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How Do You Control Glare and Reflections on Interior Windows?

Published: 14/11/2017

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Darren in Northern California says:

Is there a particular technique or tactic to reducing glare and reflections on interior windows during twilight photo shoots? I capture a few exposures (ambient and flash fill) and then brush them together in editing. Often times, the views beyond the window are obstructed by interior reflections.

Window glares and reflections can usually be controlled by where you put your flashes in relation to where the camera is. It's a matter of being aware of the angles and moving your flash(es) around so you remove the reflections. If you are not shooting extremely wide, there should be a flash placement where they won't reflect in the windows.

Scott Hargis's book Lighting Interiors covers this subject extensively in two different chapters; Chapter 4: Controlling Window Exposure, and Chapter 11: Advanced Reflections. Scott's book covers all aspects of how to use small manual flashes to light interiors.

Larry Lohrman

11 comments on “How Do You Control Glare and Reflections on Interior Windows?”

  1. I often get a frame exposed for the window view without flash and with interior lights off so I have a way to clean up reflections. If I'm doing a darken mode window pull and I have items inline with the camera that would be a bear to cut out in PS, I'll try to put any hot spot reflection someplace where it's easy to brush out with another frame like in the middle of a window pane. I can do those without having to draw a selection to keep from affecting adjacent parts of the image.

    In Scott Hargis' first video series he shows a room with windows on all of one side where he uses a direct flash to keep the hot spot small and sets up the flash so that spot is in a location that would be easy to fix. It's really easy to do and it's fast to fix if you know you have that problem. Reflective surfaces are always something that you need to look for when you choose your composition. I've had a couple of occasions where the best composition left me reflected in a picture on the wall or the front of an appliance. I set up to shoot the picture straight on and pasted it into my preferred composition using the Transform tool in PS. The same technique works if you have a nude painting in a master bedroom that you need to swap out. Sometimes I will physically swap the picture with something else in the house, but I've also had to photograph another painting in the home and drop it over the nude to make the image acceptable for the RE agent. Another time it was a large wedding photo that the sellers didn't want online. We couldn't find anything left in the house that fit the space so I grabbed a public domain image from the Library of Congress's Flickr photostream and pasted it over.

    Scott's book and videos are a great investment. The snippets I've seen of John McBay's RE editing course also look to be worth every bit of the cost. Don't be afraid to spend a few bucks on tutorials. One little technique can be worth several times the cost. The production value of tutorials you find on Lynda, Kelby or CreativeLive are much higher than what you usually find on YouTube, but even so, there are some good videos on YT as well.

  2. Are we talking glare from the flashes, or reflections from the interior of the room? Everyone seems to be reading it as glare from the flash, but from the actual question it looks more like actual general reflections in the glass.

  3. As mentioned above, I've struggled with reflections too, not of the flash itself, but of the interior walls (those to the left /right of the window or behind the camera) lit up by the flash and being reflected in the windows. And the usual solution is to use an ambient exposure blended in, but it consumes time in post.

  4. If we're talking about reflections of lamps and other continuous lights, then by the time you can see them reflected in windows it's too late to do much about it. Take an exposure with the lights off and blend it in, and/or set a card or flag to block the reflection.

  5. interior exposure: ALL LIGHTS ON
    ISO 200
    F11 - aperture priority
    evaluative metering
    5 frames - 1 stop apart
    WB for tungsten

    exterior windows: all lights off
    5 frames - 1 stop apart
    spot meter for windows/view/city lights
    WB for daylight

    Stack and blend interiors images in photomatix
    import into ligtroom

    grab the best exterior view and blended interior and bring into photoshop layers

    align images

    dark exterior on top and then use lighten mode to get rid of interior windows.

    then just use a layer mask to brush out the areas on the windows with the glare on them

    will post a video in the next few days

  6. For those of you that do need to hand-blend sometimes, or maybe even prefer to hand-blend, a quick-ish, easy way to do this is to hold the shift key, click on the corner of a window with your brush at 100% opacity, 100% flow, and 100% hardness, and while still holding shift, click on the corner directly above or beside until you have a square framing the window. Then all you have to do is touch up the corners with a smaller brush and then brush inside. Hand-blending is usually the most useful when you have French windows and doors, because the frames also cast shadows on the outside which can be pretty apparent. The main problem with this is having to zoom in and brush out the frames themselves so they aren't as dark as the rest of the exposure.

    Those with camranger or camfi (I have the latter) can also get a better angle on windows with flash. Those without, or who prefer not to use either for whatever reason, can either hand-blend as described above or use the timer. The problem is, the timer on some cameras will add up to increase the time you spend in the house if you have to do this constantly.

    Sometimes, I flash the windows twice from two different positions if I can't avoid a flash hot spot, so that in the first frame one window has a hot spot, but in the second frame a different window has one. That way, you have two frames with a hot spot in different windows and can use one to blend out the hot spot in the other, and vice versa.

  7. A circuar polarizer can also sometimes also help, though in my experience it can reduce your flash power, so if you feel compelled to use one it's probably best to do it without a flash.

  8. I think continuous light glares and reflections should appears although minimized and softened. I use a CPL for that. The reflections give a reference to the viewers that what they are seeing is real, without them we add a sense of unreality that, in my opinion, sometimes is not positive depending on the use that is going to be given to the photographs.

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