A simple tip to avoid reflections when shooting with your phone

Tips & Techniques

We’ve all been there. We’re trying to get great food shots in a bakery, but the brownies and cookies are hidden behind reflective glass. Our shot is ruined!

Or we’ve paid good money to go to an urban rooftop or another location for the best view in town, only we’re stuck behind glass. Foiled again! The glass seems dirty, but it’s not. Still, it’s ruining your shot by catching the daylight reflections, your image, and any other bright objects out there.

So what to do? Thanks for asking. Because we have a common-sense solution.

Get in really tight and basically press the smartphone lens to the glass. The closer you get, the more likely it is that you’ll see the reflections disappear.

This trick is harder to pull off with a camera lens, since they’re not flat like smartphone lenses. Their round glass sticks out from the lens, and there’s the outer shell as well that prevents you from getting in tighter. This is an example of where photographing on a smartphone gives you a clear advantage over the bigger, higher resolution traditional camera.

Take a look at this before and after example from our recent Las Vegas Photowalk episode where the raised pedestrian crosswalks theoretically give you a great vantage point for a skyline shot. (In the shot above, you can see me trying to get this shot on an iPhone.)

This is the same spot. But in the shot on the left, I stood back from the glass. For the right image, I just got right in there and pressed the lens to the glass.

Back at the bakery, (the fabled Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles) this technique isn’t always perfect. Sometimes you will see reflections, no matter how close you are. But as you can tell, in the difference between the top shot and this one, you will definitely see fewer reflections this way.

If you have time, you can always wait out the reflection by buying a cookie, taking a seat and stalling. Just wait for the light to shift. Or, go vertical. Just crop out the reflections.

Getting in tight has its advantages in that you’ll see the cookie in a whole new light by getting so close. Have you ever looked at big globs of fudge in this way? And if you do stall for time to wait for the reflections to go away, consider yourself lucky.

After all, one of those big cookies are worth it, right?

About the Author

Jefferson Graham is a Los Angeles-based writer-photographer, the host of the “Photowalks” travel photography series on YouTube, and Tubi, a former USA TODAY tech columnist and working photographer. You can find more of Jeff’s work on his websiteFacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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