Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cross Polarization Photography and Skin Texures

Hello Everyone,

Here is a good trick for capturing only the diffuse component of a person for the basis for diffuse texture maps in a sub surface scattering shading model.

Bascially what you need to do is filter both your lens and your light source. In this case I am filtering a pair for canon 430 EX speedlights with linear polarizing film. The speedlights are mounted on a custom bracket. The purpose of the bracket is to align speedlights with the camera lens in order to evenly light our subject. (me)

First lets look at the results.

(note: the small amount of reflection/specular light on the right hand image is the uncorrected lights in my kitchen. Ideally you would take your photo in a more controlled setting. Also for this example I did not have 2 flash units available so I just used one directly on the hot shoe of the camera)

Why does it work?
Well when I first learned this trick back in the day.. I was just told "it works". But I wanted to know why so I did some digging. Here is what I've found.

I am paraphrasing The Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Third Edition. Cross polarization photography lets you differentiate between regular glare and back scattered light. The back scattered light is the complextion within the skin.

Both the camera lens and the flash have a filter placed in front of them. When the orientation of the filters are perpendicular (cross polarization) the regular glare is blocked and only the back scattered light is captured.

But when the filters are parallel only the reflected polarized light passes though the filter to be captured by the camera.

What do I need to take photos like this?

The Basics
More Advanced Setup
  • Camera
  • Circular Polarizer for your camera
  • External Flash units (I used 2)
  • Linear Polarizing Film (to filter your flash)
  • Flash diffusers (make sure the one you buy fits your flash)
  • Flash bracket (My good friend and boss Les Ekker helped me make a nifty bracket)
  • An external hot shoe extensions
  • An adapter to connect more than one flash to your PC sync port
  • Extra tripod mounting plate
  • some standard "quarter/20" screws (1/4 inch screws with a 20 degree pitch threads). This will fit a standard camera mounting hole.

The Flash Bracket

Les had some extra 1/4 aluminum stock laying around so after some carefull planning we drilled a bunch of through holes. 2 hole for the hot shoe adapters. 1 hold for the camera, and the last through hole we threaded and attached a standard tripod mounting plate.

After we did all that... we threw the thing in a vice and gave it a good twist. This was to align the flashes as best as possible with the front of the lens.

presto chango.... hand dual flash bracket! (when I say we...I mean Les, he did most of the work as I drank a beer in his shop.)

Making the flash filter

The flash filter was simple to make. I ordered a sheet of the polarizing film and simply used a sharp exacto knife to cut out a shape that matched the end of the diffuser. We simply taped the film to the end of the diffuser with some common "silver" tape that you can find at the hardware store. I think its generally used to repair dryer hoses. The silver tape will help contain any light leaks from the flash and focus as much light out through the filter.

Shooting Conditions

When shooting you want to control as much as the light as possible and have little or no reflective/specular light sources. (light fixtures, computer monitors, windows etc...)

make sure to focus and have fun.

Now what do I do with these...

Once you've taken a set of photos in each position (perpendicular and parallel) you can do some fancy photoshop action by either inverting or using difference matting techinques to derive a specular only map. These 2 images will take you a long way.

But wait there's more....

This technique works on all kinds of stuff. I've used it to shoot rubber tires, plants, leather and a bunch of other stuff...

here is a link to a page that I came across in my researching for this project.... just wanted to give some credit to naturescapes.com

Here is a flickr gallery that has more pictures of the rig.



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