Some of you may be familiar with using a circular polarizer (also known as CPL) when it comes to landscape photos. They’re great for shooting through water or glass without the annoying reflections. Well, have you ever thought about reflections in a still life scenario? When working with shiny objects it is easy to cast yourself and camera gear in reflections, glass vases and jars, silverware all has its problems, so why not use a CPL filter to combat these issues in still life as well?
Feather your light
One of the first things you should look at doing is to feather your light. This means your light source is not pointed directly at your subject, rather it is where the light starts to fall off. That is what subtly lights your scene, and it helps prevent overly bright highlights and spots in your reflections.
Using a CPL
I used a Hoya CPL on my Nikon D7100, but can use various different formats. You could also use a square polarizer as well. You sometimes need to play around with angles a little, getting a pleasing angle for your still life, but also for the CPL to remove the reflections better.
As you can see, it can be quite subtle as in the first set of images, to quite dramatic as in the second set, removing not only the reflections of the flowers but also some of the lights. It can, however, depending on the brand, darken your image considerably and change the white balance as well.
CPL filters are often used when it comes to increasing the saturation, while not blowing out the highlights for beach, water and snow photography, but can also be a great asset in the studio. While you may not always want to cut through water (a milk bath for instance), at other times it can be just what you need.