflect like a mirror, I'd probably opt for the lighter color on most shots.

I have a lot more lights, reflectors, and strobes now, so the setup would look a little more sophisticated, but the concept is the same.

With the Perspective Crop tool in Photoshop, you can shoot slightly off to the side and not have any of the tripod or equipment in the shot, but then straighten and square the image later. If you have beveled glass edges, there will almost always be some errant highlights and reflections that either add to the effect or need to be removed. Back in the film days, it was much more important to set up perpendicular to the glass, often with the lens of the camera coming through the backdrop. Even some of those images would have been scanned and adjusted in a post processing program like Photoshop.
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I think the real challenge on photographing a glass sign is to make sure the viewer recognizes it as an actual glass sign and not a Photoshop or Illustrator colorized image off line art.
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Tyler Tim
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Tyler Tim » Tue May 07, 2013 11:18 pm

Roderick

That looks fantastic.

Question... I was looking at the R.R.L sign.... do I see a ghostly face with piercing eyes.

Here I highlighted the area. It's in both versions of this photo the one you took and the pro's.
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EYES.JPG
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Sure I paint thing for my amusement and then offer them for sale. A brushslinger could whither en die from lack of creativity in this plastic town my horse threw a shoe in. :shock:

Roderick Treece
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Location: San deigo Calif
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Wed May 08, 2013 11:33 am

Thanks Mike,
I was wondering when you show up on this post. It reminded me that those photos you shot years ago of that series of glass sign you produce and how they were well done. The last photo you posted is a good example of a glass sign photographed well . I do think it could have some brillant reflective highlights to it that would make it really look like glass. My problem while retouching in photoshop is being to timid and not putting stronger highlights in.
I have white, black and grey drops. The grey one has streaks of lighter and darker grey through it to give it interest. I find the white and black not as useful.

Tyler,
The image you are speaking of is a reflection of the Virgin Mary and I have now opened my studio up to pilgrims from around the world that come to see her. Finally I'll be able to quit the sign business and retire.

Anthony Bennett
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Anthony Bennett » Thu May 09, 2013 3:27 am

Great thread, pilgrims :D

Tyler Tim
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Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Tyler Tim » Thu May 09, 2013 10:36 am

Roderick Treece wrote:
Tyler,
The image you are speaking of is a reflection of the Virgin Mary and I have now opened my studio up to pilgrims from around the world that come to see her. Finally I'll be able to quit the sign business and retire.
Well I don't really see the Holy Mother. Maybe it's Painting Saint Glawson peeking in from the other side... :shock:
Sure I paint thing for my amusement and then offer them for sale. A brushslinger could whither en die from lack of creativity in this plastic town my horse threw a shoe in. :shock:

Roderick Treece
Posts: 1048
Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2004 8:04 pm
Location: San deigo Calif
Contact:

Re: Photographing glass signs and mirrors

Post by Roderick Treece » Thu May 09, 2013 3:09 pm

"Yea of little faith". It might be Rick but I figuired if I told people it was him I'd only get a few dozen friends over and none of them would pay so I went for the Virgin Mary angle.

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