Light­ing smooth sur­faces

No tex­ture is also a tex­ture, and at its most ex­treme is a mir­ror pol­ish that needs a dif­fer­ent light­ing ap­proach

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia Freeman On... -

The word ‘tex­ture’ sug­gests some rough­en­ing of the sur­face; some­thing for the fin­ger­tips to ac­tu­ally feel. At the smooth end of the scale the sen­sa­tion is more sub­tle, but even a shiny sur­face has a tex­ture. And wet­ness, too, is a va­ri­ety of tex­ture.

In the case of very smooth sur­faces, the low light from a sharp source of light won’t do much, be­cause shiny sur­faces have to re­flect some­thing. Con­trol­ling that re­flec­tion is the key to light­ing smooth sub­jects, and – in the case of liq­uids – to get­ting across the sen­sa­tion of wet­ness. The solution is to use a light source that’s broad and even – and broader than the thing you’re shoot­ing. In this ex­am­ple, the source is the sky, but con­trolled in the sense that we’re in a gar­den en­closed by high walls, so that the sky ap­pears as more like a sky­light.

The next es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent is angle: that of the cam­era to the sur­face and the sur­face to the light. Cam­era, light and sub­ject need to be aligned so that the sur­face catches the light. In a stu­dio, the equiv­a­lent is a large soft­box; the larger the sub­ject, the larger (or closer) the soft­box needs to be.

A waxed ta­ble af­ter a heavy rain shower. The maple leaf stuck to its glis­ten­ing sur­face helps to ex­ag­ger­ate the feel­ing of wet­ness

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