A Simple Way to Shoot Highly Reflective Products

Shooting products in a studio environment is not the easiest form of photography. It takes patience, knowledge of light sculpting, and clever post-processing. People also incorrectly assume that you must have a great deal invested in equipment.

But this simply isn’t true. There is an overabundance of content online hailing the efficacy of inexpensive equipment such as speedlights and the like. And it has been shown that you can indeed get extremely high-quality results without using expensive equipment. You just need to practice, and there is no better form of photography that can be practiced solo than product photography. 

In this video by Dustin Dolby, who goes by workphlo on YouTube, he breaks down the incredibly difficult highly reflective product shoot. Reflective surfaces are a nightmare to photograph, but in less than six minutes and with only two speedlights, he has guided the viewer through the hardest part, which is taking the shots themselves, all by careful placement of lights, flags, and diffusion. Highly reflective surfaces usually have to be shot with compositing in mind, and he explains both how and why each successive shot is going to be used in the final edit. In the second half of the video, he creates an impressive, isolated, magazine-worthy image, but doesn’t overcomplicate things with messy tools and filters. Selections, layer masks, and a few adjustments round out the technique.

I have been enamored with product photography for years, and the thing that has kept me interested in it is the fact that it's a challenging craft. But channels like workphlo have been helping me achieve success when I’m completely stuck on a project. The 42 videos he has on the channel should be more than enough to help you out too.

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1 Comment
Benoit .'s picture

Yes you can do everything in a minimalist way, but really tools are about speed and production not about fancy or impressing the gallery, and it's the same with photography. That 1/10th control, heavy duty camera stand and all eventually becomes a need not a want when you shoot reflective items as a business. Some car shops will charge you by the book where replacing a water pump time and cost is already preset. Thing is they want mechanics that do it in much less time and move to another car because that's the way you make good money. Same here, this guy is good, but I feel he relies too much on post when often you can do it in camera and greatly reduce composite time. Alignment issues can really hurt when you realize the product or the tripod has moved. The other thing is that rough color alteration on the red. Cosmetic and jewelry brands are very picky on color matching and some of the hard moves and even cloning gradients can be painful to fix when converting to cmyk for print, billboards, etc. Printing is not gone, we are still far form a nearly 100% rgb world. I stopped taking expensive jewelry because companies would start mailing pieces and or make me sign a receipt and I decided that the volume I was doing was not worth getting into more insurance cost and it's hard to find too, but I have done catalogs where the client would bring the items and spend one to a few days going through the shots. One place had a great designer who would pencil draw what she wanted and it was perfect as I knew right away the light set up I would need.