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Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Case Study—A Reflective Stainless Steel Coffee Holder

A chrome object is hard to photograph because it's so reflective. Because of the reflections, it needs to be lit indirectly, using light and dark cards that are reflected in it's shiny surface. Here we photograph a brushed chrome stainless steel coffee holder inside an innovative collapsible light tent.

The Assignment

The assignment is to photograph a brushed chromed coffee holder, showing it's shape while keeping it separated from the background.

1. Composition

The light tent is just a fabric cube so we cut a piece of white cardboard to use as a curved sweep inside the cube. This background gives us a more even surface then the fabric background would. We've also raised it on paint cans to lift the subject high enough to be photographed through a slot in the front panel of the cube removed in these photos so you can see the setup but reattached for each shot of the subject.

2. Lighting

One Smith-Victor light is placed above and behind the subject and another to the side. The light passing through the light tent and then bouncing around inside creates a very soft and even light on the subject.

3. Camera Settings

The only camera settings we worried about were the usual exposure compensation to lighten what would be an otherwise gray image, and color balance.

In the first photo we shot the coffee holder with just the lights. It's evenly lit but if you look closely, you'll see that there is little separation between the highlights and the background. This is especially noticeable on the lower left side.

Top. A black strip of paper is positioned so it reflects off the holder's left side from the camera's position.

Middle. A piece of black paper is positioned to reflect off the holder's left front and add some modeling.

Bottom. Another piece of black paper is positioned to reflect off the holder's right front and add some modeling on that side.

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