It’s hard to photograph glass! Let’s look at a few tips to make it easier to get decent photos that can help you identify or sell your glass.
What to Photograph
Look carefully at your glass and note the parts of the glass that may be clues to its identification. You want to be sure to get clear photos of these unique elements.
- Shape of the foot, especially for stemware. Is it round? Domed? Square or Hexagonal? Most common stemware feet are round and flat, so any differences here may be helpful. Cups, creamers or sugars, vases, may vary quite a bit with the foot shape in keeping with the overall design.
- Shape of the stem. The most common stems on goblets are plain round or lady leg. Lady leg refers to stems that have bulbous tops and are thinner below the bulb shape.
- Overall shape of the piece.
- Design, e.g., cutting or etch or other ornamentation.
If you are trying to identify your glass it is best to get clear photos of all design elements, especially clear close ups of any design.
If you are trying to sell your glass think like a buyer and get good close up photos of any edges or rims, any nicks.
Always get at least one photo that shows the item in profile, especially for drinkware, creamers and sugars, pitchers, vases, candle holders.
Do not try to photograph glass against any patterened cloth or backdrop. It is virtually impossible to see close up details when the background is cluttered or has its own design.
A matte black or dark grey background is ideal. Any dark background that’s plain can work OK. This person photographed his Viking Prelude dish on a wood table with good lighting to show the etch.
I use a special backdrop called Varitone Grey to Black. I’ve had it several years and bought it online. Several places sell it, but you need to include “Photo Background” or “Photo Paper” in your search as otherwise you will find a lot of guitars! This product here on Amazon looks like what I have.
The Varitone sheets are expensive (around $50) but work well for glass and most other items. You can find paper sheets that are less costly, also much smaller and not durable.
If you have only a few items to photograph then consider these options that are much less expensive.
- Some people swear by black velvet. I’ve not cared for the results although a non-shiny dark fabric with no creases or distracting texture should work OK.
- Dark, plain colored wood
- Plain, no texture cardboard or other matte finish paper. Construction paper tends to be distracting as even black color shows up as grey with texture. You could try colored tagboard. I’ve used boxes and dark green, plain carpeting.
- In general, use matte, non-reflective, dark surfaces to get the best detail.
If you are photographing glass to sell on eBay be aware they prefer white backgrounds. These tend not to show the design very well though unless you have special lighting.
You can get lots of different photo cubes, most are translucent white fabric that helps cut down the glare and shadows. I use one like this that is about $20. You can find black ones that are nice for jewelry but I didn’t like how they work for glass.
You can fasten the flap in the front and take your photo through the slit. I’ve not bothered with this for glass as it doesn’t seem to help. (I do use the flap and slit when photographing shiny items.)
You can get decent photos without a photo box but they help make your pictures look professional and crisp. They are essential if you plan to photograph many items to sell.
Lights are difficult! I use special photograpic lights that are theoretically color corrected. They are extremely hot and will burn you. Mine are set in big reflectors like painters use, set on stands to get the right height. The bulbs last only a few hours and will burn out quickly if you touch them.
I tried flourescents (the ones that look like ice cream cones) but the color was bad. I intend to try LED daylight 5000K lights the next time I have to buy replacment bulbs.
Next post will cover photographing designs.