Photographing Your Glasses (or: Shots of Shots)

Up a Level Photographing How-To-Shoot Common Errors

At some stage, virtually every collector wants to take a photo of their glasses.  Either they have one they want to sell on eBay, or they want to take a photo of an unusual glass so that they can send it to a fellow collector for comment.  So they set it up on the kitchen table, put the camera in flash mode and SNAP, they end up with a photo of something that is largely obliterated by reflected glare.  Shot glasses are the trickiest of little devils to capture on film or SmartMedia because they reflect EVERYTHING.  Here's some guidelines to help you get good shots of your shots: see also a series of articles in Bottles & Extras magazine if you'd like even more ideas, details, and examples.

First let's start with the camera.  There's a common misconception that quality of photograph is directly related to price of camera.  Unless you're a professional photographer this is largely untrue and it's possible to get a perfectly good photo with even a cheap disposable.  The most important camera-related factors to consider when photographing glasses are a) to make sure you're not so close to the glass that the camera can't focus on it and b) to put it on a sturdy support.  Most shots of shots are rendered useless because of an unsteady hand.  If your camera has a tripod mount then use it.  If it doesn't, then use the edge of a table or the back of a chair or a step ladder to support it when you take the photo.  

If you're considering buying a new camera and think you may be using it to document your glass collection, then you might want to bear the above in mind when making a selection:

a) Buy a camera with the ability to zoom in to take close-ups - a distance of about a six inches to a foot from a glass is probably about right.

b) Buy a camera with a threaded tripod mount.  If you don't have a tripod, you can pick one up at a reasonable price at almost any photo shop, or you might consider buying a used one on eBay or at a garage sale.  When it comes to tripods, the general rule is "the heavier the better', but even the cheapest and lightest can be modified (e.g. by hanging a bag of potatoes or a gallon jug filled with sand or water from their head) to improve stability.

Most people nowadays are buying digital cameras.  They're available in ever-increasing numbers of Giga-pixels, but even the cheapest and lowest-resolution will probably be adequate for your glass-recording needs.  Pictures taken at high resolution create monster 10 - 20 Megabyte-size files which are essentially useless for cataloging and most definitely for selling glasses online.  Most of the photos in the databases here are around 40 kb in size and their resolution is excellent.   

So much for the camera; now comes the tricky part.  A collector faces three basic problems when photographing glasses.  The first is their tendency to reflect light, the second is the fact that they're transparent and hence the background can become distracting or dominant, and the third is that the labels are white and can disappear against a light background. Some ideas about how to overcome these problems using example photographs are shown in the next few pagesBUT, before we begin, it's essential to wash the glass because fingerprint smudges and dust are just as likely to ruin a photo as a shaky hand.  OK, now on to the next page.

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