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Photographing Glass Figurines

Updated on September 24, 2013
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A glass menagerie is one of those photographic projects that can produce really stunning and beautiful photographs mostly due to the choice of subject matter and a little ingenuity.

The set up involves a clear base or support, preferably glass or clear acrylic. At least two light sources; one used to illuminate the subjects from below and the other to illuminate the subjects at a 45 degree angle, a dark to preferably black backdrop, and maybe some colored filters which one places on top or in front of the light sources.

The subjects should be glass sculptures in the forms of various animals, flowers, plants, trees and so on. A variation is to use any glass figurine without regards to its symbolism or what it represents. Another variation is to use colored backdrops such a wine red or dark blue instead of the more popular black.

Obtaining the subjects may take some time unless you can borrow some from a store that sells them. Speaking to the store owner or manager an sharing your idea with a promise of free copies of the resulting images usually does the trick although most will have you conduct the project on site. Don't forget to add your credit information to the prints.

This is a win win situation; you get subjects for your project and the store gets images that showcase their wares. Much easier is to borrow figurines from family and friends and to buy your own as the smaller pieces are not that expensive.

The best pieces are made from spun glass as their construction adds slight light catching angles which makes their reflection even that more appealing.

"Spun glass is created by heating glass rods at very high temperatures and then stretching and bending the rods into a desired shape before the glass cools. It has various uses, from decorative to industrial." E-How Read more: What Is Spun Glass? |

Once you have assembled you collection then select a room where you can set up the display and begin photographing it. Take several shots of single subjects and of groups of subjects. The groups can be of similar figurines such as cats, dogs, birds or mixed. The beauty of the project comes from the light source placed below the subjects which in turns illuminates them and as previously mentioned try some colored shots achieved by placing a colored filter on the light source.

The subjects, since they are made from clear glass, will retain this coloration and can consequently be made to appear as many different subjects each with its own color hue.

If some of your subjects have their own coloration added, then the better alternative would be to uses a clear light source. The light that is placed at a 45 degree angle to the subject should not be too powerful since its purpose is to diminish some of the shadows and provide enough illumination for you to be able to clearly focus.

The best shots will be close ups, not necessarily macros although you can experiment and take a few. The images should encompass the entire subject to allow an audience to clearly identify the subject and admire how it catches and redirects the light.

Try to use subjects of the same size or with slight variations as this will make your work easier without the need to have to constantly having to adjust your set up. A simple tips is make a small mark with a crayon on the glass support surface to delineate the general position of your subjects such as the location where your focusing point is already adjusted to.

An excellent presentation format is to print the images and display them with a black backdrop with a gold or silver frame, but an all black frame works well too.

Also worth doing is not to limit yourself to just animal figurines. There is an endless variety of spun glass figurines; from animals, flowers, to ships, castles and mythical representations with dragons being a quite popular subject matter.

Experiment with a little from each and this can become a specialty. I have seen photographs done this way sell quite well in art galleries and private showings as well as on art fairs. The things to remember is that the images must be technically perfect and like on many photo projects, and especially with this one, the presentation makes a difference.

Many of these images are worth submitting to fine art galleries, greeting cards publishers and general photographic publications and even to photographic stock houses. But this particular theme is very close to the realm of product photography and many of these photographs can be used to as a way to showcase your skills, creativity and talent to producers or sellers of the figurines as they can always use quality and innovative ways of showing their products to the public.

However do not underestimate that the best examples of your work can fetch attractive prices when sold as individual works of art to individual art and photographic collectors and sold to offices for use in their decorative applications.

Keep in mind that anytime you work with fragile subjects you should be extra careful in their handling, especially if they are not your own. Remember the old adage "you break it you bought it."

Handle and pack them with care. Do not use a strong light source too close to them or expose them to extremes in temperatures and aim to use subjects that can stand on their own without a base or support. Make sure to use a lens flare guard to prevent any stray light from entering the lens and bouncing inside of it.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Sydney; Thank you

    • profile image

      Sydney 6 years ago

      I always love glass figurines after my mom gave me her collection. I've been trying to find them ever since then and now I finally found them on your site. My favorite picture of a glass figure is the snail.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Beautiful photos! One of my Etsy friends recently started selling laser engraved glass pieces, and it's been a whole new learning curve as she's started photographing them to sell. She has used a number of black or other dark backgrounds.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      FLoraBreenRobinson: Thank you

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I always think of the play when I hear this phrase. I studied it in university. I have some glass figurines, but not a lot. Most of my figurines are made of opaque material.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      justom: lol...thanks Tom

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      Luis, I think you're one of the few folks that can take a snooze fest (my opinion :-P) and make it interesting! Good hub, Peace!! Tom

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: You seem like a very educated,caring & sensitive person and I thought that you would like things like this which is one of my favorite photo subjects. Glad you liked it!!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      I love this! How did you know I loved stuff like these. I am so excited right now, I feel like a little girl.