I'm having trouble getting a good photo of a round base vase. It has a shiny round bulbous base with a decal which is being obscured by reflections. I've tried using a number of lights, umbrellas, soft boxes, circular polariser, black cloth, white cloth, but im having no luck.

Does anyone have a good solution besides photoshopping it? If it comes to it, I was going to stitch two photos together with different light arrangements. But that would still be tricky for me, most likely more work compared to arranging lights once I know how, especially since I will be taking shots of several similar items.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you maybe add a photo/diagram of your light set-up and/or a photo of the base vase? This would make it easier for people to answer your question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 10:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will work on that, but it was very simple, camera on same hight as vase looking directly at it, with black cloth under and all around the setup (vase, camera, lights). I tried putting between 1 and 3 lights in just about all conceivable positions with no luck. The polariser definitely helped with one light at a time, mainly as point light sources. Cheers \$\endgroup\$
    – Jodes
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the vase wall is thin enough you could consider using a light inside the vase. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not very simple or you wouldn't need to ask the question :-) - ie things can look simple and can seem similar to what has been done before but catch you out in some way. Seeing a photo may greatly help someone to help you. Or may not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried the technique described here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7487/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 1:06

2 Answers 2


It is probably the case that the decal is giving off diffuse reflections (spreading light in all directions) whereas the vase is giving off specular reflections, i.e. bouncing the light straight off in the opposite direction to the source.

The specular reflections are overpowering the diffuse reflection from the decal, causing it not to be visible.

If you can see the lightsource (or anything lit by your lightsource) reflected in the vase when looking through the lens, then you are going to get specular reflections. You need to find an angle where this doesn't happen. The decal, being diffuse will reflect some light into the camera regardless of the direction it is lit from. The vase, being specular will reflect light past the camera, missing it entirely, if you light from the right direction.

You may need a lot more control over your lights to prevent spill and light reflecting back off walls etc. if you shoot in the largest space available that will prevent the walls becoming a problem. Then it should be a case of masking the light so you can't see it reflected in the vase when looking through the viewfinder.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. Being a spherical base base, the only time the lights didnt produce specular reflections via the vase was having the lights behind the vase. But this meant the front of the vase wasn't lit! I used back cloth surrounding the vase in all directions to fix the problem of spill reflections from walls etc. I think I might investigate GIMP's scripting capabilities so I can automate stitching of two or three photos with one light in two or three positions for items arranged in identical ways, I will report back on results, might be a while lol. Any other ideas are very welcome \$\endgroup\$
    – Jodes
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 13:53

You probably need a more diffuse light source.

Bounce a flash in the ceiling. Bascially you get a huge reflector, much larger than any umbrella.


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