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Specular Highlight Control


Keywords: flash, studio, lighting, filter, guides, tips

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Part 6

Photographing Metal: It's all about the specular


1/250th f11 ISO100

In my last post I started looking more closely at diffuse and direct reflections and how both reveal the form and surface texture of a subject in a photograph. Through my exercises, I was able to exert better control over the placement and look of direct reflections, or specular highlights, and now I want to apply that knowledge to a subject where this has a dramatic impact on the end result: metal. Photographing metal is a pure study in the family of angles. Even if, like me, you have little interest in commercial photography where you might be photographing metal objects, running through exercises targeted specifically at photographing metal will provide you with a much better understanding of how light behaves, which is applicable to all types of photography. For my tests, I chose a pretty common subject for these types of exercises - a kitchen utensil, cutting board, and a tomato. Here's why. I knew that the cleaver, made of metal and a black handle, would provide almost entirely direct reflection, which is mainly what I was wanting to explore. The cutting board, being a matte surface, would provide almost entirely diffuse reflection, so this part of the subject could be lit with either the same light source used for lighting the cleaver, or, a separate source positioned outside the cleaver's family of angles, therefore not creating speculars on the cleaver. The tomato produces both direct and diffuse reflections, so it seemed like a good object to add to the mix. For my initial shots, I wanted to get a better feel for how the specular highlights would appear on the tomato and just test to see whether this would affect the look of the cleaver. Note that for all tests I've set my D7000 to it's max synch speed, 1/250th of a second, so that no ambient light would affect the exposure. A photo taken with my flashes turned off would produce an entirely black image.



(4 Votes )
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Originally written on November 19, 2012

Last updated on December 7, 2017

User User

1 comment

User on November 21, 2012

Thanks for the interesting and informative article. It's got me thinking about doing some experiments on my own. I look forward to seeing more articles like this. Balancing flash and ambient light is a tricky subject that is still confounding to me.

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