Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)
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Old 08-10-2011   #1
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Default Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

I will likely have a project in the near future - shooting one of the machines my employer builds. It is a rotary capping machine. Recently we've been making machine guards from #8 polished stainless steel - mirror polish.

Imagine a mirrored cylinder about 3' in diameter and 3' tall sitting about 5' off the floor - with a whole-lotta other stuff around it (parts of the same machine that would be reflected in the covers). Position this subject in a cluttered industrial setting (not the bottling plant) surrounded by other machines, people, windows, lights, overhead cranes, tool boxes, signs, walls of various colors, etc. All this stuff would also be reflected in the covers, but NOT desirable in the final image.

I don't see how I can possibly get a clean shot of this thing. Regardless of how I setup, I will be reflected, my lights will be reflected, and even if I had a 150' muslin to hang in a circle from the crane, creating a large enough spot of the shop floor to isolate it would be, for all intents and purposes, impossible - and me and my gear would still be in the reflections - granted smaller bits would be easier to clone over in post.

I'm thinking I'm going to ask them to make an extra set of covers with #4 polish (brushed) stainless just to use in the shoot. It won't be completely representative of the shiny, mirrored covers, but it will make setting up the shoot far easier and the resulting images will be far cleaner.

Any other ideas on how to tackle this problem?

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Old 08-10-2011   #2
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

Brushed stainless covers would be much easier to light.

If you did have to stay with the mirrored coversthere are a few things to consider. Any other parts of the machine next to the covers will be reflected in the covers. This is not a bad thing and it's certainly not something that can be eliminated.

Because the machine is on the shop floor anbd the area is crowded, you won't be able to isolate it with a background. So you have to put up what background you can and clean the background up later in Photo Shop.

Lighting this type of reflective cylinder is something that cosmetics photographers have to do every day. Look at ads of lipstick. They don't try to eliminate all reflections because it's the reflections that define the surface and form of the cylinder. So they control what is reflected in the cylinder. They position large diffused lights and white reflector cards around the cylinder leaving a small slit in the front for the camera to shoot through. You have to do the same thing though in your case it's a bit more difficult because of the larger size of the cylinder.

I would use a large 6' soft box or silk as the main light from the far side and position 4'x8' foam-core around the cylinders, leaving a small slit to poke the camera lens through.

Back in the film days I had a client that manufactured pharmaceutical bottling equipment. These machines were 20-30ft in length. They were built in the factory and we had to photograph them there before they were disassembled and shipped to the customer. We had to photograph them at night when the workers were gone and we could turn off all the lights .

These machines were surrounded by metal and plexi. The bottom half was stainless steel and the top a clear plexi. We had to lay 4'x8' white foam-core panels along the ground in front of the machine and raise their edges up (camera was positioned 8' above ground, looking downward at a corner of the machine). The white foam-core would reflect and create a smooth tone in the stainless. Then we had to stack black foam-core above the white to reflect in the clear plexi. Lighting was 4-6 softboxes with 4800ws power pack strobes ringed around the front and sides of the machine. Film was 100 ISO 4x5 Transparency film. Multiple pops of the strobes would get us to F/22 on a 90mm wide-angle lens for good DOF.

After doing setups like that, your 3' cylinder seems pretty simple.

My point is that you have to provide smooth toned things like foam-core to reflect and become the highlights in your cylinder.
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Old 08-10-2011   #3
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

Here's my first attempt at shooting one of our shiny things. The circular base on this is probably about 30" diameter. For this I had white seamless for the backdrop and foreground - white shower curtains on the sides, and a few bits of white paper covering nearby eyesores. With this one being angled I was able to avoid having me or obvious lights in the shots.

For the larger machine, a higher POV would help a lot. I'll also have to remember the black foam core for plexi thing, as the machines may well have full perimeter guards. Good tips. Thanks.

For lighting I'll have two 640 WS Einsteins and 5 speedlights - so not quite as much kit as you were working with
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Old 08-10-2011   #4
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

Zemlin,

That looks pretty good. You're right, the downward POV does help as it forces the cylinder to reflect areas that are lower than you. You could do a similar thing with this new machine by positioning the camera low and looking up at the cylinder and supporting a horizontal piece of 4'x8' foam-core above the camera to reflect in the cylinder. Unless the client wants a straight on view.
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Old 08-20-2011   #5
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

If all the cylinders are the same why not shoot one, then air brush out any imperfections and then just duplicate it as needed so you have your grouping?
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Old 08-20-2011   #6
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bynx View Post
If all the cylinders are the same why not shoot one, then air brush out any imperfections and then just duplicate it as needed so you have your grouping?
Another good way I have seen is to take hair spray and coat the areas to knock down unwanted reflections in just the areas you don't want reflections. The good part is it is entirely removable. Also this seems to be a case where a long exposure on a triopod may work better than strobes.

Dwight
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Old 08-20-2011   #7
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

There is only one cylinder. Hair spray is a good thought though - soften the reflections up front. As far as using ambient/room light - maybe, but it's very mixed depending on where in the room you are - from large windows, overhead mercury vapor lamps ... ... and one of the issues is all undesirable stuff around the machine that will be reflected in it.
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Old 08-26-2011   #8
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

That was great.
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Old 08-26-2011   #9
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

Sounds like a interesting challenge.
Right now I'm thinking multiple shots with different exposures like a HDR image to show off each part/color in the best light.

Maybe use white/black bed sheets on strings around your subject like a really large softbox so all the reflections are the same. You could cover your camera, tripod and lights with the white sheets also, with only the lens poking though. To put a sheet on the floor, just cut out holes for the legs/stand if it can't be lifted.

For some reason, I'm thinking it might be easier to shoot the mirrored objects at night with all the unwanted lights off, and use something like shop lights (link below) if extra light is needed and position as needed, either behind the sheets or somewhere the reflection wouldn't affect the image.

Is moving it for a photoshoot a option ? Somewhere like a paint booth?

8.5 in. Incandescent Clamp Light-E-245 at The Home Depot

If you post a snapshop of it that might enspire more creative ideas and give us a scope of the challenges.

Based on your dimensions, I'm guessing, 16-20 white sheets, and 10-12 shop lights might work. Of course you would have to do it at night because everyone on the shop floor would laugh.
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Old 09-02-2011   #10
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Default Re: Shooting the impossible (mirrored cylinder)

try dulling spray instead of hairspray

Results for dulling spray - Search results... - Filmtools


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