Sunday, June 6, 2010

Clock - Specular Highlight

A clock photographed to illustrate Specular highlight control
Clock - Specular highlight control

I was experimenting with the camera last night and decided to work on controlling specular highlights on images. The specular highlight is simply the reflection of the light source on the subject being lit. Creating  a specular highlight itself is a pretty straight forward process. The complexity lies in controlling the specular highlight in way which adds to an image. The "Specular Highlight" area in the image above is the glass area of the clock above 9, 8 and 7.  Read on to find out how I lit the image and created the specular highlight.

Since the specular highlight is the reflection of the light source, a small light source will produce a smaller specular highlight. However, this specular highlight will be a lot brighter because all that light comes from a small "point" light source. The down side of this is the fact that the specular highlight area on the image will be blown out on the histogram. An example of a point light source would be a strobed zoomed at 105mm.

A soft box on the other hand will produce a much better highlight as it is a larger light source. The specular highlight will be well contained in terms of tonal range as the light source is much bigger than a point source.

How I lit the shot above

I placed a Canon 430 EX II next to the clock and lowered the power to 1/32 and zoomed out to 24mm. I pointed the flash at the ceiling above the clock so that the reflection would be visible on the clock face. The wall behind the clock was white and I placed a white foam core board on camera right for fill light.

If I took this shot again I would probably increase the power of the flash to 1/16 to create a slightly stronger specular highlight. I'd still want the numbers below the highlight to be visible though.

Shutter Speed - 1/60
Aperture - f4.0
ISO - 100
Focal Length - 96mm
Lens - EF 24-105mm f4.0 L IS USM
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