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2 Nov 2013

Today let's look at how to photograph a lighted lightbulb that is laying down with it's reflection on the glass surface. 

Some time ago, I had actually tried photographing it but was unable to achieve the right results that I desired. Somehow recently, I stumbled across a YouTube video by +Gavin Hoey from adoramaTV and tried out his method.

The picture above is the end result of my work on the lightbulb following pretty closely to what Gavin Hoey has shown in his YouTube video.  I was very satisfied with the results produced by following Gavin Hoey's video, as compared to my earlier attempt by just laying down the lighted lightbulb on a black glass surface (see below). Let's look at the key differences ...
1. It is more difficult to achieve an interesting perspective with the lightbulb laying down on the black glass surface as it is almost impossible to have the base insulator cap touching the glass surface due to the lightbulb holder.

2. I find that it is harder to achieve the glow around the lightbulb even having used the same technique of wrapping a white cardboard around the circumferences of the lightbulb.

3. There appears to be more noise from the light in the reflection which will make it harder to clean away using photoshop.

4. There are double reflection which is caused by the glass surface from the table top as well as the lightbulb.

5. As seen from the image, the reflection of the lightbulb is not clearly defined enough. Although this is real but it does not provide a picture that is surreal enough from photography perspective.

For those who are interesting to try out, I suggest referring to Gavin Hoey's video before doing so. Sometimes the best way to improve and learn is to learn from others :)

I'll just briefly provide a key summary on what is done as watching his video will give you a clearer idea:

Taking the Pictures

  • A clear lightbulb with the lighting power controllable through a dimmer is required.
  • A picture is taken with the lighted lightbulb standing vertically on a holder. 
    • The lightbulb is dimmed down to a fairly low level that is sufficiently bright enough to illuminate surface of the lightbulb and yet the lightbulb filament is not too overwhelm by the light power.
    • A piece of white cardboard is placed around the circumference of the lightbulb in a position slightly behind the lightbulb. This is to provide illuminated glow on the circumference surface of the lightbulb.
  • Another picture of the lightbulb's base insulator cap is taken using a 2nd unlighted lightbulb in a vertical position. The 1st lighted lightbulb will be left laying down to illuminate the picture taken.

Post-Processing Using Photoshop

  • The 1st picture of the lighted lightbulb: Light noise around the lightbulb filament and outside of the lightbulb are cleaned up.
  • The 2nd picture of the base insulator cap is cropped and patched onto the lighted lightbulb of the 1st picture so that a complete picture of the lighted lightbulb with the base insulator cap.
  • The completed picture is then rotated to a lying down position and a copy is duplicated.
  • The duplicated copy is then shifted to a reflection position below the laying lightbulb. Gaussian blur is applied to the reflection and partial of the reflection is erased for more realistic reflection look.

Please visit to see the higher resolution of the final lightbulb picture …