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The Law Of Reflection In Industrial Photography

HOW TO PRODUCE POWERFUL INDUSTRIAL IMAGES WITH THE PERFECT LIGHT

Robotic arm at work in an aluminum foundry in Detroit

As an industrial photographer every project comes with many challenges to apply the perfect light to my subjects. Machines come in all shapes and sizes, factories are spacious and the lighting is not the most suitable for capturing professional pictures. It’s important to research your shoot location and prepare for the type of light in the facility to know the appropriate lighting equipment to bring. The law of light and reflection that apply to studio work are the same when your on set but you have to use certain techniques and utilize the environment in different ways.

Compared to shooting delicious plates of food and suited up executives, foundries and factories are not controlled environments and industrial photographers must work with the scene in its’ natural state. I have been exposed to a variety of industrial settings. From squeaky clean and sanitized laboratories to dirty mechanical factories safety gear is almost always required. As you approach your subjects and move about the area you must be cautious of moving equipment and employees at work. Eye protection is mandatory for the macro shots of electric equipment, sparks or liquids.

Here are 2 photos I took in a small foundry in western Ohio to show you the importance of eye protection and safety. I observe the area to get an idea of the shots I want then have to clean up and arrange elements to create the perfect scene. I always like to capture the action of the scene when I’m shooting people. 

The most common materials in factories just happen to be the hardest to photograph; pipes, gears, lathes, giant drill bits, valves and the list of metal and steel objects goes on. When your client requests a product shot that highlights their logo, you better reduce the glare and create evenly distributed light. These objects reflect everything.

SHOOTING REFLECTIVE OBJECTS

 “The law of reflection means that the angel of incidence equals the angle of direction. The angel that the light reflects the surface of the object equals the angel of the light being casted on the object.”

Taken in an aluminum Foundry in Detroit

This law certainly applies to shooting sparkling kitchen appliances like silverware and china. You need to focus on the light that is reflected off of the object and create the reflection you see in the object. It’s easier to control the reflection in a studio environment vs. being on set at the factory. Machines are much larger than forks and knives and more difficult to situate. Only Hulk can rotate 2,000 pounds of steel and arrange the perfect shot but his assistance isn’t always available…

Photographing shiny objects is an experimentation process. Try repositioning yourself around the object and test out different angles to get the shadows and light just right. Now that you know the science behind light reflection, here is a list of techniques to reduce glare and shadows on shiny industrial equipment while exposing the ambient natural colors and tone.

  • Set up your lights so they do not reflect any light on the object
  • If I have to use on camera flash I use a diffuser to soften the light on the object. I try to avoid this because natural directional light gives a a more realistic tone to the image.
  • I use a light tent in the areas where light is heavily distributed
  • Longer exposure is required when using indoor natural light so a tripod will be required

You need to avoid reflection in your photographs when the lighting is not suitable to capture the effect of shimmer and shine. On the other hand use reflection to bring out the best in your photos and brighten up your subjects.

Remember the light is not always in your control in large industrial settings and glare might show up even after you follow the above techniques. Here is guide for photoshop to eliminate glare and shadow that could not be avoided on the shoot.  

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One response

  1. Pingback: Five Ways To Increase The ‘Wow Factor’ Of Your Business With Industrial Photography | creating powerful industrial images.

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