Product Lighting – How to Best Light Products Like Glass and Steel

2 min

When filming around glass or steel products, the reflections of light can create havoc for the director and lighting specialist (if the production could afford such an individual). The wrong choices in lighting can cause refraction, reflection, and can even distort the setting or actors on the set. Sometimes the effects can be managed by controlling the angle of the camera on a particular scene, but in most cases, this is either not practical, or it can be downright impossible.

Controlling the light around certain glass or steel focal points is crucial to a quality scene and therefore, choosing the right kind of light source or surrounding can mean the difference between a positive final product and one that you will have to tweak and edit in the final production stages. There are some options available to deal with highly reflective surfaces like glass and steel.

The light box


The first and most basic tool in any lighting professional’s arsenal is the light box. This structure can come in many shapes and sizes, but at its basic core, it contains light which has been diffused by the walls of the light box by some opaque material.  The light source, usually but not always, originates outside of the structure walls.  This diffusion allows the director or the photographer the ability to control the illumination surrounding the product within the box.

Using this tool does limit the filming area to be the isolated portion of the area within the box itself. The light box is, for all intents and purposes, a box, usually in white fabric, and containing lights or allowing penetration of light into the center without the caustic effects of direct light.

Light boxes do have a number of limitations, but they can also be designed to be much larger than traditional photography light boxes. The question about its use then becomes whether or not it is practical in larger formats. When the scene requires a larger size light box, then chimera lights might be a better option.

Chimera lights

Chimera fixtures have been a staple in the filmmaking industry for years because of the number of options and versatility that they offer most filmmakers. Direct light, even when it is angled away from glass or steel, is still hard light and reflects in ways that create nightmare situations for directors to overcome. Chimera’s are designed to diffuse hard illumination into soft light patterns.

Soft light does not reflect nearly as much or as severely as hard light, which gives it its appeal to directors and photographers when working with glass or highly reflective steel. In order to see this in practice, the next time you view a television show or movie that is filmed in or around glass or steel, notice how clean the scene appears. Naturally, we would expect this to come across as reflective and distorted, but that effect can dampen and destroy many takes.

With chimera lighting, when you have the control needed to diffuse the existing light into soft light, you can control the amount of or severity of reflection or refraction, giving you a cleaner shot and a more professional appearance to your film, as well as consistency between scenes that utilize glass and steel and those that don’t.

Lighting is one of the most important elements in preparing for a film shoot and as such, it’s important to have a dedicated and experienced professional design the lighting layout.


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Rick Davis


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