This week I set myself the task of getting to grips with photographing glass. From a photography viewpoint ( pun intended ) glass is, by its very nature, invisible. Somehow we need to capture the shapes and the textures but all to often reflections spoil the outcome!

There seems to be two basic solutions: one is to shoot against a very dark background – and the second is to shoot against a very bright background. In both cases the glass is back lit with a largish light source diffused through some some type of ‘diffusion’ material – a lighting soft-box, a plastic shower curtain ( often quoted in the literature ) or a piece of translucent white perspex. That’s what I used for these shots.

The light source is a matter of choice – continuous light or flash both work well! The first image, of the wine glass, was taken using diffused flash – the others were taken with medium sized LED light panel through the white perspex.

This is the wine glass was taken against a piece of black foam board and standing on a piece of reflective black perspex. Nice enough, and quite satisfying, but those reflections don’t help. More on the lighting set-up for this one later.

01-GLASS by John Allen

This is a glass jar taken against a bright background – that same diffusion material and light source, but no black foam board. This time the the jar is standing on a piece of white reflective perspex.

06-GLASS by John Allen

And this is the set up – taken from further back to show the light source which has been masked off with black card around the jar . You can see the unmasked corners of the diffusion material in the top left and top right of the image.

05-GLASS by John Allen

This time we have the jar against a black background, exactly the same set-up as I used for the wine glass shown above – but now using continuous lighting.

04-GLASS by John Allen

An arty touch……..

03-GLASS by John Allen

And here’s the set-up. Now the black foam board masks off the light from directly behind the jar which is only illuminated by the light coming round the board to pick out the edges of the object.

02-GLASS by John Allen

So am I pleased with the results? I think I am. I just need to work on how to eliminate those unwanted reflections in the wine glass. Why didn’t they show up in the dark background version of the glass jar?  Mmmm …..


Stroboscopic Flash – 06

A new experience this week – I’ve had a go at Stroboscopic Flash. Impressive name, difficult technique. With a bit of a learning curve to climb!

Stroboscopic Flash – a single, longish exposure ( perhaps 2 or 3 seconds ), where the subject is moving in the frame and the strobe/flash light goes off a number of times whilst the shutter remains open. Best executed in as dark a room as you can manage with a plain black background set up as far back from the subject as possible. ( You may want to keep a low-level light on to stop you tripping over tripods and light stands, etc – but if the light is too bright and the exposure very long, that light will show in the final image ).

You’ll need a strobe that will fire a set number of times at a set frequency ( numbers such as 4Hz are oft quoted, meaning 4 flashes in 1 second ).

So 8 flashes at 4 Hz will require an shutter speed of 2 seconds ( to accommodate all 8 flashes ).

I set the Olympus to Manual mode, 1/250 sec and an f stop determined by trial and error. I told you I was learning! And I used a wireless remote to trigger the strobe.

These images are not perfect, I know that, but they demonstrate the principle and give me a base from which to improve.

If you try it, have fun. And be prepared to take LOADS of images to catch the ones that work!

A single swinging nut!01-Strobe Flash by John Allen

A toy bird that shudders itself down its shiny pole!   02-Strobe Flash by John Allen

Just TWO coloured pig-pong balls dropped onto a table. Shame about the background at the top of the frame. 03-Strobe Flash by John Allen

Texture – 04

A quiet photography week since our return from Aldeburgh ( see ALDEBURGH – 03 ), so this week I’ve been looking through some older images and, for some reason, homed in on the topic of texture.

It’s been said many times before, but it’s worth repeating – good or bad lighting can make or break a potential image. And this is particularly true if you are looking to capture texture in your image. Have I achieved that in these four images? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

An appropriate subject plus directional side lighting is often the key, although my second image is more ‘soft’ light than directional.

1 & 2 Taken on Northumberland beaches01-texture by john allen03-texture by john allen

3 Aldeburgh Boat04-texture by john allen

4 JohnB through Wet Glass02-texture by john allen



Photography is all about controlling the light. And this image came from an exercise where I was looking to light a portrait with a single light – in this case, a masked polystyrene head ( with sunglasses, fur hat and scarf ). She (?) was lit by a single flash head fired through a light-modifier to produce a very narrow vertical strip of light ( as seen in the reflections in the sunglasses. I’m not sure if those bands of light help – or distract. Any thoughts? )