Glitter is a common commodity in so many regards, whether it’s accessorizing a craft project or adding glimmer to fancy makeup! Glitter is prevalent in many ways, and finds itself creeping into the art of photography well.
As photographers, we are intended to capture things as we see them, which isn’t always the case with a camera and lens. Remember, these tools are not your eyes. Here is our guide to ensuring the glitter in your frame appears to be as sparkly as it needs to!
The Trouble with Glitter
The caveat with glitter is that glitter only registers as such when it is shiny or sparkly. You really need to ensure that its properties are well defined in your images, otherwise it is uncertain what the product is.
Equally so, once you’re able to show its glittery properties another problem arises. Because of the reflective nature of glitter, it is prone to overexposure. Overexposure is when your image is far too bright, to the point where information gets lost in the shot. You will see everything either being a bright white with no detail, or ‘hot spots’ which are sections of the image with no detail. You can tell there is no detail because when you zoom into those sections, there is quite literally no information written other than a stark white.
Worry not, we have remedies for these issues!
The biggest secret to capturing glitter is light! Because we want to capture how glitter appears to the human eye, we have to take advantage of its most known property- reflection. Glitter only ‘works’ when light hits it in a certain way. Using this principle, we can assess that the right light will equal good glitter photographs. For the most part, glitter gleams best with a direct light source, so have your subject using or wearing the glitter constantly adjust their position to ensure the light hits directly. If you need to use artificial light, place it directly over your glitter subject.
Now, as we mentioned above, on the same token this property causes glitter to be easily overexposed. As such, you’re going to want to shoot darker than you originally intended to ensure that you can still see all of the beautiful details, such as the individual glitter grains. It is suggested to have a bit of a narrower aperture, a deeper depth of field, as this both focuses more on the glitter grains and darkens the frame a wee bit. Shoot at a lower ISO to reduce noise and artifacts (which will especially make glitter look terrible on camera) and a bit of a faster shutter speed to ensure all is nicely dark.
To bring the lightness back in (because you don’t necessarily want a super dark photo), be sure to shoot your images in RAW mode. RAW is a file format that records completely uncompressed images. When a photograph gets recorded as a file format, it becomes compressed to fit within that format and you may lose some quality or some forms of editing capability. RAW contains the direct image data from the camera sensors with no loss of quality and alteration. The lack of file alteration allows significantly more control over large editing adjustments such as overblown highlights or an underexposed image.
You can already take a gander as to why using RAW mode for glitter is a great idea- you can lighten a dark image without quality loss or save some of the highlights that may have accidentally become overexposed anyways.
Three Ways to Use Glitter in Your Photography
Glitter is most commonly used in three ways: as something to blow to create a dust cloud, as a property within makeup or a glitter product, or as a subject itself (especially in Macro photography). In all cases, light is still a prevalent requirement to ensure glitter appears as such.
Here are some examples of ways you can have fun using glitter in your photography work:
1. Glitter Dust Clouds
2. Glitter Makeup or Product
3. Glitter as the Subject
In conclusion, glitter is a wonderful accessory to use in your photo sessions- so long as you have enough light!