How to Clean Plexiglass or How I Stopped Worrying & Learned to Love Poly(methyl methacrylate)
Black Plexiglass background

Black Plexiglass background

In this latest image I used a black Plexiglass background to add visual interest. It creates a beautiful reflection in the earrings.  It also gives a very smooth and pure look to the scene and I think it brings out the shape of the water droplets.

I wanted to add depth to the image, I did not want to just do a standard Catalogue shot, so I came up the idea of adding water droplets scattered around and behind and I shot at an Aperture f/8.0 to give a slightly shallow depth of field and make the droplets drift off in the distance.

I want to look at the challenges of shooting on an Acrylic surface, so here are four tips if you happen to have a sheet or two or are considering purchasing it.

1. Plexiglass is very prone to scratches - Take extra care when placing any prop or product onto it’s surface and when moving an item. Try not to breathe on it, and certainly don’t look at it angrily.  It's that sensitive!

2. It is a dust magnet -  I started off the shoot with a slightly scratched piece of Plexiglass, which had dust smeared on it.  After trying to clean it with air, and then with a microfibre cloth (that probably wasn’t clean), it only smeared the dust further. So I decided to use the opposite side so I turned it over and I peeled off the protective film. the other side. At first I had the most smooth and beautifully clean sheet ever, but as the day went on, under the glare and heat of the Grid spot, tiny particles of dust formed on the surface, rapidly springing up like a heat rash.

Keep your Acrylic Sheet clean!  

First use compressed air, canned air is good, or use an air hose powered by an air compressor, (if you have one) or you can simply blow on it, (but not with your mouth full of breakfast cereal and juice). Secondly clean it with warm water on a soft, completely non-abrasive cloth, or just use a microfibre cloth instead.  Stay clear of paper towels, on plexiglass they can be abrasive.

You can then gently apply a mild soapy mix of soapy water or detergent. Don’t forget to dry it with another, lint free, soft cloth.  Blot, do not rub.

There are special Plexiglass and automotive plastic cleaners that polish and can remove scratches, that are on the market.  Polish with a soft microfibre cloth or chamois (not the antelope of the same name, that is native to the mountains of Europe).

Finally lightly remove residual dust with a dry, anti-static cloth.

3.  Everything reflects - Keep in mind that whatever you do not want in the scene but is placed in the very near vicinity of the reflective sheet, such as light stands, gobos, bounce cards, can reflect in the surface (depending on the exact placement). (More on reflections and handling reflections)

4. Store correctly - Wrap it up after use, in bubble wrap or a clean sheet and store away safely.  Do not lean anything against it and as I said earlier, don’t look at it the wrong way.  

I have purchased some online in the past and when it was delivered to my door, it was so well taped up in cardboard that it took me about 20 minutes to unwrap it.

Plexiglass makes a fantastic photographic background for Jewellery and Product photography.  I personally feel it really adds a professional sheen and the dark, white, or red reflections that you can get on your Acrylic sheet, (depending on how you light the backdrop which is reflected in it) can really make your Photography pop and look great.