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A personal collection and
observations on Art Glass

How to... Photo Glass

It's not just a matter of pointing and clicking; but with a little more care the end results can be dramatic.

I don't claim to be an expert here either, but have been photographing 'things' for a number of years, including high-speed action while motorcycle racing. But even so, some of the basic principles still apply.

setting up : the camera : lighting : framing : snap! : problems? : web use

Starting the shoot

Very little preparation is actually required to take a decent photo of glass.

In fact, much of "the art" is in observation: how does it look? Is the lighting right? Is there anything encroaching in the photo?

But once you've framed the photo in the viewfinder, all the answers can be quickly found. But some photographers will never really be 100% satisfied and being self-critical can reap better results through trial and error. Do experiment!


  • Large sheet of white paper (A3 or larger).
  • 'Daylight' lamp, preferably strip light.
  • Image editing software (available free).


  • Tripod (see below)
  • Large sheet of black paper.
  • Large sheet of pastel-coloured paper.

Setting up

Looking through eBay and you see enough to populate an entire Chamber of [Photo] Horrors!

Do we really need to see the street outside, or a luverly bunch of flowers poking from an incredibly dull-looking vase? How about brightly coloured backgrounds against a piece of coloured glass? No, no and no!

Set out a worksurface – the kitchen ones are plenty deep enough – and lay your large sheet of paper (A3 size or larger: 420mmx297mm) so half of it curves up gently at the back. If necessary use 'Blue Tack' to keep the paper in place.

The object can now be placed on the centre of the paper, but not too close to the back. Leave a fair gap as this eliminates harsh shadows if front lighting is used.


One camera I still keep is a trusty Nikon Coolpix 775. Great battery life, excellent macro, very compact and quality photos. No longer available but look out for new versions of this model.

The Camera

Surprisingly, you do not need a really expensive camera — cheap ones can give great results!

The most important feature, is macro and normally identifiable by a switch or button for 'macro' mode (signified by a flower [tulip] icon).

Above: a typical macro button
is seen on the right

If you don't have a macro mode, then it is still possible to take good photos, although this may require using software that allows you to crop the photo to size afterwards.

So the first action is to ensure the camera is set to 'macro', which should allow the camera to focus (generally speaking) from about 0.5m to 3m, thereby allowing smaller objects to fill the frame without blurring. If you get too close to the object, some cameras have an 'auto-focus' indication to warn you of this – getting too close to the subject will cause blurring and this is one problem that can't be successfully overcome with image processing software.

Zoom and Wide-angle

If your camera also has a zoom, do make sure this is set roughly in the centre of the range. If you zoom out too far, this will go into a 'wide-angle' mode that will cause distortion by making vertical and horizontal lines curve. The closer to the frame edge and the worse this becomes.

Camera resolutions

Most cameras can be set to different resolutions. This is how a photo is composed: the number of 'dots' (called pixels) across by the number of dots down. Cameras are rated by 'megapixels' (Mp) and these ranges can be commonly found:

1.0Mp = 1024 x 768 pixels
1.3Mp = 1280 x 1024
2.0Mp = 1600 x 1200
3.1Mp = 2048 x 1536 ... etc.

Recommended* web resolutions are:
Thumbnails = 200 x 150
Full-size = 640 x 480

* Maximum. Obviously your call, but the larger the photo, the longer it takes to load and people get very bored, very quickly!


If you don't have macro, then set your camera to the highest possible resolution and take the photo getting as close as possible without causing it to blur (see below). You can then crop out the portion you want (see photo editing) and it should still leave it at a decent size.


The best type of light is one that pivots and swivels to allow the light to be shone in virtually any direction.

This allows direct and reflective light (reflecting the light off a white surface) and one with a fluorescent 'Daylight' strip-tube gives very good results as the spread of light is very wide and evenly distributed. Because of this, the flash of the camera can sometimes be switched off — this is helpful as it allows flash reflections (flash-bounce) from the glass to be eliminated — and you will always get these. If you are unable to switch off the flash, then don't worry too much.

No-Flash Photos

One downside of photographing without the flash is that, unless your camera indicates, the photo can sometimes be blurred. Quite often this is due to 'camera-shake', but could also mean the camera hasn't focused properly. Try using a tripod, or stablise the camera on a firm surface to see if blurring is eliminated. More advanced cameras can have image stabilisers to help reduce this.

Back, Front or Side...

Lighting is something that doesn't have strict rules; often backlighting the object works wonders and reveals the true colour of the glass – it has been known to reveal faint sommerso halos! But sometimes direct lighting is advisable, particularly with opaque glass.


Photos taken without a flash can sometimes be slightly darker and will benefit from a little tweaking in an image editing program. See the photo editing topic.

Top lighting

Quite often an object being lit directly above can leave some beautiful dappled patterns on the white paper. You might think this is distracting, but personally I prefer this effect (see Webb's Bull's Eye fruit bowl below).


With the item properly lit, you can now frame the object: study it carefully through the viewfinder. The "art" is all about observation...

Can you see anything awry, like something protruding into the scene? Can you zoom in slightly closer? Is any important part of the object being cropped?

Making sense

Try to look at the photo through the eyes of someone who has never seen the item before.

Does the glass 'make sense'? An odd question, but what this means is, does the image in viewfinder resemble the item, or is there a strange angle or reflection that could make anyone misinterpret the shape, or style of glass? Is there any reflection in the object that could cause confusion?

Landscape or Portrait?

Surprisingly, some people take a 'landscape' photo without considering that a 'portrait' style might be better. Tall vases will always benefit from being a portrait image, and dishes & bowls taken as landscape. Just turn the camera on its side – rotating the image is easy!

Finally, before pressing the button, take yet another look — surprising what you'll see...

Wizzywig: What You See Is What You Get?

Remember that what you see in the viewfinder is not always represented in the final photo – even top-end cameras are guilty of this! So do leave a slight margin around the object or, better still, take a few test snaps.


Cheaper cameras can also be misaligned so what is seen in the exact centre of the viewfinder can sometimes shift in any direction!


You're probably suffering fatigue after following all these guides but hey, press the button now!

Now transfer the image to your computer and take a closer look at it. If everything is not right... too dark, or lacking some colour, you will need to do a spot of image editing — see the photo editing topic.



Some glass can be notoriously difficult to photo properly, purely because of technicalities.


Blurring normally occurs from one of two situations: being too close to the object or camera shake. The solutions are easy: either move the camera further away, or steady the camera by using a tripod or holding it on a firm surface.

Some cameras have difficulty auto-focusing in poor light conditions and this can also cause blurring.

Clear Glass

Photographing clear glass can be a nightmare. There are, thankfully, a few things that can help improve quality.

  1. Cut glass is considerably less of a problem due to internal reflection/refraction of light.
  2. Try a dark or black coloured background.
  3. Use a white background, but with a dark/black piece of paper or card to the side of the object, but not within shot. Internal reflections give some 'body' to the glass.
  4. Try lighting from the top or directly onto the edges; the internal reflection/refraction can brighten edges and make them more prominent.
  5. A combination of the last two!
Bristol Blue

You shouldn't have too many problems with Bristol Blue glass, although sometimes the glass can have a strong purple tinge making it look less like Bristol Blue! Image editing can restore the correct colouration, but this isn't easy.

Red Glass

Sometimes red glass will come out far too dark, irrespective of what you try. This may be due to the camera: not a fault, but due to the camera's sensor not interpreting that particular spectrum of colour very well. With image editing software you can try excessively brightening the image but unless you're really good, there's little you can do. Sorry!



Blurring is normally associated with very slight camera shake. Using a tripod is the best solution, but full-length tripods with telescopic legs are rather unwieldy and can be expensive.

Fortunately we can supply very inexpensive 'desktop' models starting in price from only £5 (around €7.50 or $9).

See the Shop Page

Do make sure you have a screw-thread on the base of your camera though!

Web use

Photos for use on a web site should be edited and saved carefully. Much of this topic is dealt in the image editing topic, but generally speaking you should never, ever use photos directly from the camera. This is because the file size and the physical size are much too large and this impacts massively on anyone who visits your site; particularly those users with cable modems as photos could take several minutes to download!


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