A friend showed me a shot of a light bulb with interesting reflections inside, intrigued by the shot I thought I’d try a version of my own.

I found a suitable bulb at a local DIY supplies place. The one I chose was an LED filament bulb around 10cm in diameter. Wattage and fitting were not important considerations as I didn’t plan on switching it on.

How to make the grid shaped reflections

My memory of the original shot was that there was a regular pattern to the reflection and that it came from below the bulb. I looked around for a way to create the regular pattern and be able to put a light behind it. With a “literal flash of inspiration” I thought of the honeycomb grids that I have for my studio lights. Taking the 40cm / 16-inch beauty dish and grid I had a suitable light source and regular pattern to reflect.

Setup was easy, put the light on a stand and aim it straight up towards the ceiling. Then I put the camera on a tripod at a level so that it would look across the surface of the beauty dish. It was necessary to avoid angling the camera down too much or too much of the beauty dish grid would be illuminated.

I found one problem with being directly at the level of the grid, there’s a silver coloured edge on my beauty dish and it was seen by the camera. A length of black electrical tape soon fixed that. As I was using a beauty dish the centre area has a metal plate under the grid, and I tried several positions for the bulb to get my final shot.

Try a circular polariser

It was also during this “refinement” stage that I was given the idea to use a circular polariser to reduce reflections in the bulb from unwanted directions. Many thanks to Jasper Shadloo for that suggestion. Indeed turning the filter also cut down how much of the light from the grid was “seen” by the camera. I’m not a big user of filters but a circular polariser is one that I have since you cannot recreate it’s results in post production.

The final shot

After a little while I came to my final shot. Sitting the tail of the bulb over the central disk of the beauty dish, but with the glass of the bulb in the light was the optimum between intended reflection and shadow. The light on the top of the threaded connector at the back of the bulb is what was reflected from the ceiling above the beauty dish.

It’s a light bulb, wonder how it works as a light source?

Some weeks later I had another light bulb moment and a different way to make use of the bulb, this time as a light source, crazy I know. With the lockdown in the UK this was also the last studio shoot of 2020.

EOS R6 – RF 28-70mm F2L USM – 1/250s, f/2, ISO 500



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