PetaPixel

Flect is a Simple DIY Device for Shooting Reflection-less Photos Through Glass

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Flect is a simple device I developed to take photos through glass without reflections or glare from the surrounding environment. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make one for yourself.

How It’s Used

First, here’s an introduction to how the device is used: Place the top two suction cups on the window as far apart as they will go and secure them in place:

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Secure the bottom two suction cups near the middle of the device until it forms an upside-down trapezoid:

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Stick the lens through the hole. With your free hand grip the lens to focus and compose the shot:

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Making Your Own Flect

This 9-step tutorial will take about 30 minutes to complete once you have all your necessary items. It was designed to be easy to build with store-bought products and without any sewing.

Step 1

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To complete this project, you’ll need: black canvas, shearing scissors, 4 small suction cups, 4 medium safety pins, duct, masking, or gaffers tape, a tool of measurement, an X-Acto knife, and a flat, fairly clean, surface.

Once all the materials are gathered, cut the fabric into a rectangle. Mine was cut at 16″x11″.

I wouldn’t cut much smaller than this, as you want to give yourself plenty of fabric to block the surrounding environment.

Step 2

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When the fabric is finally cut, you’ll want to take your X-Acto knife and poke a small hole in each corner of the fabric. The hole should be roughly 3/4 of an inch from either edge of the fabric.

After the hole is created, slide the nub of the suction cup through the hole.

I pretty much eye-balled this at the time of creating it and only measured when I was writing the instructions. Just make sure it’s not too close to the edge to avoid the potential of it getting ripped off the fabric upon removal from a window.

Step 3

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A simple way of fastening the suctions cups to the fabric is with the use of a safety pin. To do this, weave the pin through the fabric, then the suction cup, then back through the fabric before closing the safety pin.

Make sure to grab as much of the fabric as possible. Doing so will help protect the suction cups upon removal from a window.

Disclaimer: I’m not responsible for any blood, tears, or foul language that may result in this step of the process.

Step 4

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When all 4 corners have suction cups pinned to the fabric, fold the fabric into 4 quadrants. In doing this, you’ll be able to find the exact center of the fabric to make a small hole.
This hole will allow you to stick your lens through the opening to take photographs.

Step 5

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You’ll want to measure the width of the lens before you begin cutting. You’ll want to make sure the opening will be big enough for your use.

Once you have the width, stick your scissors through the hole and cut an “X” into the fabric.

If you want to tape the edges of the cut, feel free to do so (I have not done this with mine). You’ll learn the method for this in the next steps.

Step 6

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Take a piece of tape long enough for one of the sides and lay half of it on the front and fold the other half to the back. Make sure you don’t cover the suction cups.

Run your finger along the tape on both sides to smooth out the surface. Use your X-Acto knife to cut the excess tape from the edges.

The first time I made this I used masking tape, for the tutorial I used duct tape. Feel free to use whatever tape you feel appropriate.

Step 7

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Apply tape to all sides and make sure to cut off the extra tape from the edges. Depending on how wide your tape is, you’ll mostly cover the safety pins.

Take a little extra tape and cover the edges.

Step 8

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The final product should be small enough to fit easily into your camera bag, back pocket, coat, or whatever else you carry with you when you are taking photos.

Step 9

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That’s it! You’re done! Depending on which tape you use, the overall product may be a little stiff. Fold, bend, and manipulate the fabric a bit to loosen it up.

Examples and Tips

Here are a few easy tips to remember when taking photographs through glass. There is one situation where Flect is not 100% effective and it is mentioned below.

Before and After Comparison

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Tip #1: Here’s a side-by-side comparison. Download the full-res before and the full-res after shots to really understand how much reflection is being eliminated.

Tip #2: This photo was taken at a slight angle and the reflections were eliminated. Pay attention to Tip #7 when shooting at extreme angles.

Example 1

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Tip #3: If you are taking photos from a moving vehicle, objects closer to the camera will have a bit of motion blur. You can fix this by shooting with a faster shutter speed or by shooting scenes farther away.

Tip #4: A wide lens and a dirty window could create difficult shooting situations. I was able to avoid this problem with this photo by shooting with a 35mm lens on a cropped-sensor body.

Tip #5: Almost all of my shots are made with small prime lenses. Shooting with a giant zoom lens may involve a bit more work.

Example 2

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Tip #6: Originally designed for hand-held use, Flect works just as well with a tripod.

Tip #7: This works better when not shooting at an extreme angle. The above photo and this photo were both taken from the same spot, but the more parallel you get to the glass, the less effective it becomes. (If you are concerned about this, you can try using a larger cut of fabric. I have not tested this though.)


About the author: Michael Courier is a web designer and photographer based in Chicago. Visit his website here and his Flickr account here. This tutorial was originally published here.


 
  • http://twitter.com/DaireQuinlan Daire

    I thought this was what polarisers were for :-D

  • Sean

    Or buy a polarizer?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sergiosavaresefotografia Sergio Savarese

    What stupid way….

  • http://www.facebook.com/bart.aldrich.52 Bart Aldrich

    Another of PP’s many ‘DUH!” articles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarkDDickinson Mark Dickinson

    I am not getting caught with duct tape and a gag in my bag. You seen what they do to us now for terroistic activities

  • Mansgame

    I know how you feel.

  • Mansgame

    Gaffer tape guys. Duct tape is for ductwork and is not for peeling off later without leaving the fabric part behind. Gaffer tape is super strong AND peels off clean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heath.hurwitz Heath Hurwitz

    My time is worth money. I just bought a lensskirt.

    http://www.lenskirt.com/

  • Chad

    don’t quit your day job Michael Courier, stick to designing websites

  • http://twitter.com/KazamMedia Richard Horsfield

    …or get a rubber lens hood?

  • garyg

    Most of the time a flexible rubber lens hood will cut out reflections.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1079180093 Tommy Sar

    Wow, talk about overthinking a solution. Aside from using a lens hood like others mention, you can just gently press the lens against the glass or very close to it. Points for creativity, I guess. But as Drew Carey said, “The points don’t matter.”

  • ennuipoet

    Come on, give credit for the excessively complicated solution to a problem solved far more simply decades ago! At least someone is thinking out there!

  • carnagex2000

    Id rather just buy the Lenskirt that Vincent Laforet uses for $50 and skip the DIY.
    http://www.lenskirt.com

  • nobody

    have you ever use a polarize under such condition?
    it doesn’t work at all,it just minimize the reflection,but it’s still there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6719332 Bruce Alan Horn

    As some others have mentioned, a flexible rubber lens hood will do as well.

    But you may not be as able to tilt the camera at more extreme angles to the glass as you could with this. You would also need to find and purchase the right size rubber hood(s) for your lenses or one for your largest lens and series of step-down rings. Depending on what materials you have on hand, that might take more time, money and effort than making this simple device.

    This has some differences from using a polarizer. A polarizer will not always eliminate 100% of the reflections on glass, has to be rotated to get it to work which is yet another thing to think about along with exposure, composition, etc., and reduces the effective aperture of your lens so if you are trying to photograph something inside a dark room, museum case or fish tank, could be a problem.

    I agree that gaffers tape would be a better choice than duct tape. Being cloth, it would give a much more finished look to the product and it is more flexible so it would be easier to fold it into a smaller package for storage. You might also try Fray-Check on the cut edges, basically a fabric glue to do instant hems. If you have grommets available, they might be a nicer way to hold the suction cups through the fabric than a safety pin.

  • Samuel

    I like his thinking, polarisers help but they don’t get rid of everything. That being said could you not make a much smaller and easier version by cutting a hole in the suction bowl thing of a plunger and stick a broken filter ring in the hole?

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    One of the factors for creating something via DIY, is cost. Primitive as it may be, if it’s extremely low cost and you don’t need to use the thing you’re building that often, then it may make sense to prototype something. I like the idea of trying things out, and then buying something nice if I want to continue using a particular feature.

    I’d ask my self: how often do I need to shoot through windows? Would I actually carry a commercial equivalent product around with me [i.e. LensSkirt]?

    PS: I bought a rubber lens hood back in the 80s, but I never use it . Most often, I have found windows to be dirty on the outside, preventing me from taking shots that I would normally take.

  • Cochese

    I’d rather just buy US$5.00 worth of material and save myself US$45.00 to put toward other purchases.

  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.dew Diane Dew

    Thanks for this creative solution. I may try it using a knit fabric instead of canvas, as it will have more give. I love DIY ideas for photography – so many photographic accessories are so pricey!

  • superduckz

    I shoot through glass quite a bit and I still pick up the odd artifact with polarisers. But probably not enough to go through all this trouble though… shrug.

  • superduckz

    Not everyone who comes here is a working pro. Articles on the “basics” are fine once in a while.