I put some burning candles on a cement floor, and I could see their reflections; so could my f1.8 50mm G lens.

Because of the dull background wall, and the floor and the wall together making a visible horizon, I am thinking of putting a chart paper beneath the candles and up the wall behind to make an 'infinity curve'.

Now, the problem is that the paper will prevent the reflections from occuring, and I don't have glass or other substance than paper.

To counter the problem I was thinking of spreading some water on the paper and then placing the candles on that. Another option would be to place transparent polythene on the paper. Would this work? Or does anyone have a better suggestion?

How about glazed paper and laminated paper? Which will be better?

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    Is the gist of this question how to get the reflections? I get a little lost with paper going up walls and all. – rfusca Mar 2 '12 at 16:54
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    It's about getting seamless and reflections on an extremely limited budget. – user2719 Mar 2 '12 at 22:32
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    You can revert my edit if you want. I think it's not good practice but I don't have any particular authority. The site automatically 1) marks the post as edited with a history of changes made and and when and 2) bumps the post to the top of the questions list whenever you make an edit, so I really think it's unnecessary. – mattdm Mar 3 '12 at 13:51
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    I agree with @mattdm - lets try not to 'EDIT:' (even though I'm sure I may have been guilty in the past of similar), especially for something that minor. If you are afraid it won't be noticed, make the edit and then make a comment. – rfusca Mar 4 '12 at 3:14
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    I'd say emphasize the part of the question that is most essential. If that happens to be part of an update or clarification, then, sure. (PS: we should move this discussion to meta.photo.stackexchange.com) – mattdm Mar 4 '12 at 5:10

A couple of ways to do this are to get bendable plexiglass or lexan and rig something to create the "infinity" bend. A couple of boards and clamps should do the job pretty well. That way you get the reflection and the "infinity" look. I favor black opaque plexi for this, but your tastes may be different.

A different approach is to do it as you are and put the background of your choice behind the candles. You have a line to patch in every frame, but it's just a line so patching might be easier than creating a special rig. Plexiglass can be a bit pricey.

  • Laminate sheeting (like Formica) is also good for this if you're careful with the bends—the newer stuff that's coloured all the way through is much more flexible than the old "classic" laminates used to be. But again, price is an issue, and we need to keep in mind that even the most basic equipment (a camera of some sort, a card and a computer) is really reaching for a lot of people in our worldwide community. – user2719 Mar 2 '12 at 22:28
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    For the cash-strapped with access: narrow (under 20"/50cm) countertop laminate strips may be available as cut-offs from your local kitchen remodeller at a bargain price. What they consider too short to be useful to them might be just about perfect for a small-product set for you. – user2719 Mar 2 '12 at 22:30
  • You have a line to patch in every frame, what do you mean by this statement? – Aquarius_Girl Mar 3 '12 at 11:12
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    There's a horizontal line where the surface the candles are standing on meets the vertical backdrop. If they are the same color, you can just use a clone tool to patch, being careful near the actual candles. But it's still not a huge post-processing nightmare like removing a phone line that runs through a bunch of trees and in front of houses. – Steve Ross Mar 3 '12 at 18:07
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    @Stan-- I've found that scraps are often available when people get plexi and trim to their desired size. What's left over is often free or nominal price. You just have to get lucky or enlist the help of some friendly at a store that sells the stuff. – Steve Ross Mar 3 '12 at 18:09

You're on the right track with the seamless background, but you'll never get polythene (that'd be cling wrap to North Americans) to lie flat enough. It'll look like candles, well, sitting on polythene, with all of the ripples and extra reflections. You'd still need to edit the photo heavily to make it work; you've just changed what part needs to be edited.

If you can find cellophane gift wrap (rolled rather than folded) somewhere in your area, that would be a much better alternative. It's a lot stiffer than polythene, so if you're careful to avoid creasing it, you'll get a good flat surface and clean reflections. All of the bargain stores here (which all source from cheap Asian wholesalers) carry a clear wrap, but if you can match the paper colour closely enough, you'll also be okay—there will still need to be some editing done, but it's just to get rid of a line. The reflections might not be as "clean" as with glass or polycarbonate sheeting (Lexan), but they'll be miles better than with polythene.

  • Thanks for the answer, you didn't talk about water on paper? – Aquarius_Girl Mar 3 '12 at 0:22
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    No, because it won't work well. In order for the paper to be wet enough to give a good reflection in the horizontal, there would be a very distinct colour and texture difference between the horizontal and vertical parts of the paper, and probably a visible and ragged tide line from swelling (if it's a heavyweight paper or card that is surface-sized rather than vat-sized). (I know that's pretty technical and may not make a lot of sense, but I'm an old watercolourist and graphic artist as well as a photographer and programmer. Most inexpensive papers are surface-sized and don't like to be wet.) – user2719 Mar 3 '12 at 2:58
  • Thanks very much for the insight, Stan. What do you program in? Just curious. Well, I am a C/C++ programmer. I'll look out the Lexan and see the price and all. – Aquarius_Girl Mar 3 '12 at 4:01
  • BTW, how about glazed paper? Will that work well? – Aquarius_Girl Mar 3 '12 at 4:17
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    @AnishaKaul —nothing anymore. I have some real short-term memory problems that make it nearly impossible. I've worked in C/C++, FORTRAN, several dialects of Basic, C#, Java, Ada, APL, Lisp, JavaScript/ActionScript, PHP, Lotus Formula Language and assembly or hex machine code on a number of processors, but anything bigger than "Hello, world" is too much for me to manage anymore. If seeing the big picture was as easy as pressing Ctrl-0 (like it is in Photoshop), then maybe.... – user2719 Mar 3 '12 at 4:18

If you can place your subject far enough away from the horizon, then your camera's field of view will solve the problem for you (the horizon will be cropped out of the frame). You can also accomplish this by adjusting your camera angle and the length of your lens (zooming in, or picking a longer (higher mm) prime).

Alternately, you could use a black table and a black backdrop, and the seam of the horizon won't be distinguishable.

Or, you could use whatever material this guy used in this image:

reflective table image

There's a long blog post describing the whole shoot, but he doesn't seem to talk about the material of the table.


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