Hello Ladies & Gentlemen:

***i would like to thank the many readers of this column which as mentioned previously, is designed to help you. It has been my goal to share advice freely to benefit your picture making experience with the hopes that you will excel in situations that in the past created difficulties for you. 

***I MUST ALSO VERY POLITELY MENTION HERE THAT I AM SIMPLY UNABLE TO REPLY TO THE REQUESTS FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION PEOPLE DESIRE FROM ME. AS THEY SAY….THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY HOURS AVAILABLE IN A DAY FOR ME TO INVEST IN REPLIES WHILE ADDRESSING THE CONSTANT DEMANDS OF THE BUSINESS.  I am grateful to all of you for your interest in my writings and will continue to do so and encourage you to visit my site when convenient for you.  It is my sincere wish that you always get something out of my teachings which will help you advance in your picture making sessions. 🙂

Let’s Get Started Now On This Months Article Shall We !  🙂

I would like to share with you a concern that a reader who I shall name Jim, expressed in regards to recording imagery when photographing through glass.  Apparently, he was attempting to record jewelry and other items including tropical fish in a tank.  He also advised me that he has no professional studio equipment to record these items with and has completely given up on any further attempts to produce good, solid photographs due to poor lighting and enormous reflection problems. Difficulties in dealing with the above can be dealt with quite efficiently with an understanding of the characteristics of light and background control.  I made further inquiries with Jim and learned that he had only one portable electronic flash unit to work with and no other supplemental lighting.  Let’s take a look at  the aquarium example and address that initially however, this method of light control will work very well on both of the above scenarios. 

 In the first instance, he positioned his camera so it was parallel to the aquarium and filled the viewfinder with a portion of the side of the tank.  His flash was placed on top of his camera and when he tripped the shutter, the glass of the tank became terribly overexposed and washed out.  He then placed his flash off to the side of his camera, depressed the shutter and similar difficulties in lighting prevailed.  This incident reminded me of a similar situation I was faced with many years ago while doing catalogue photography.

After producing a few polaroid images which contained lighting distortion, I came to the conclusion that the light itself must be repositioned and altered with some type of diffusion material to create a softer and wider coverage when the flash was fired. I began experimenting with various items such as Kleenex, white cotton sheeting sized to the dimensions of the flash head itself and other similar, related products.  Regrettably, they did not provide me with the quality of light I was trying to achieve.  After further consideration, I came to the conclusion that affixing a piece of white Bristol board roughly 5 x 7″  to the side of the flash head, and allowing the Bristol board to touch the glass, bent on an angle, it would allow me the benefit of obtaining 2 qualities of light from one light source being a harder more specular light and a softer diffused light emitting from the white bounce card.  The Bristol board more or less acted like a soft box of light while the hard flash light going directly through the glass would create excellent specular highlights where needed.  I was now ready to begin a new series of testing procedures and much to my surprise, I had achieved beautiful widespread lighting and very high quality imagery with only the basic of lighting gear.   At the time I was creating this imagery in the 1980’s, I was using my film cameras to do so.  I mention this because in the case of the aquarium imagery, there was a light placed on top of the tank which was a tungsten light source of fairly low wattage.  To expose correctly, two things had to be considered.  I had to slow the shutter speed down to 1/4 second to allow the film to “see” the effect of the tungsten light.  ***Fast shutter speeds eliminate the effect of tungsten lighting while slow shutter speeds allow your camera the advantage of properly recording them.  You can do a simple test in your living room to see these effects I am detailing here. Set your camera on a tripod with an electronic flash in your home and record a couple of pictures at shutter speeds of roughly 125 & 250 second, then decrease the shutter speed to roughly a 1/2 second or perhaps even slower.  You will notice that the slower shutter speed image will make your living room lights much brighter with a warm toned glow to them as opposed to the imagery recorded at higher shutter speeds.  This can be used to your advantage when you are recording imagery at night time or in low lit areas. I indicate that 2 things had to be taken into consideration while utilizing this technique. The second variable was to “bracket” my exposures meaning I would follow my initial exposure setting, then advance to the next frame and overexpose it by one full stop, then advance to the next frame and underexpose this image by one full stop.  ***This is something that I would highly discourage to all people who at this time are still using film but when used only as a learning venture, I do support it.  Let me explain……….if you were to purchase a 36 exposure roll of film and bracket each image you are interested in photographing, this would equate to receiving only 12 different picture situations from a 36 exposure roll of film. Depressing your shutter release 3 times for each image drastically reduces the amount of useable images on a roll of film.  This bracketing habit was adopted by countless photographers over many years increasing their overall expenses in image production and should be normally avoided. The thought process of yesteryear was to make certain that out of the 3 exposures produced, one had to be deemed correct.  Photographers made reference to this technique as “creating insurance imagery”.  Even today, digital photographers should heed my advice on recording multiple clicks of the shutter when recording the same scene. While there is no film expense when using a digital camera, there is wear on the shutter mechanism. Digital shutters are usually rated for X amount of shutter clicks and then the shutter system system expires.  Frequently, people have been advised to simply purchase a brand new camera when shutter difficulties occur as opposed to returning the camera to the manufacturer and having an entirely new shutter assembly installed.  It can be an expensive venture either way and a simple call to the repair facility will determine which direction you feel most comfortable with pursuing.


  An enjoyable exercise for you partake in  would be to gather your camera, a couple of lenses and head out at night time photographing city scapes after the sun has set.   Using slow shutter speeds will permit store windows which initially seem dimly lit to glow with a much brighter inviting appeal. Experiment with your exposures and refer to the technical data that is affixed to each digital image when viewing them later at your home.  Keep a mental note of the successful exposure settings and implement them as a priority during your next expedition. Furthermore, beautiful colours of light from neon signs etc are stunning when the streets are wet from a recent rainfall!  I have spent hours aiming my camera at the pavement and became completely engrossed in the patterns of light found in street puddles.

***Try to gather a small group of friends with you when creating imagery at night for your own personal safety*** !!!!!!!!     Although unlikely, I would hate to see anything bad happen to anyone who is inspired by my advice/photo adventure opportunities.

With My Good Wishes Extended,

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio Ottawa