Remove all Reflections Using Double-Polarized Light
How do you get rid of every single annoying reflection, even from glass and metal? Product photographers are particularly interested in having the ability to completely control all reflections from the objects they need to photograph.
The answer is polarized light. I’m not just talking about putting a polarizer on your camera lens; that’s only half of the battle. To totally rid all reflections, you also need to have your light source emit only polarized light.
Annoying reflections that obscure your subject
Everyone is familiar with the issue of not being able to photograph a shiny subject without having it partly obscured by lighting reflections. Most photographers are aware of using circular polarizing filters over their lenses to minimize reflections.
Some subjects seem to defy every effort to totally rid reflections off of them, no matter how carefully you adjust the lighting or the shooting angle. The shot above shows an annoying halo of reflected light from a circular artificial light source (at between 2 and 3 o’clock) without using a polarizer.
The image above shows a typical circular polarizer. Years ago, you could only buy “linear” polarizers, which turned out to mess up the autofocus/exposure meters on DSLR cameras. They started making circular polarizers, which fixed this issue. These filters really help to minimize reflections, such as from pond surfaces or windows.
Using a polarizer filter over the camera lens
As seen above, a polarizer over the lens was rotated to minimize the reflections, and it really helps. But there is still an unwanted reflection at about 2 o’clock on the outer dial of the watch. There's also a sheen over much of the face of the watch that I'd like to eliminate.
Double-polarized light: no more reflections!
In the shot above, I placed a polarizer over the light source itself, being careful to stop any light leaks coming from around the edges of the polarizer sheet. I made sure that there were no other lights on in the room. I then rotated the lens polarizer filter until I observed the removal of any reflections.
You can buy inexpensive polarizer film sheets (‘linear’ polarizers will work for this application) to cover larger lights or flash units. Just make sure you don’t have any light leaks, because they can cause reflections. If you want to use multiple lights, you may have to ensure that each light polarizer is rotated individually so that the polarization is in the same direction.
If you didn’t know this little trick, it could drive you crazy trying to get rid of reflections. Double-polarized light can seem like magic, and drastically improve shots of things such as jewelry.