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I work for a company that sells fishing products which all have to be shot and then extracted to have a pure white background. I can do this for the majority of products but cannot figure out a good way to shoot the clear fluorocarbon fishing line in a way that makes it visible, not cast subtle shadows which make the edges hard to define. It always ends up being a tedious, time-consuming, ugly extraction task resulting in something I'm not particularly thrilled with.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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I would suggest "Don't".

Seriously, if the concern is extraction, it becomes much easier if you're free to select your background color. Shoot with an appropriately contrasting background and extract from the colored background. After extraction, the image can be overlayed on any background including white if that's what's required.

Additionally by selecting an interesting color, you can light it such that hints of that color can show in the clear line for additional contrast and interest. If the goal is to emphasize the colorlessness of the line, use a gray background.

The requirement to have the image on a white background does not mean it has to be shot that way.

   --- edit ---

Your comment about shadows suggests that you have the product in contact with the background. You may want to suspend the product with the background far enough away to eliminate shadows.

   --- edit 2 Impromptu Shoot ---

I didn't have any fishing line handy but I found some old translucent lawn trimmer line in the garage and some nearly invisible transparent thread from my wife. I bundled both up and hung them dangling in front of some black poster board. I placed a single remote flash on a convenient shelf about 30 degrees behind the target as well as using the on-camera flash for front lighting.

I used a quick and dirty color selection for extraction.

White remote flash as shot

White remote flash as shot

White remote flash extracted with black background

White remote flash extracted with black background

White remote flash extracted with white background

White remote flash extracted with white background

Blue remote flash as shot

Blue remote flash as shot

Blue remote flash extracted with black background

Blue remote flash extracted with black background

Blue remote flash extracted with white background

Blue remote flash extracted with white background

I think a white background is going to be a tough proposition!

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  • I haven't figured out a way to not have it resting on something which causes a shadow, that would be ideal. The line does need to appear colorless. I've shot it on grey, but then everything is grey which just goes into the shadows too. It looks really flat and dull once extracted and loses the clear line monofilament look. Here's one with the flat dull grey look, and another in the alternate images I miraculously managed to get it to look clear but it was some sort of fluke and still mediocre. I don't remember how I shot it that day. riteangler.com/product/cobia-rig – Lisa B Aug 3 '20 at 20:26
  • If you make a loose coil similar to your example shot and either get rid of the weight or attach the hook at the weight, you can suspend from the weight point so the loose coil hangs freely down and maintains the coil shape. Hang the whole thing from something thin and transparent. Perhaps you could find some clear fluorocarbon fishing line (Sorry, couldn't resist). With it suspended, you can light from slightly behind to get specular reflections within the line. As far as colorless is concerned, you can try some colored backgrounds or light modifiers and desaturate if you don't like it. – user10216038 Aug 3 '20 at 22:08
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    If I understand your shadow problem you could use a pane of glass suspended a few inches above your (white?) background as a support for your hook, line, and sinker. You might even be able to backlight the arrangement enough to separate it from the background. Another thought is to shoot the arrangement on a light table- again to kill the shadows with a backlight. You'd then use a main light on the product. – BobT Aug 4 '20 at 0:48
  • I usually shoot them on a light table since the shadow issue is much less, but then the hooks, crimps, etc. all become silhouettes. Still painfully tedious to extract the clear line from the slightly off white background - I guess I'll never escape that chore with these things. I also have the issue of having to jury rig all my setups since the employer isn't willing to buy me much of anything. I wanted to get a non-glare pane of glass to shoot them on but got turned down on that too. – Lisa B Aug 18 '20 at 21:21
  • And, if I do successfully suspend it, the clear line still takes on the background color. – Lisa B Aug 18 '20 at 21:24
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I'd propose putting dark cards on either side of the fishing line which should help obscure the edges and make them characterized. Where precisely the dark cards would be put relies upon the arrangement you have.

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  • Not sure I'm comprehending what you suggest Zubida – Lisa B Aug 18 '20 at 21:43
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Get a light board that evenly illuminates. Shoot two shots locked off on tripod. One with the light board on. And one with the light board off and subject lights on. This will create a mask that you can use to lift your transparent line out while retaining white looking background. What you need to do is choose the correct exposure when shooting the illuminated light board so you get sufficient contrast between the light board and line. This can be further achieved by moving the line out on a further plane from the light board itself. The further away will allow more negative light in a dark room. You can use clear acrylic to add a solid plane for this.

This is hard to do with indirect light, but you could sub the light board for an evenly lit white backdrop.

The key here is a dark room and distance from the lit backdrop when shooting the mask layer.

Read more about this similar technique in my other post here: https://photo.stackexchange.com/a/65258/41105 The post is about silhouettes, but the same concepts are used to create good transparency masks.

As BobT states. You could probably get away with one shot if you use a second plane that puts the subject out in space from the backdrop. Technically you should be using negative flags for your subject instead of light to define your clear reflective subject (the fishing line). The acrylic plane will accept reflections in a single shot scenario so you will have to get tricky or hang your line. That is why i first suggested mask style double shot.

Happy shooting.

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  • Very interesting idea. I'll try the double shot. I've tried hanging the rigs, it's very difficult to get the components to all face the right direction. – Lisa B Aug 18 '20 at 21:15
  • Can you provide an example shot of what you are trying to achieve? You mentioned you have done some and are looking for better results? – cliffclof Aug 19 '20 at 7:07
  • Did you find a suitable solution? – cliffclof Sep 11 '20 at 6:43

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