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I have been asked by a client to take some product photographs of some vintage mirrors that they would like to sell and I am struggling with getting good clear shots of the mirrors. As such, what is the best way to approach photographing them such the mirror does not appear to be washed out or contain any unwanted reflections?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As Rob said, a tilt-shift lens is ideal.

I talked to a product photographer who specifically mentioned it's use. Basically, you position the camera on a tripod just to the left or right of the mirror so it's out of the reflection. With a normal lens it will be obvious that it's taken at an angle but by using the shift function of the lens you're able to correct the perspective distortion (just like an architectural photographer) so it looks as if the photo was taken head-on.

This article has an example shot: http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2011/05/complete-guide-to-tiltshift-photography?page=0,3

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2  
Or if you're not a professional product photographer you can use a regular lens and just crop the photo, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a tilt-shift lens! –  Matt Grum Oct 13 '11 at 9:51
    
And even without an actual tilt-shift lens, a similar perspective correction can often be performed with tools like Lightroom when the photo was taken with a standard lens. –  Icycle Feb 1 at 3:04
    
To use a regular lens plus crop to mimic the effect of a tilt/shift lens you need to place the product as close to one edge of the field of view as possible so that after you crop the center of your image is well of the optical axis of the lens. –  Michael Clark May 5 at 0:24

Mirrors reflect, there's nothing you can do about that (except spray the mirror with something but clients are unlikely to go for that).

All you can do is position the mirror and camera so that what's reflected is as unobjectionable as possible. A good idea would probably be to position the mirror to reflect a plain wall or ceiling. If you get further away and use a long focal length lens, the area reflected by the mirror will be much smaller which will make it easier to ensure there's no clutter (this also makes it easier to ensure your camera isn't reflected, whilst still viewing the mirror nearly straight on).

Remember that you will probably need two lights, one to light the frame, and one to light the area reflected by the mirror.

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5  
Another advantage of getting far is that the reflected wall can get more out-of-focus, thus reducing the distraction. –  ysap Jul 25 '11 at 12:58

Take a look at the catalog pictures of any major store like target.com or walmart.com. The seem to have covered the reflective area with paper ( gradient might have been added in post processing). After covering the reflective area, you can just shoot it as you would any other product.

You can also do some green screening by covering the reflective area with some bright colored/fluorescent paper and then put whatever picture you find aesthetically pleasing during post processing.

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If the job has the budget for it, you could rent a shift-tilt lens. That would allow you to at least get the camera itself out of the reflection.

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Read Light: Science and Magic, specifically the sections on "family of angles". Basically, you need to place the lights at an angle so they don't reflect into the camera. The book gives various techniques for managing reflections.

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Several answers have recommended a tilt-shift lens. If you don't happen to have access to one, note that you can get a very similar effect by correcting the perspective digitally.

Panorama stitching programs like hugin are very handy for this, as long as the picture includes suitable guide lines (see e.g. this tutorial). If not, you could always add some artificial ones around the edges of the scene and crop them out of the finished picture.

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