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Taming Interior Reflections

Photographing interiors means dealing with tons of reflective surfaces just waiting to spoil the fun. These little mirrors are everywhere bringing unwanted reflections into what would be an otherwise inviting inside space. The answer is simple. Show those offensive mirrored surfaces what you want the camera to see–nothing!

Essential tools

In order to successfully avoid reflections, I recommend using three tools

  • There is one absolutely necessary tool for getting rid of pesky reflections. That’s a tripod. In order to make this work, the camera must not move.
  • While not essential, tethering to laptop makes the process easier in a couple of ways. First, the large screen on the laptop allows photographers to see the reflections. Second it can act as a cable release helping make certain that the camera does not move.
  • The third tool is the “nothing.” A large, black card or folding panel. When photographing interiors, I carry two different sizes. First is a 48 inch by 48 inch folding aluminum frame with a black / white cover from Chimera Lighting. The second comes from the same place. It’s larger, 42 inches by 72 inches.

Reflections of the unwanted kind

This interior is lush with warm tone and muted colors. Smack in the middle of the winter photograph of a leafless tree is a reflection of outside through the patio doors. Ugly and distracting!

Taming Reflections=004
The glass in the framed photograph reflects a view of outside sky distracting the viewer from the inviting interior.

The rule for photographing mirrors

A mirror or any reflective surface like the glass in the photo above show the camera what they see. The rule for shooting mirrors is to show the mirror exactly what it is to show the camera. In this case it wants to reflect, well, nothing. When it comes to reflections, black equals that nothing it wants to see. Below my assistant holds a black panel to be reflected back to the camera. In Photoshop I’ll add this layer above the background layer (above.)

Taming Reflections=001
Assistant Cameron Crone holds a panel frame covered with black fabric.

Assistant be gone

The next step is to get rid of the assistant. Sorry Cameron. I used the Polygonal Lasso tool to make a selection around the frame of the photograph. Feather the edge by choosing Select > Modify > Feather… then enter .7 pixels and click OK. Finally, go to Layers > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection. Poof. No more assistant. Best of all no reflections either.

Taming Reflections=005
The layer masks shows only the framed artwork.
Taming Reflections=002
A layer mask revealing only the framed photograph removes the assistant from the scene.

Seeing black made the art dark

The drawback to this technique is that black removes light that makes the framed artwork pop in the interior. This is an easy fix in Photoshop. Use your favorite selection tool to make a selection of the outside edge of the white matte. Again, I used the Polygonal Lasso tool–a click in each corner of the matte did the job. This selection must be on it’s own layer. From Photoshop’s menu go to Layer > New > Layer via Copy. The selection is now a new layer. Rename it “Brighten Print.” Finally, change the Blending mode (outlined in red below) to Screen. This doubles the amount of light on the framed print.

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Changing the Blending mode from normal to Screen brightens the print.

The finished interior

This is a super simple method to get rid of reflections in artwork under glass hanging on interior walls. More about getting rid of or reducing unwanted reflections will be in future posts.

Taming Reflections=003
The interior without reflections.
2192-PSW LV lightingKevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.
http://kevinamesphotography.com
https://facebook.com/KevinAmesPhotography

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