Readers Photo Challenge: As smooth as glass

The subject for the next readers Photo Challenge assignment is as clear as day: glass. Glass has some interesting qualities that can make it challenging to photograph well.

(4/16/10) Glasses aboard the Island Girl river cruise boat at the Stockton Marina in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Most glass is clear, sometimes to the point of near invisibility. It’s only when we see reflections upon it, from light or the surrounding scenery, that we can see it’s there. Sometimes the reflections are unwanted. If you’re shooting a glass object indoors, say a bottle for instance, try turning off some stray lights of closing curtains or shades on the windows. You can also buy or make what’s known as a “light tent.” Basically, it’s a frame covered in some translucent material, usually cloth. You place the item inside the frame and shine lights through the cloth. It evens out the light and thus the reflections. I’ve made ones out of PVC pipe and a white sheet.

There are times, however, when you want reflections. With a glass object, the highlights can help define its shape. In urban cityscapes you can use the refection off of windows to capture the scene around you. You can use reflection from a mirror as a compositional element in a portrait.

(8/20/09) Downtown Stockton is reflected in the glass lobby of the new San Joaquin County Administration Building on San Joaquin Street and Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]
(6/17/20) Longtime shoe store owner Dennis Shea is retiring and closing his beloved shoe store in Lincoln Center in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Be aware of your backgrounds when shooting glass. Because of the transparent nature of glass, whatever is behind it also becomes part of the picture, whether you want it to or not. So, look carefully at everything in your scene before pressing the shutter button and try to eliminate what you don’t want.

(7/14/15) Some of the antique and collectable glass items that Larry Brown amassed over the years. He’s donated much of it to the Assistance League, which is putting it on sale later this week. The League will use it to buy school clothes for needy kids, a problem the once-poor Brown himself once suffered. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Stained or tinted glass can also make for interesting photos. Light coming in through one can add some interesting visual color to your picture.

(8/24/11) John Harris is an associate elder at the Greater White Rose Church of God in Christ in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

These kinds of photos can be taken anywhere you can find glass, which is just about everywhere. Whether you find your subject at home or out and about, I hope your shooting goes as smooth as glass.

(5/18/19) Light comes through a stained glass window onto an altar at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]


How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to The preferred format is jpeg. Type in “Glass” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be taken between June 23 and July 7.

3. The number of photos is limited to 10.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, the kind of device you used, how you got your close up and where the photo was taken (eg.: John Doe of Stockton, Canon Rebel T6i with 50mm macro lens. At Victory Park in Stockton).

5. If there is a recognizable person or persons in the photo please identify them (name, age, hometown) and describe what is going on in the photo (eg.: “Jane Doe, 9, sits in her front window with her dog fluffy at their home in Stockton”). Please indicate how they are related to you (friend, mother, father, daughter, son, etc).

6. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

7. The deadline for submission is July 7. The top examples will be published on July 14 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at

(4/4/09) Egyptian glass perfume bottles on sale at the Manteca Street Faire in downtown Manteca. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

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