Professional Studio Lighting – Playing with Mirrors

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I once saw a video, where a pro-photographer used professional studio lighting and mirrors to light a subject, and it inspired me to try and achieve the same result using only ‘amateur light’

After a visit to the DYI store and Toys R’Us, I had what I needed; 4 pieces of 15 x 15 cm (5,5 x 5,5 inches) mirrors and a model car. Call me a petrol-head, but I couldn’t help but worrying which car to buy based on what I’d most like to own full-scale… In the end I decided on a scale 1:24 Maserati GranTurismo

1mirror.jpg

My ‘household light’ is an old 20 AUD IKEA floor lamp with a 60 watts tungsten bulb. I wanted to use only one light source, as household bulbs almost inevitably gives different color hues depending on manufacturer and age of the bulb.

My aim was to use the mirrors to reflect light onto the car, in order to make shape, form and curves more noticeable than if I had just flooded the whole car with light.

My first set-up was like this:

first_setup.jpg

This lit the car from the side, at about 45 degrees above. The first shot using only the floor lamp and no mirrors produced this effect:

first_shot_first_setup.jpg

There’s a nice Z-shaped shadow across the hood, but otherwise it was clear that this set-up didn’t work. Take a look at the car – there aren’t any sign of curves or lines along the side of the car or around the wheel arches.

The light is too strong and too direct to show any tones in the reflected light. This creates an even surface lacking any depth perspective. A lot like the effect from direct sunlight at the middle of the day, actually.

More importantly, with the light coming from the same side of the car I had my camera positioned, I was unable to use the mirrors to reflect light onto the car. It had to be re-arranged!

My second set-up looks like this

second_setup.jpg

Here I have the lamp directly behind the car, about 60 degrees above.

Here’s the beginning – car lit only with the lamp:

first_shot_second_setup.jpg

Not surprisingly, the car is underexposed on the side I’m photographing (which is what I want it to be at this stage). There a highlight (where door meets roof). I guess it could have been solved by using a more diffused light such as a white cloth in front of the lamp.

The first mirror I placed (marked 1 on the photo above) reflects light on the front of the car:

1mirror.jpg

The aim is to light the front and more specifically, to get reflections in the headlight.

The next mirror (marked “2”) reflects light onto the side of the car:

2mirrors.jpg

and creates reflections in the wheels (particularly the front) and enhances the shape and form of the front wheel arch as well as the longitudinal crease on the door and down to the rear wheel arch.

The third mirror (yep, marked “3”)

3mirrors.jpg

is reflecting light onto the rear wheel and enhances the line from the roof onto the trunk.

The last mirror (no. “4”) is reflecting light onto the front and into the cabin.

4mirrors.jpg

Having used all four mirrors I was out of options, but I don’t think more mirrors would have made a difference anyway.

Here’s how the car looks without mirrored light and with mirrored light (click to enlarge):

before_after_small.jpg

With just a household lamp and four mirrors I have created a studio-like lighting of the model car!

Had my mission been to sell the model car on ebay or another internet auction site, I’m confident that the final result would have attracted more potential customers, and thus a higher selling price.

Even if I’m not selling the model car (I’ll sell it when I can replace it with one in scale 1:1), I have still had fun playing with light. Knowledge of light is the basics of photography, so it will undoubtedly benefit me at a later stage. And, who knows, I might even have inspired you to try something similar – playing and learning?

Tech-talk:
Photos are taken with a Nikon D300 and 50 f/1.8 lens. All photos are shot at f/14 and approx 1 second exposure at ISO 320. White balance was set to auto which created a yellow hue. I could have recorded a manual white balance, but as I shot in RAW I adjusted the white balance in Nikon Capture NX.

The photos are reduced in size, added some sharpness and converted to jpg. Otherwise no post processing.

Is there anything I would have differently?
I later noticed that the car looked cooler in the first set-up (seen more from the front). I’ll keep that in mind for next time. Also, next time I’ll consider a dark non-reflective surface and backdrop. That should give me more fine-tuning possibilities, as there will be much less reflected light from the tabletop. Furthermore it will allow the car to stand out more from the background.

Did I stop there?
Nah, I had to try to turn the mirrors around, like this:

third_setup.jpg

A rather different way of using the mirrors, which creates this result:

reflections.jpg

This set-up is lit with a softbox, and note how form and curves are less distinct than when using the mirrors. It clearly shows the difference the mirrors can do when used for reflecting light.

I’d love comments and suggestions – or even challenges – regarding the next subject to light with household light and mirrors…

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Peter Kirring is an 'ex-photo industry professional turned photo enthusiast' and is an is currently writing most of his photo tips in Danish at his blog fotoblogger.dk. Also check out his site at Peter.Kirring.com.

  • Awesome tutorial.
    I was kinda surprised seeing the first photo, before reading the text, that someone will actually use a full scale Maserati for lighting/mirrors tutorial 🙂

    Good thing I kept on reading.

    If it was me – I’ll use Aston Martin 🙂

  • Nice tutorial, Peter! I was thinking of improving my studio set-up with some lamps, softboxes and reflectors. I guess I could try with your mirror technique and see how it turns out! I wonder can this work for PVS figure… Hmmm…

  • Very nice walk through, seeing the changes the different mirrors made as you added them was very illuminating. Okay, that wasn’t on purpose, but I am leaving it anyway.

  • @ Ilan: Try and go to http://www.joemcnally.com, -> portfolio -> icons -> photo no. 35 “Ozzie Smith” to how Joe actually uses mirrors to illuminate a lifesized subject (a person in this case). I couldn’t do that – don’t have the mirrors…. or have the lifesize Aston Martin for that matter

    @ Tom B: Thanks, really glad you liked it!

  • kareem

    great website, the information is really straight forward and practical

  • X. Phoenix

    Even though the last photo was probably done more as an afterthought–hey let’s try this sort of shot–I think it’s a rather unique way of showing various sides of the subject…and in the instance of selling something like this on eBay or what not, saving you the need to post multiple photos, when one will suffice. Very well done.

  • I really enjoyed reading this and it has really made me think about the possibilities of using mirrors in my photography.

    Thank you for the great article.

  • JerBear

    Outstanding article!

    A great training exercise in working with light. If anyone takes the time to do this exercise, they will benefit a lot.

    Simple to set up, cheap supplies and the best yet, you get to go to the toy store!!!

    Thank you!

    JM

  • Paulo Lourenco

    Awesome!
    you can get great results by just using simple things…Loved this tuto.

    Thanks.
    psl

  • Holly

    great tutorial. thanks!

    The last shot could be a magazine ad. It looks great!

  • @ jusuchin85: excuse my ignoreance, but what’s a PVS figure? (Wikipedia didn’t make me any wiser: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PVS)

    @ X. Phoenix: Yes, the last photo was indeed just a “hey, btw, gotta try this too”-photo. But it only goes to show that one has to be prepared to move outside of the box – and when you think you’re done, reverse your thinking a shoot some more.

    @ JerBear: yeah, just got me thinking – can I explain my wife I needed to buy a Scalatrix race car track in order to practive high-speed panning?

    @ holly / paulo / craig: thanks a lot for your kind words!

  • Nice tutorial and detailed photos. Must have taken some time! Really interesting how big a difference mirrors create. I actually like the shiny table top, looks like a car in a show room with the reflection below.

  • thanks for this tutorial. ive been experimenting with different household objects to improve lighting from lamps covered in wax paper to tin foil, but ive never tried multiple reflectors like these mirrors. these tips are very helpful.

  • @Peter: I’m sorry. I meant PVC instead of PVS. I do collect PVC figures and do photoshoots on them. Just that finding the right lighting and set up is not easy, even until today. So, by reading your post on using mirrors I think I can figure out what I can do to improve my set up.

    One thing: does using the mirrors actually reveal the material more? Since I’m trying not to show too much plastic while photoshooting…

  • JerBear

    @Peter:
    Hmmmmm……..Why yes, I do believe that would be a great excuse, to buy the the race track!

  • @ lils: When you mention it; yes, it does actually look quite like a show room 🙂

    @ manilenio: Thanks a lot!

    @ jerbear: I’m off to the toy store – thanks for giving me the go 🙂

    @ jusuchin85: basically, yes I think you can take good photos of PVC figures. In fact, there are two different shots of small PVC (or some type of plastic) figures in Nikon’s manual “A collection of example photos. SB-800/600” that comes together with a Nikon flash (at least in Europe). You can download it from Nikon’s site, provided you have registered a SB-flash unit at Nikon.

    I haven’t tried it myself, but if I were you, I’d start my experiment by getting as diffuse a light as possible. I guess, what make PVC look, well… PVC, and not skin, is harsh light reflections (?). Don’t laugh, but I got some really good diffuse light using a kitchen chopping board from Ikea (see it here (in Danish) my blog “fotoblogger.dk”. Alternatively, you can experiment with white cloth in front of the light. Secondly, with mirrors, you have to pay attention to distance between mirror and subject, as that’s your only way to adjust the amount of light hitting the subject. I think I’d go for a relatively weak bulb to begin with and not too close to the scene. That way, there should be less chance of flooding the scene with light from each mirror.
    But, the best part of playing with mirrors, is that they cost very little, so I’ll just say go and experiment 🙂 Enjoy, and drop me a mail with the results, I’d love to see them!

  • What about something similar (mirrors, DIY lightining at studios), but at portraits?
    Great tutorial, BTW 🙂

  • Eoin

    Concise and very detailed blog, thank you for sharing the setup. Am delighted to see flashes / lens all been made use of to hold mirrors up….thought I was the only one that did that sort of thing. Many thanks Eoin

  • that was completely inspiring for me. i will be trying something similar tomorrow. I can’t wait! I even have the mirrors already! i am learning as much about lighting as I can…so much still left to learn though. the last shot was pretty awesome, what would it have looked like using a directional light (maybe with a snoot), instead of a softbox?

  • Robb

    Before reading this tutorial, I was shooting head shots for an actress today. It was a last minute decision, so grabbing a few tools, knowing I would be shooting mostly using natural light, I had forgotten my bounce board. As I was loosing light, I quickly grabbed a large picture off the wall and steadied it against my tripod to reflect light. Had I known, I would have scavenged for a mirror. This tutorial has armed me with a great tool for the future and the next time I forget something to bounce with. Thanks.

  • Crispin

    Good use of mirrors. However, the general lighting looks a little too harsh and multi-directional, considering how small the subject is. Even with just a bulb as the key light, a diffusion screen bigger than the subject between the lamp & the subject would help minimizes the harshness, thus improving the shadow below the car. The multi-directionality of the light produced by the mirrors, somehow is distracting, since the reflector-lit areas seem to have a similar strengths. If put into real world scenario, I may think that we have more than one sun in the solar system. Thus, to further minimize the light to shadow ratio (contrast), use a reflector card, instead of mirrors to fill-in the shadowed areas on the car. Then, to highlight or to produce “speculars” (noun) or give sparkle to several chosen areas on the car, that’s where the mirrors come in.

    Since using a diffusion panel between the light source would further decrease the already low illumination, using a tripod would really help more (I’m sure everyone knows this). It would also be nice to see results of the set-up used if it’s properly exposed. This is a high key set-up, and you have to compensate accordingly. A light meter would be best during these sort of set-ups.

    PS: I love the shot with the car’s reflection in the mirrors. Great job! 😀

  • @ Crane: I think it goings to be hard to get a sufficient spread of light to cover a person using only a floor / household lamp. The first step in the DYI project would then be to build some kind of “light box” to diffuse the light and make the light source big enough to get an even spread of the person. When that’s done, you can start playing with mirrors – but I think mirrors are only suitable for body shots of male models, where you normally want a harsher light to emphasize the muscularity of the male body. For female models and face / upper body I think styrofoam boards give a softer and better light – and they are even cheaper than mirrors 🙂 Good luck!

    @ eoin: Yep, and a cheap f/4.5-5.6 lens does just a good a job as a pro f/2.8 lens 🙂

    @ Lorrie: Don’t know, didn’t try, but the car model does need some light on the reverse / mirror-side too, otherwise the reflections will be too dark, and I’m not sure the snoot would do that sufficiently (?) – but give it a try, and post the result, I’d love to see it!

    @ robb: Good to hear, thanks! (I once used a newspaper to reflect natural light, and it (kindda) workeded too)

    @ crispin: Thanks for commenting. As I wrote in the post, I did get a few highlights that could have been avoided if I had diffused the light. Next time I will try with a non-reflective table surface, as that will produce less diffused reflections, and then a reflector card could be a good solution. The purpose of the post is not to show a perfect illuminated model car, but to show, step by step, how mirrors reflect light, and how that light can be used to enhance shape, form and curves. You’ll see my tripod on the second-last picture. Glad you like the car reflection photo 🙂

  • Laura

    I love how you used lenses as mirror stands. Very clever! It’s almost poetic. The lenses allow you to see the subject better, although you are not actually looking through them. Very very nice tutorial. I really need to learn more about lighting, and this was just the thing to get me inspired. Thanks!

  • Hello Peter, as a beginning photographer, i’ve enjoyed the hobby very much,infact i’ve recently used that skill to do postings on eBay that has brought me much income that i’ve never thought possible. Pictures do convey a thousand words as i have again posted new items for sale.
    Presently, i’m looking for a better background as i’m now using just a white transluscent cloth and the images aren’t to bad as long as bidders can see what they’re bidding on? A close friend who is a video-photographer did advice me to try using a stiff white foam board & that i migt get even better results.
    Your experimenting w/mirrors & one lamp looks great will try that sometime. Any comments you might want to share with me would be most welcomed.
    ………………………………………………………message ends…………………………………………………………………………………………..

  • JAY RICHARDS

    Plenty of inspiration to play with here, including all the comments…..I would think using a light table for dark colored objects would contrast contour lines and eliminated shadows or alternatively placing subject itself on top of glass for underside reflection/illumination. In the final shot, I would like to see the glass cut into rectangular shapes to match the subject shape or final crop to eliminate the glass top/side edges for more dramatic effect. Thanks!

  • Thanks for shedding some light on how to do this. ;0) Nice effects and just the type advice I have been looking for.

  • it is a wonderful tutorial

  • @ laura: Playing is learning – happy learning 🙂

    @ Carleton Akana: I would have guessed that foam boards are too reflective to make a good background (?) (but they are great reflectors!). Another thing which works really well is to light the background with directional light, thus creating lines of light and shadow that emphasises the composition and/or supports the shape of the subject.
    Alternatively, try lighting the background with a remote strobe / flash with a coloured gel (the strobe itself must not be visible to the camera). Try different colours – but both related colours and opposing colours (in the colour wheel). BTW, post some of your most successful ebay photos – I’d love to see some!

    @ jay richards: Yes a light table would be a good option – but a more expensive one. Yeah, it could have looked cool with rectangular mirrors for the last shot.

    @ Dena: Glad you liked it 🙂

  • Fantastic article!

  • A great idea for still life or other macro work. Illustrated very well and informative.
    Thanks! I look forward to the next.

  • @ ali + Michael + Bill Murray: Thanks guys!

    NB: Bill, what do you wanna see in the next tutorial?

  • Don’t know what Bill wants but I want someone to write something about taking good macros and night shots with Point and Shoots

  • @ ali: OK, good point. I’ll see if I can write something clever about those two subjects. Gimme some time though,as I’m writing a post about panning (in Danish). You can send me your email in a PM (see my email here: http://peter.kirring.com) and I’ll make sure I notify you when DPS accepts (?) my future post on macro and night shots with a P&S camera.

  • Lucian

    very inspirational, thx !!

  • TP

    Thanks for the marvellous tute! Looking forward to more…would love to see more tutes on product photography, for beginners. Hopefully, I won’t have to pick up Danish, lol.

  • @ lucian & TP:Thanks, much appreciated.

  • Becky

    GREAT tutorial .. inspired me to practice more! I like to photograph horses and while I have live subjects in my pasture, your tutorial made me realize that I could perhaps practice indoors using a model horse and experiment with various lighting situations and angles. Thanks again for the tips and inspiration!

  • @ becky: Absolutely, the more we experiment with light, the more we learn, and the more we know about how light behave, the better photographers we become! Enjoy 🙂

  • @Peter

    I am still looking for someone to write a tutorial on how to take good night photos (landscape+ studio) with a point and shoot camera 🙂

  • Lucian

    Hi Ali,

    Why a tutorial? (maybe this is not the best thread – it is about lights so i’ll carry on)

    Is there a difference? It is about getting the light in. Point & shoot or fancy cameras, same thing. Indeed, you can’t get a higher aperture, but you can get a tripod … imho.

    sample http://picasaweb.google.com/lucheng0/Japan#5242006092362913042

    Rgds,

    Lucian

  • melanie

    this is absolutely perfect…it explains it step by step, and with pix for us folk who don’t understand all the fancy words lol, best tutorial I’ve sen on here yet! but I do love the whole site!!! keep it up!

  • @ melanie: Thanks, really glad you liked it – and took the time to let me know 🙂

  • Yes. Great tutorial.
    Being very new to photography, I have never actually thought about using mirrors before. This was a great introduction for me.

  • Interesting tutorial – I have never tried using mirrors like this – the results look nice!

  • Berat Ayval?

    nice idea and good work thanks for sharing. I also liked the last photo with car reflections from mirrors.

  • Bardzo pomys?owe

  • gary cartzdafner

    great job

  • alvin

    I love those mirror stands!

  • Photography by James

    Great piece Peter. A good example of the only limitations in photography being one’s imagination.

    For anyone interested in photographing cars I recommend they check out the work of Tim Wallace. The following youtube video is a tutorial by him.

    http://youtu.be/rF9GRhxWbLU

Some Older Comments

  • Lloyd Barnes September 9, 2010 05:19 pm

    Interesting tutorial - I have never tried using mirrors like this - the results look nice!

  • Tekrux Blog February 6, 2010 07:00 pm

    Yes. Great tutorial.
    Being very new to photography, I have never actually thought about using mirrors before. This was a great introduction for me.

  • Peter Kirring July 24, 2009 07:12 am

    @ melanie: Thanks, really glad you liked it - and took the time to let me know :-)

  • melanie July 23, 2009 06:01 am

    this is absolutely perfect...it explains it step by step, and with pix for us folk who don't understand all the fancy words lol, best tutorial I've sen on here yet! but I do love the whole site!!! keep it up!

  • Lucian March 17, 2009 08:13 pm

    Hi Ali,

    Why a tutorial? (maybe this is not the best thread - it is about lights so i'll carry on)

    Is there a difference? It is about getting the light in. Point & shoot or fancy cameras, same thing. Indeed, you can't get a higher aperture, but you can get a tripod ... imho.

    sample http://picasaweb.google.com/lucheng0/Japan#5242006092362913042

    Rgds,

    Lucian

  • ali hammad March 17, 2009 07:59 pm

    @Peter

    I am still looking for someone to write a tutorial on how to take good night photos (landscape+ studio) with a point and shoot camera :)

  • Peter Kirring March 17, 2009 07:08 pm

    @ becky: Absolutely, the more we experiment with light, the more we learn, and the more we know about how light behave, the better photographers we become! Enjoy :-)

  • Becky March 17, 2009 12:00 pm

    GREAT tutorial .. inspired me to practice more! I like to photograph horses and while I have live subjects in my pasture, your tutorial made me realize that I could perhaps practice indoors using a model horse and experiment with various lighting situations and angles. Thanks again for the tips and inspiration!

  • Peter Kirring March 12, 2009 08:10 pm

    @ lucian & TP:Thanks, much appreciated.

  • TP March 12, 2009 01:54 am

    Thanks for the marvellous tute! Looking forward to more...would love to see more tutes on product photography, for beginners. Hopefully, I won't have to pick up Danish, lol.

  • Lucian March 2, 2009 01:09 am

    very inspirational, thx !!

  • Peter Kirring February 24, 2009 05:08 am

    @ ali: OK, good point. I'll see if I can write something clever about those two subjects. Gimme some time though,as I'm writing a post about panning (in Danish). You can send me your email in a PM (see my email here: http://peter.kirring.com) and I'll make sure I notify you when DPS accepts (?) my future post on macro and night shots with a P&S camera.

  • ali hammad February 23, 2009 10:11 pm

    Don't know what Bill wants but I want someone to write something about taking good macros and night shots with Point and Shoots

  • Peter Kirring February 23, 2009 05:18 am

    @ ali + Michael + Bill Murray: Thanks guys!

    NB: Bill, what do you wanna see in the next tutorial?

  • Bill Murray February 22, 2009 07:47 am

    A great idea for still life or other macro work. Illustrated very well and informative.
    Thanks! I look forward to the next.

  • Michael February 21, 2009 11:29 pm

    Fantastic article!

  • Peter Kirring February 20, 2009 08:00 pm

    @ laura: Playing is learning - happy learning :-)

    @ Carleton Akana: I would have guessed that foam boards are too reflective to make a good background (?) (but they are great reflectors!). Another thing which works really well is to light the background with directional light, thus creating lines of light and shadow that emphasises the composition and/or supports the shape of the subject.
    Alternatively, try lighting the background with a remote strobe / flash with a coloured gel (the strobe itself must not be visible to the camera). Try different colours - but both related colours and opposing colours (in the colour wheel). BTW, post some of your most successful ebay photos - I'd love to see some!

    @ jay richards: Yes a light table would be a good option - but a more expensive one. Yeah, it could have looked cool with rectangular mirrors for the last shot.

    @ Dena: Glad you liked it :-)

  • ali hammad February 20, 2009 04:35 pm

    it is a wonderful tutorial

  • Dena February 20, 2009 04:22 am

    Thanks for shedding some light on how to do this. ;0) Nice effects and just the type advice I have been looking for.

  • JAY RICHARDS February 20, 2009 04:04 am

    Plenty of inspiration to play with here, including all the comments.....I would think using a light table for dark colored objects would contrast contour lines and eliminated shadows or alternatively placing subject itself on top of glass for underside reflection/illumination. In the final shot, I would like to see the glass cut into rectangular shapes to match the subject shape or final crop to eliminate the glass top/side edges for more dramatic effect. Thanks!

  • Carleton Akana February 20, 2009 03:54 am

    Hello Peter, as a beginning photographer, i've enjoyed the hobby very much,infact i've recently used that skill to do postings on eBay that has brought me much income that i've never thought possible. Pictures do convey a thousand words as i have again posted new items for sale.
    Presently, i'm looking for a better background as i'm now using just a white transluscent cloth and the images aren't to bad as long as bidders can see what they're bidding on? A close friend who is a video-photographer did advice me to try using a stiff white foam board & that i migt get even better results.
    Your experimenting w/mirrors & one lamp looks great will try that sometime. Any comments you might want to share with me would be most welcomed.
    ...............................................................message ends........................................................................................................

  • Laura February 20, 2009 02:21 am

    I love how you used lenses as mirror stands. Very clever! It's almost poetic. The lenses allow you to see the subject better, although you are not actually looking through them. Very very nice tutorial. I really need to learn more about lighting, and this was just the thing to get me inspired. Thanks!

  • Peter Kirring February 18, 2009 08:27 pm

    @ Crane: I think it goings to be hard to get a sufficient spread of light to cover a person using only a floor / household lamp. The first step in the DYI project would then be to build some kind of "light box" to diffuse the light and make the light source big enough to get an even spread of the person. When that's done, you can start playing with mirrors - but I think mirrors are only suitable for body shots of male models, where you normally want a harsher light to emphasize the muscularity of the male body. For female models and face / upper body I think styrofoam boards give a softer and better light - and they are even cheaper than mirrors :-) Good luck!

    @ eoin: Yep, and a cheap f/4.5-5.6 lens does just a good a job as a pro f/2.8 lens :-)

    @ Lorrie: Don't know, didn't try, but the car model does need some light on the reverse / mirror-side too, otherwise the reflections will be too dark, and I'm not sure the snoot would do that sufficiently (?) - but give it a try, and post the result, I'd love to see it!

    @ robb: Good to hear, thanks! (I once used a newspaper to reflect natural light, and it (kindda) workeded too)

    @ crispin: Thanks for commenting. As I wrote in the post, I did get a few highlights that could have been avoided if I had diffused the light. Next time I will try with a non-reflective table surface, as that will produce less diffused reflections, and then a reflector card could be a good solution. The purpose of the post is not to show a perfect illuminated model car, but to show, step by step, how mirrors reflect light, and how that light can be used to enhance shape, form and curves. You'll see my tripod on the second-last picture. Glad you like the car reflection photo :-)

  • Crispin February 18, 2009 06:04 pm

    Good use of mirrors. However, the general lighting looks a little too harsh and multi-directional, considering how small the subject is. Even with just a bulb as the key light, a diffusion screen bigger than the subject between the lamp & the subject would help minimizes the harshness, thus improving the shadow below the car. The multi-directionality of the light produced by the mirrors, somehow is distracting, since the reflector-lit areas seem to have a similar strengths. If put into real world scenario, I may think that we have more than one sun in the solar system. Thus, to further minimize the light to shadow ratio (contrast), use a reflector card, instead of mirrors to fill-in the shadowed areas on the car. Then, to highlight or to produce "speculars" (noun) or give sparkle to several chosen areas on the car, that's where the mirrors come in.

    Since using a diffusion panel between the light source would further decrease the already low illumination, using a tripod would really help more (I'm sure everyone knows this). It would also be nice to see results of the set-up used if it's properly exposed. This is a high key set-up, and you have to compensate accordingly. A light meter would be best during these sort of set-ups.

    PS: I love the shot with the car's reflection in the mirrors. Great job! :D

  • Robb February 18, 2009 04:41 pm

    Before reading this tutorial, I was shooting head shots for an actress today. It was a last minute decision, so grabbing a few tools, knowing I would be shooting mostly using natural light, I had forgotten my bounce board. As I was loosing light, I quickly grabbed a large picture off the wall and steadied it against my tripod to reflect light. Had I known, I would have scavenged for a mirror. This tutorial has armed me with a great tool for the future and the next time I forget something to bounce with. Thanks.

  • Lorrie February 18, 2009 12:22 pm

    that was completely inspiring for me. i will be trying something similar tomorrow. I can't wait! I even have the mirrors already! i am learning as much about lighting as I can...so much still left to learn though. the last shot was pretty awesome, what would it have looked like using a directional light (maybe with a snoot), instead of a softbox?

  • Eoin February 18, 2009 09:19 am

    Concise and very detailed blog, thank you for sharing the setup. Am delighted to see flashes / lens all been made use of to hold mirrors up....thought I was the only one that did that sort of thing. Many thanks Eoin

  • Crane February 18, 2009 08:05 am

    What about something similar (mirrors, DIY lightining at studios), but at portraits?
    Great tutorial, BTW :-)

  • Peter Kirring February 18, 2009 06:53 am

    @ lils: When you mention it; yes, it does actually look quite like a show room :-)

    @ manilenio: Thanks a lot!

    @ jerbear: I'm off to the toy store - thanks for giving me the go :-)

    @ jusuchin85: basically, yes I think you can take good photos of PVC figures. In fact, there are two different shots of small PVC (or some type of plastic) figures in Nikon's manual "A collection of example photos. SB-800/600" that comes together with a Nikon flash (at least in Europe). You can download it from Nikon's site, provided you have registered a SB-flash unit at Nikon.

    I haven't tried it myself, but if I were you, I'd start my experiment by getting as diffuse a light as possible. I guess, what make PVC look, well... PVC, and not skin, is harsh light reflections (?). Don't laugh, but I got some really good diffuse light using a kitchen chopping board from Ikea (see it here (in Danish) my blog "fotoblogger.dk". Alternatively, you can experiment with white cloth in front of the light. Secondly, with mirrors, you have to pay attention to distance between mirror and subject, as that's your only way to adjust the amount of light hitting the subject. I think I'd go for a relatively weak bulb to begin with and not too close to the scene. That way, there should be less chance of flooding the scene with light from each mirror.
    But, the best part of playing with mirrors, is that they cost very little, so I'll just say go and experiment :-) Enjoy, and drop me a mail with the results, I'd love to see them!

  • JerBear February 18, 2009 03:51 am

    @Peter:
    Hmmmmm........Why yes, I do believe that would be a great excuse, to buy the the race track!

  • jusuchin85 February 18, 2009 01:46 am

    @Peter: I'm sorry. I meant PVC instead of PVS. I do collect PVC figures and do photoshoots on them. Just that finding the right lighting and set up is not easy, even until today. So, by reading your post on using mirrors I think I can figure out what I can do to improve my set up.

    One thing: does using the mirrors actually reveal the material more? Since I'm trying not to show too much plastic while photoshooting...

  • manilenio February 17, 2009 07:13 pm

    thanks for this tutorial. ive been experimenting with different household objects to improve lighting from lamps covered in wax paper to tin foil, but ive never tried multiple reflectors like these mirrors. these tips are very helpful.

  • lils February 17, 2009 06:31 pm

    Nice tutorial and detailed photos. Must have taken some time! Really interesting how big a difference mirrors create. I actually like the shiny table top, looks like a car in a show room with the reflection below.

  • Peter Kirring February 17, 2009 06:24 pm

    @ jusuchin85: excuse my ignoreance, but what's a PVS figure? (Wikipedia didn't make me any wiser: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PVS)

    @ X. Phoenix: Yes, the last photo was indeed just a "hey, btw, gotta try this too"-photo. But it only goes to show that one has to be prepared to move outside of the box - and when you think you're done, reverse your thinking a shoot some more.

    @ JerBear: yeah, just got me thinking - can I explain my wife I needed to buy a Scalatrix race car track in order to practive high-speed panning?

    @ holly / paulo / craig: thanks a lot for your kind words!

  • Holly February 17, 2009 01:36 pm

    great tutorial. thanks!

    The last shot could be a magazine ad. It looks great!

  • Paulo Lourenco February 17, 2009 09:03 am

    Awesome!
    you can get great results by just using simple things...Loved this tuto.

    Thanks.
    psl

  • JerBear February 17, 2009 05:16 am

    Outstanding article!

    A great training exercise in working with light. If anyone takes the time to do this exercise, they will benefit a lot.

    Simple to set up, cheap supplies and the best yet, you get to go to the toy store!!!

    Thank you!

    JM

  • Craig February 17, 2009 03:42 am

    I really enjoyed reading this and it has really made me think about the possibilities of using mirrors in my photography.

    Thank you for the great article.

  • X. Phoenix February 17, 2009 03:15 am

    Even though the last photo was probably done more as an afterthought--hey let's try this sort of shot--I think it's a rather unique way of showing various sides of the subject...and in the instance of selling something like this on eBay or what not, saving you the need to post multiple photos, when one will suffice. Very well done.

  • kareem February 17, 2009 02:44 am

    great website, the information is really straight forward and practical

  • Peter Kirring February 17, 2009 02:26 am

    @ Ilan: Try and go to www.joemcnally.com, -> portfolio -> icons -> photo no. 35 "Ozzie Smith" to how Joe actually uses mirrors to illuminate a lifesized subject (a person in this case). I couldn't do that - don't have the mirrors.... or have the lifesize Aston Martin for that matter

    @ Tom B: Thanks, really glad you liked it!

  • Tom B. February 17, 2009 02:05 am

    Very nice walk through, seeing the changes the different mirrors made as you added them was very illuminating. Okay, that wasn't on purpose, but I am leaving it anyway.

  • jusuchin85 February 17, 2009 12:53 am

    Nice tutorial, Peter! I was thinking of improving my studio set-up with some lamps, softboxes and reflectors. I guess I could try with your mirror technique and see how it turns out! I wonder can this work for PVS figure... Hmmm...

  • Ilan February 17, 2009 12:40 am

    Awesome tutorial.
    I was kinda surprised seeing the first photo, before reading the text, that someone will actually use a full scale Maserati for lighting/mirrors tutorial :)

    Good thing I kept on reading.

    If it was me - I'll use Aston Martin :)

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