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3D Non-Reflective Surfaces

    Photographing Non-Reflective 3D Art


    Key Points to remember

    • Watch video: "Basic Camera Settings, Focus Tips, and How to Avoid Camera Shake."
    • Basic principles in this video can also be adapted for natural light. You can easily place your art next to a window to use as a soft natural light source or place the work outside in open shade. Avoid direct sun and use a tripod.
    • For a white background use a large sheet of paper instead of fabric to avoid wrinkles.
    • For a black background, hang a large piece of black fabric with a matte surface behind your art. The fabric will appear darker than black paper.
    • You can shoot your work in the corner of a room. If the piece is small enough, you can place it on a small tabletop next to a wall.
    • Show 100% of your work. Don't crop out anything. Leave a small amount of space surrounding your piece.
    • Match the camera format to your art. Shoot vertically for tall pieces and horizontally for wide pieces.
    • Make sure the camera is not tilted and is completely level. The camera should be aligned with the center of your art. This will help to avoid distortion.
    • For a detail shot, move closer and/or zoom in with your camera. If you need a very close detail, try the camera's macro function (flower icon) and refer to the owner's manual.



    This tutorial explores lighting techniques for photographing three-dimensional artwork with a non-reflective surface: paper, clay, foam, etc... Be sure to use a simple, seamless background.


    Lighting Setup

    Set the lights at 45-degree angles from the center of the artwork. Include diffusion material to soften the lights and remove unwanted shadows. You want an even light over the whole art piece.



    Background Shadows

    You will notice that this lighting set works well on the non-reflective surface. The sculpture looks great. But the setup doesn't control the shadows in the background well.


    Controlling the Background

    If you have background shadows you can control them by changing the lighting setup. Put both lights on the same side to create contrast. Now all the intensity is on one side. Use bounced light to fill in the shadows. White foam core, with a pony clamp to steady it, makes a good light reflector. Position it on the side opposite the lights to bounce light back into the shadows. Reflector cards can add shine and contrast.


    Bracketed Shots



    Correct Exposure

    Correct Exposure