Silver product photography

Product photography is an artistic and highly technical challenge. When the products being photographed are reflective silver the challenge becomes hard, and if there are round items that are reflective the battle is often to avoid the photographer and camera appearing in the pictures.

Recently I was asked to photograph some silverware, and it was needed to be on a plain white background. Initially you might think that means a light tent, but often these have seams that in themselves appear in the pictures. A more “hand crafted” solution is often a better approach. So before this shoot I got some extra large sheets of white faced foam core boards from a local framing shop. I used the boards to build a white cube that the silverware would be photographed inside.

I used a medium 60cm x 90cm softbox with double diffusion material over the top of the foam core box to provide the lighting. A few spare panels of foam core acted as reflectors and fill-cards, plus were used to reduce the visibility of the photographer, tripod, camera and the rest of the room that I was shooting in.

Fortunately the antique items I was shooting were not all round and also in some cases were not as reflective as I had been expecting.

product photography - reflective silverware

product photography - reflective silverware
With some objects it is all but impossible to eliminate the reflections of mask the camera. The photo above is un-retouched to show the scale of the challenge. When silver is polished then it reflects everything, and if it’s round there is no place to hide. The black panel on the front of the coffee pot is me, and the rest of the unlit room. Even with several white cards in front to reduce the opening there’s still a need to retouch.

product photography - reflective silverware

You might think that the candlesticks would be less of a challenge the flatter surfaces are not bad, but the small round balls in the centre did indeed reflect me and the tripod so time for a bit of photoshop – there is no other way.

product photography - reflective silverware

This silver bowl was another challenge, I was wondering where the black marks were coming from on the inside of the bowl, they are reflections of the seams in between the panels that make up the bowl, so something that actually appears to the person looking at the bowl. Since this image is also straight from camera, you can also see the reflections of the bounce card used in front of the bowl in this picture.

Product photography is something I enjoy doing, and round silver shiny subjects are a great challenge. I’ve been doing a number of product photography projects lately, often for website e-commerce stores.

Further reading

If you really want to study photographic lighting then a book that comes highly recommended is Light, Science and Magic : An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, you can get a copy at Amazon.

Scott Meyer has a great tutorial in which he shows how he lit and photographed a highly reflective paint spray gun.

I used the tilt-shift lens for these pictures. I’m finding that the combination of the TS-E 90mm f/2.8 and the Extender EF 1.4x II is really great for product photography.

I’m experimenting with a wider blog post layout for picture heavy posts like this, do you like it or prefer it? Let me know in the comments.



About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag