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Tabletop Photography All Done With Mirrors

Mirror Mirror – Creative Lighting for Table Top Photography 

In this video, Allan Walls of Allan Walls Photography walks you through the process, using affordable materials as well as professional equipment, of getting “an image of an object that is reflected in the surface that it‘s sitting on.” The goal is to get a reflection so clear and realistic that it appears as though there are two objects in the picture. This is a fun experiment that you can do at home with great results. 

Allen begins our video with a list of equipment, some of which are affordable items that you can buy at your local thrift or discount store. You’ll find these items listed in the instructions below. 

Next comes the setup. Allen wrestles with setting up the difficult and inflatable Godox softbox and uses a C-stand to suspend it. He leads you through all the steps of attaching the diffusion material, the flash into the adaptor, and the box onto the stand. 

Allen then demonstrates how to make an inexpensive backdrop, using a cheap curtain rod, PCV pipes, cheap light stands, wrapping paper, and clamps. One tip here is to apply gorilla tape to the rail so that a PCV pipe can fit over it and stay. Also, Allen shows how to screw the clamps onto the top of the light stands, so they face up. You can then run the rod through a tube of wrapping paper, and then rest the rod onto the clamps. He shows how to attach a plexiglass rod to the bottom end of the paper to flatten the wrapping paper out as it hangs. Advice is given to her from placing small clamps at the end of the roll to keep from rattling to extending the stand as high as you can and then adjusting. 

Time next to begin setting the lights. Set your speed gun in Slave 1 mode, attach the flash to the top of the small stand, and position it in the center using the grid to create a ball of light against the backdrop, creating a teardrop shape. His tip to you here is to use Velcro to hang the light from the rigging, and have always a box of Velcro available for such purposes. 

Next, we show you how to set up the shot. He instructs you to place the table in front of the light and to place a long, full-length mirror lengthwise on the table. Make sure the frame is removed. Twice polish the mirror, so it is invisible in the image. Consider vacuuming the glass if it will help remove hairs. Allen here advises placing the softbox over the mirrored surface, “about a foot to the front edge of the softbox in front of the camera.” Angle it so it does not shed light on the backdrop. Angle it three or four degrees toward the front. 

Allen gives good, precise tips on how to position the camera to make the mirrored effect work. For example, Allen advises you to adjust the length of the small stand for the camera so that it will not come up past the edge of the table. He says that you can move the camera back beyond the table and lower it just beneath the surface of the table if you need. You won’t see the table but will get the surface image that you need. Details are given as well for triggering the flashes, use of a cable release, and placement of the subject. 

Our tutorial video ends with taking test shots. Allen shares with you his initial settings of the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. He advises to white balance as normal, and to shoot in raw and clean up in Photoshop, ALWAYS REMOVE THE CAMERA LENS, turn vibration control off, use manual focus mode, and do not use flashes on for the first shot. After that, try it with flash. Adjust lighting as needed so that the bottom of the subject is lit enough. 

The result is a clean, professional shot that yields no delineation between the bottom of the object and its reflection.