I am trying to shoot a reflection of a bearing in a round metal ball. The problem is that in order to photograph the reflection, I am always in the shot. I'm shooting on a white background, and I am trying to work out the best way to exclude as much of me as I can. The camera lens would be fine as I could easily edit it out in post.

I was thinking of poking the lens through a hole in a large sheet. Will that work?

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    Put the camera on a self timer and leave the room ;) – Matt Grum Mar 19 '15 at 16:38
  • I'm going to try to retitle this, because I want others to be able to find it. It is a good question about photographing reflective surfaces – SailorCire Mar 19 '15 at 18:04
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    take a look at this question : photo.stackexchange.com/q/30853/6789 – DHall Mar 19 '15 at 18:04
  • I'm going to roll back the edit. Answers which just apply to flat surfaces aren't helping the original poster, and as lined above, we already have questions covering mirrors. If you disagree, let's discuss on Meta. – mattdm Mar 20 '15 at 20:02

10 Answers 10


Use a telephoto lens, positioning you and camera several feet/meters away. Your reflection will be much smaller.

Can also use a mirror, which will effectively do same thing: position mirror on one side, then you and camera on other to reduce your reflection. Again, a telephoto lens and distance are your friends.

Based on the comments, I will explain the mirror application further: With mirrors, the distance you stand away from the mirror is the same as the distance which you must focus on the object in the mirror.

From the Physics Classroom:

For plane mirrors, the object distance (often represented by the symbol do) is equal to the image distance (often represented by the symbol di). That is the image is the same distance behind the mirror as the object is in front of the mirror. If you stand a distance of 2 meters from a plane mirror, you must focus at a location 2 meters behind the mirror in order to view your image.

This is often used in eye doctor offices for eye exams. An eye exam requires the patient to read a standard chart at a distance of 5 meters. But often, the facility does not have an examining room long enough to test distance vision, so instead, they have a mirror 2.5 meters in front of patient, and an eye chart on the wall behind the patient. Thus, they get the combined distance of 2x the room (patient to front mirror+front mirror to eye chart) for a total of 5m.

Therefore, by using a mirror, you can effectively reduce the overall size of your own reflection, without requiring significant physical distance between you and the spherical object.

The mirror can also help you to position where your reflection is located within the object. With mirrors, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection, allowing you to determine the position of your now smaller reflection where ever you like within the reflective sphere. Changing your approach angle to the mirror will change the position of your reflection within the sphere, perhaps off the side where it less noticeable.

  • I don't quite understand how the mirror is supposed to help here. Unless you're talking about a one-way mirror, of course. – Christopher Creutzig Mar 20 '15 at 9:32
  • @ChristopherCreutzig if you take a photo of a thing in a mirror it appears further away than it would otherwise so you will also appear smaller to it. – Holloway Mar 20 '15 at 10:28
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    Ah, so the idea is “if your room is too small to get far away, use a mirror to create that distance.” Fair enough. – Christopher Creutzig Mar 20 '15 at 14:03
  • This are some interesting options, but I see a cupple of drawbacks with theese. 1) Increasing the distance will change the composition. We don't know if we are photographing jewlery, with a macro lens for example or a metal ball with a background, etc. Everytime changing the lens distance to an object we affect the composition. 2) Probably we just have one lens, lets say a prime lens. 3) Using an aditional mirror could produce a gohst image. But as the case is a sphere, the image produced gets reduced verey rapidly, therefore it is a viable option. :o) – Rafael Mar 20 '15 at 18:00

I'm thinking in several options:

  1. Put a timer on the camera, and "duck and hide"
  2. Use a remote trigger, and just hide.
  3. Point the lights away from you and the camera. You most likely are using diffused light. If you are using a softbox you can use a grid so you don't spill the light on you or the camera.

If you are using an umbrella you can position 1 or 2 black boards to project a shadow on the zone you are in. So, just hide in the shade.

  1. Build a light tent. You can punch the front face of the tent with a hole so only the lens is poking into the tent. So you don't hide at all. :0)

The option you choose depends on the situation. On a studio, on location, with live action, etc.

  • My immediate reaction to OP was light tent. This has the advantage of hiding all the equipment and providing diffuse light from outside the tent, that itself helps remove reflections. In addition it is possible to use material that is tightly stretched over the lens front (in a filter holder for example) to remove the image of the camera. – Chris Walton Mar 20 '15 at 14:24

If you have a higher budget, or access to a room with one, and the shot wouldn't be spoiled by re-location, you could use a one-way mirror to hide yourself and your camera from view.

Just make sure to turn the flash off, or you'll spoil the trick.


Note: this was answered before the question was edited to remove the "mirror" in the title

How to shoot a reflection in a highly reflective surface (mirror, ball bearing, et cet) without me appearing in it?

In case of a flat mirror then there's another way using tilt-shift lens

Another use of shifting is in taking pictures of a mirror. By moving the camera off to one side of the mirror, and shifting the lens in the opposite direction, an image of the mirror can be captured without the reflection of the camera or photographer.


...You can use shift on the lens to shoot into a mirror without—shades of Dracula!—you or the camera appearing in the mirror. It’s a handy trick for shooting interior decor, as well as for artistic photography of still lifes [sic] with mirrors. Handy for some product photography, too, as it lets you literally shoot around objects.

How it works: If you keep a camera parallel to a mirror, but off to the side, and then shift the lens sideways toward the mirror, the picture will appear as if taken head-on. Objects in front of the mirror, though, will look rearranged from a head-on perspective. Crazy!

How to do it: Exactly the way it sounds. Set up the composition (a tripod is a near-must), then step the camera to one side or the other until you and it are out of the reflection. (You can sometimes also do this by lowering the camera and shifting the lens upward.) See which new view in the mirror looks better in your image—left, right, or up. In the case of a very wide-angle T/S lens and/or very large mirror, you may not be able to shift enough to dematerialize yourself.


Of course you can also use a normal lens the correct the perspective in a photo editing software, but the result's quality may not be as good as a tilt-shift lens

  • Does that work with a reflective ball? – Christopher Creutzig Mar 20 '15 at 9:33
  • No, but it works for mirror and highly reflective surface. Note that "ball" is not a "surface" – phuclv Mar 20 '15 at 9:47
  • True that a “ball” is strictly speaking not a “surface”, but a ball (which the question was about) automatically comes with a sphere (the surface of said ball), and that may be (and in this case, apparently is) reflective. I somehow doubt that the approach works with a reflective sphere (which the question is about), unless there is a direction from which the camera is hidden from its self-reflection by some other obstruction (such as the bearing in this case). – Christopher Creutzig Mar 20 '15 at 9:53
  • Yes, my answer is only applicable to flat surface. For spherical objects there is another duplicated question – phuclv Mar 20 '15 at 10:00

Poking a hole into a large sheet works, but damages the sheet. Instead, use two white sheets that are held together by clamps. The space in between two clamps acts like a hole, without actually being a hole in one sheet.

Unless the material you're using is unusually thick and opaque, wear light clothing when doing this. A dark object (i.e. a black T-shirt) behind the sheets may "shine" through enough to show up in the final exposure. The silhouette may be unnoticeable on the camera's LCD but may become visible after manipulating levels in the RAW file.


Since nobody's mentioned this, the time-honored method for creating a lightprobe image from a chromed ball bearing is to take two images of the ballbearing at right angles (90-degree), and then unwarp, rotate, and merge them, using portions of each image to erase the camera/tripod/photographer as well as replace the lower-quality pixels from the edge of the sphere with higher-quality ones from the center. You don't want to shoot 180-degree images, because the places of the pixels you'd want to patch with would be more or less identical in both images.

I would probably use the commercial Flexify plugin for Photoshop (as in this blog entry), and do a mirrorball to equirectangular mapping on both the images, then rotate one in Hugin/PTGui, combine them using masks and layers in Photoshop/Gimp to erase the tripod/camera, and then map it back to a mirrorball, and then mask the mirrorball back into one of the original images.

But then, I do equirectangular 360x180s all the time, and this doesn't seem like a lot of post-processing to me. YMMV. Drastically.


Another possible solution is to spray the object with water mist or something similar to cut down on the reflections. Obviously this will lessen all reflections, not just unwanted ones, but this may look acceptible as well.


A few options:

Use a softbox or diffuser panel of the shape you want to appear on the reflective surface. Make sure that ambient exposure falls to black and that the light source is at the distance that creates the reflection you want. You should see only the reflection of the light source. If you need shadowless, consider a huge softbox suspended just above the subject, as if it is overcast sky.

If you prefer shooting in ambient light, consider a light tent (cheap on eBay) and shoot through the hole (tripod, self timer.) Then edit the tiny lens reflection out in photoshop or equivalent.

Consider buying and reading "Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting" It covers everything you want to know.


In addition to the self-timer / remote shutter suggestion, there are several variations of product along these lines that might help minimize the "footprint" of the camera itself:



Obviously, you could make something like this yourself out of white or black card stock, too.


If the reflection is supposed to look 'natural' (meaning showing an actual room like a gallery or the like) the least I do is that I usually 'hide in black' – that means at least I wear black clothes and if possible I try to place the tripod in front of a dark corner (could be a shadow from some other larger object like an open door or a cupboard).

If I really have the time I additionally wrap the camera and tripod in black cloth – that makes it much more difficult to identify the camera and tripod in the picture.

Additionally I use the tele zoom and the self timer and try to hide in some corner.

If on the other hand the the reflection may look 'un-natural', a light tent or the white-sheet-trick plus additional postproduction work would be my choice.

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