Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens, we’re going to take a look at how to light shiny metal. But I just want to talk about a simple shiny metal object. Shiny metal is different than anything else you’ll photograph in that it really doesn’t need light shined at it. If you light it, if you shine a light straight at the shiny metal, it doesn’t light it, it doesn’t gradate, it doesn’t give you a beautiful looking piece of metal. It just looks specular. It doesn’t have any kind of interest or life. And it will always look dark, because shiny metal is reflecting everything around it. It’s like a mirror.
So you have to get your light source, a card, tracing paper, anything to get it on a 90 degree angle to the camera. So I’m looking right now at this little knife, the dagger, and 90 degrees goes right back up into my soft box. So I’m going to have a beautiful light. Even though this dagger has two facets to it, one is reflecting back deeper. That’s why this box is back so far, one that’s reflected a little more forward. And that’s why I positioned the box up and back like I did to be able to cover both of those facets, both of the surfaces of the blade. Now once it bounces and I can see it in there, it’s going to give me just a complete, complete white. And there we go. It’s completely shiny, it’s everything about it is, it’s just bright and shiny. You may think yourself, well, “that’s wonderful, that’s perfect.” I’m going, “no, that’s really not perfect.” Because you don’t want shiny metal to look plastic. You don’t want it to look too overdone.
But you want to be able to take and create some kind of gradation on the metal. And the way I’m going to do that is I’m just going to take a black card, I’m going to bring this card in on the same angle of the blade. Because I want to gradate the surface, the blade surface that is closest to me. So I’m going to bring this in until I see it in place here. Look at the difference in those two. Look at the first image. The entire metal is all, almost all, the same tone. You see a little bit of break between the surface in the back compared to the front. But on the second one, we see a tremendous amount of difference between the front and the back. Now that shiny metal is starting to look more like it has dimension. There’s some gradation on it. It just looks a lot more interesting.
My overall shot is still very dark. So I’m going to take and add a reflector here. We’re going to get it in as close as I can get it. So look at the little video clip here. I’m bringing my black card in. And you can see when I’m on that angle, it starts to create some darkness. Now I can move it one way, so it’s more to the front or to the back. I can decide where I want that dark to be. I can really play with that. I can see exactly what it’s doing with the modeling light on the strobe. I can decide I want more or less. So you can see, you can create dimension in the metal using a black card. So we’re subtracting some of the highlight. We’re blocking some of the highlight. So it gradates across the metal.
Alright, now that I have that card in there, and it’s given me some nice gradation on the blade towards me, I’m going to add a light from behind. I’m going to add a light that’s going to rake across this and just open up the shadows but not change the exposure on my shiny metal. So I’m going to turn that light on. It’s a little FJ400 from behind. And I’ve got a 10 degree grid in a seven inch reflector. I’ve got a little blue on it because I just always like blue shadows. It’s going to give me just a little rake across the leather, across the different things in the subject matter. And it’s going to open up the shadows because the shadow has gotten pretty dark when we bring that highlight down from the overhead box. So you can see right now the blade is looking nice. I’m getting some nice dimension with the blade.
But the crosspiece is also shiny metal. I’m getting some nice, a nice line on it from behind from the soft box. But I think we should reflect a little more light. I’m going to put this here. It is just going to reflect into the front of the blade. I’ve got a little card here to push this forward so it doesn’t lean back too far. Look at the difference in that. That crosspiece on the knife was completely dark. Now we put that card in, it’s completely defined. We see a nice reflection in it. It looks fabulous.
I might even want to take and maybe put just a little bit of dark from behind. I’m going to try to put just a little bit of gradation into the backside of that blade. And let’s just see what we get as she brings a card in. Roll it in Julene, let’s see what we get. Yeah, look at the difference in that. It’s fabulous. We start to see the bevel in the cut on the blade. We see great gradation of the front, gradation in the back. We’re seeing the crosspiece.All that shiny metal is looking fabulous. We’ve got the cross light raking across the leather to be able to open up the shadows so it just doesn’t become too dark. Because the shiny metal is reflecting the soft box. So you can’t make it too bright because the shiny metal will become too bright if you’re using your light source to just solely light the scene. So we got the light from the cross light to open up our leather.
Alright, I’m going to try to create some dimension in the backside of the blade. Julene is going to bring a card in on the same angle as the blade from behind to create just a little bit of shadow and a little bit of gradation on the backside of the blade, that cut of the blade.I mean, that’s beautiful. We got gradation on both sides. I’ve got this great cross light coming in that’s opening up the shadows, because we’re blocking more and more of the light above us. It’s not giving us as much overall exposure. We’ve got that cross light that is bringing up our exposure for the entire scene. So we see the leather. We see everything else that’s in the shot. Gorgeous light.
I’m going to try something here that may or may not work, I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m going to put a little bit of putty underneath this knife, and I’m going to tilt it towards the camera just a little bit, which is going to change everything. I’m trying to get just a little bit of darkness on the actual logo of the knife that’s etched in the flat part of the metal. And let’s see if we can get that. Now I’m seeing the logo. I’ve got great gradation on both sides of this blade from the middle out to the sides on each side. I’ve got that raking light from the corner that’s opening up the entire scene. This just looks really pretty.
I’m liking it. Maybe I don’t like this on that leather pouch up in the corner. So I’m going to just pan that a little bit to the right. Okay, I’m in pretty nice shape here. I can open up these shadows. Take a look at that image. I can open these shadows up. So I’m going to go into Photoshop. I’ll open up the shadow area as bright as I need to. And I can hold the highlights because I’ve got a beautiful look at the logo there. I’ve got a beautiful look at both sides of the blade. So I’m just using these two cards to be able to reflect a little bit of black into the right and left side of that blade.
Alright, so there you have it. So there’s our light with just the overhead soft box and then I added a raking light from the side to open up the leather. We brought in a small fill card in the front to open up the side of the handle. Then we brought in that fill card on the camera left to open up the cross piece of a little sword. Then our exposure went down just a little bit as Julene brought in that little slit card from behind to be able to give us dimension on the backside of the blade. But I feel like I’ve got everything I need here to be able to open that up in Photoshop and just make it look really pretty. We got some great cross light that’s given some texture. Just a nice looking piece.
Alright, so there we have it. Shooting with shiny metal. It is about the angle of incidence. So the 90 degree angle to your light source. On this one, looking at this small blade, it was a 90 degree angle to here, it’s on this angle. It’s opening up the cross piece of little sword. It was a 90 degree angle like this up to the soft box. If I wanted to get more into the end of this little piece, actually this little knob right here is picking it up from the soft box behind us. Wrapping it around a little, even though it’s like an acorn, it’s wrapped around the end of it.
So it’s about incident angles and reflecting light in and then subtracting light with black cards. Because that allows you to get gradation and give you just beautiful looking metal so it doesn’t look plastic. And it just looks very nice. That gives you the ability to get beautiful looking metal that doesn’t look plastic. It has a nice gradation. And then use some cross light to be able to open up the shadows in there with some hard light. And then in Photoshop you can open up the shadows and get a final image that looks like this. Alright, so there you go, shiny metal. Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’!