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Ethereal Photographs of Glass

Updated on June 28, 2016
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

CCO Public Domain
CCO Public Domain | Source | Source

Glass is probably one of the most difficult subjects to photograph. You can get reflections, and distortions and it is also one of the easiest photographic compositional projects that you can do.

You really do not need to go anywhere to find suitable subjects. Your home is probably filled with glassware and getting other glass subjects is also very easy.

Wine cups, drinking glasses, bottles, glass panels, glass figurines and many other things can be used in this type of project.

If you take colored glass into consideration then you can expand your composition that much more.

Two different views of the same subject. Can you tell right away what the subject is when looking at the second picture? | Source Digitally edited to show effect. Digitally edited to show effect. | Source

Wine cup Digitally edited for effect Digitally edited for effect | Source

There are basically three main things to get the project right; first you need a suitable subject with intricate designs or patterns since they work the best.

Then you need to work the light to add some intrigue. Use shadows to your advantage.

You need to be careful with the reflections specially hot spots but shining a soft diffused light at the subject should be more than enough. A nearby window will do the trick.

The third is a macro capable lens. You should take some very tight shots that focus on the material and a macro capable lens allows you some leeway into how close you can get.

Practice zooming in and out to get various perspectives until you are satisfied with the results. I tend to use a 100mm zoom so that I can play with various distances but a smaller size will do just fine too.

Clear glass with red light

CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain | Source

The main problems is that you will be limited by your creativity. Think outside the box and frame your subjects if at all possible against some interesting backdrops that feature designs, colors or both but keep in mind that your main subject matter is the glass itself so it behooves you to use as wide an aperture as possible so that everything that sits behind the glass subject is thrown out of focus so that all you are left with is an indistinguishable pattern.

Remember a clear glass posed against a clear or pure white or similar backdrop will blend in too much and your image might come out lacking details, perspective and have a soft pattern feel about it.

Wine cups

CC0 Public Domain Digitally edited for effect
CC0 Public Domain Digitally edited for effect | Source

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Concentrate on creating ethereal images that go with the definition of the word: "Someone or something that is ethereal has a delicate beauty."

Beauty is the purpose of the project. It is not simply placing a nice looking wine cup on a pedestal and taking its picture.

That's where macros come in. By doing macros you hide the shape and eliminate the true identity of the piece and substitute it for a nice looking yet delicate image.

Place your subjects in various locations so that its texture comes through and becomes visible. The Sun, the Moon, a green field or even some colored curtains will do the trick nicely.

Background through glass surface


Vase | Source

Also try to add new angles to the shots. Photographing all the time from eye level gives you a view that can become redundant and even boring.

Use low angles, high angles and anything else you can do to make the shots exciting.

A nice trick is to add water and food coloring to a cup or glass.

Do a macro so that the texture and color is visible but the overall piece is not so easily distinguishable that it allows a viewer to immediately identify the subject as a glass cup.

Backlighting is a great way to bring out the texture and show more details withing your subject but keep it low. Too strong of a light will dilute the textures.

You are not doing product photography. That's another technique where the subject is photographed in its entirety most of the time and it is clearly identifiable. Your goal is to make your subject look delicate but not be known right away.

Make the viewer look hard at the image so that it becomes a challenge to identify. This is usually more rewarding than knowing what it is you are looking at immediately.

One of the first projects that I did way back in college was to take a black piece of cardboard (the type used for presentations), make a small hole in its center, place a small light under it, (I used a plastic milk crate that I borrowed from a local grocery store as the base ) place a drinking glass full of Coca-Cola with ice on top of the hole and photographed it from above in a dark room. Really nice picture and one of the first images that made me fall in love with the art. Go ahead try it!

Drinking glass

CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain | Source

© 2016 Luis E Gonzalez


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