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Photography/difficulty with shiny black helmet

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Question
I am having all kinds of trouble taking good photographs of an autographed Baltimore Ravens football helmet that I'm trying to sell. It's black, very shiny and the autographs are in silver. No matter what angle, flash/no flash, indoor/outdoor lighting I use I get reflections of some sort that make it look bad. I am not a pro photographer but I have several years of experience taking pictures of similar items but this is the most trouble I've ever had. I have a new digital camera that's much better than my previous model but it hasn't helped.

Any tips or advice would be appreciated.

Answer
Shiny black is the gateway to hell, no matter what the object. Been there done that.

The glare you are getting is simply a reflection of your light sources. It has nothing to do with your camera.

Two ways to deal with it.

1/ Since it is a reflection of the lights one thing to do is to broaden and diffuse the light so there won't be spots. For example, an easy thing to try is shooting the helmet outdoors on a very overcast--a day when you can't see the sun. No sun no hotspots.

Alternatively you can place the helmet in somthing like a large light tent. With the helmet inside the tent and the lights outside you'll get a soft smooth light that will give you abetter image. I don't like this method too much as the white sides of the tent reflect in the helmet and fade the black in places.

2/ Another way to go is a trick that might work, that is reducing the size of the light source reflection by changing the distance between the helmet and source. Place the helmet on your background on the floor. Use one or two very focused "tight" spotlights--focusable halogens or whatever. Place them on tall lightstands and as high as you can, then point them at the helmet. Now you will get glare spots but they will be very small and if you can move the lights around you can get the glare spots to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Then if you can, use the clone tool in Photoshop to reduce the spots even more. But don't get rid of them completely as that will take the "shine" off the helmet.  

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Steve Meltzer

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I am a professional photographer and I've been shooting for newspapers, magazines, commercial clients and artists for over 30 years. I have shot stock photography for dozens of years and in 1977 created West Stock (Seattle, WA) which was one of the first to produce stock photo CDs and later one of the first to establish an online stock photo slaes site. I have a new book on digital photography "PHOTOGRAPHING ARTS, CRAFTS AND COLLECTIBLES (Lark Books, 2007)which is available at Amazon.com, eBay.com and in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. I have another book, CAPTURE THE LIGHT which will be puiblished in November, 2008. I write 20-30 feature articles and columns for regional and national publications a year. My education includes studying with photographers like Cornell Capa, Duane Michels and Oliver Gagliani (from the Ansel Adams Center.)

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