I want to make some grunge maps (surface imperfection overlay graphics for 3D rendering) by photographing flat (not round) real-world surfaces. However, when I try to take pictures of reflective surfaces like windows and countertops that have fingerprints and scratches, I end up lots of ugly reflections of the photographer (me).

Here is an example of a grunge map https://www.poliigon.com/texture/1596

Is there some kind of studio set up that allows you to take pictures of surface imperfections without reflections or transparency interfering? I have a DSLR, but I don't really think that the camera or lens should matter too much.


2 Answers 2

  • Put your glass vertically so that you can see through it (A).

  • Put a piece of black cloth far away behind the glass (B).

  • Put a flash on top of the glass, almost (C).

  • Use some cardboard or some reflective surface so the light only illuminates the glass (D).

  • Put the camera out of the light. The light from the flash is much greater than the light coming from your direction and overpowers the reflection (E).

Take a look at this setup. It is similar, the only difference is that in this case you DO want a dirty glass so in this case, you illuminate only the glass: Low-key photo suggestions for fish?

  • You do not need a diffused light, but the idea is the same.

enter image description here

  • Make a diagram or something? You explanation is a little bit confusing.
    – 10 Replies
    Nov 27, 2016 at 19:40
  • 1
    You did not make your homework and check the other post. Ok, I did mine. n_n
    – Rafael
    Nov 27, 2016 at 20:10
  • The diagram helps a lot. I will try it out.
    – 10 Replies
    Nov 27, 2016 at 20:12

One traditional way to avoid reflections is with a shift [or tilt/shift] lens. The camera is parallel to but off axis with the reflective surface. Then the lens is shifted toward the mirror to capture a straight on view.

More about the technique here. And how to build your own here for the adventurous.

  • Oh wow! Thats pretty cool. I will look into this. Its a bit more expensive than a lighting setup, but would be cool to include in my arsenal of lenses
    – 10 Replies
    Nov 29, 2016 at 2:21
  • @10Replies A medium or large format film camera with a bellows is another option for achieving the same sort of photographic effect.
    – user50888
    Nov 29, 2016 at 2:38
  • 1
    Yeap, good tip ben rudges!. @10 Replies, keep in mind that this is to complement. The light setup not only is to get rid of the reflection, but to increase the texture of your imperfections.
    – Rafael
    Nov 29, 2016 at 12:16
  • If you have pixels to spare (i.e., don't mind cropping), you can try this out with just a wide angle lens, without any shift capability or shift adapters. Setup your lighting as you would, and point your camera perpendicular to the surface. But offset your camera so that the area you want to capture is offset to one side in the viewfinder, or towards a corner, such that the camera's reflection is not in the crop area. Then after taking the image, just crop the photo to that area. Effectively, that is the same result as a shifted lens.
    – scottbb
    Nov 29, 2016 at 13:06
  • @scottbb But then I wouldn't wind up with new awesome optics.
    – user50888
    Nov 29, 2016 at 14:01

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