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Museum Photography Tips - Here are a few tips to help you perfect your photos taken in museums.
Photo by David Clapp - www.davidclapp.co.uk
Gear Choices:Tripods may not be allowed and if they are, there maybe a fee so check before you enter. You could also be asked not to use a tripod if it's particularly busy or be told to come back on a certain day when you can use a tripod if you ask the museum for a permit.
Staff could also ask you to leave your camera bag at the entrance, if it's too big, so if you don't want to leave your photography gear with strangers, take a smaller bag with you.
Flash is generally not allowed either so make sure your camera's internal flash is switched off and don't pack your flash gun as it'll just take up space.
PermissionBefore you start taking photos of exhibits do double-check you have permission to do so as some museums have restrictions on what can be photographed. Also, if the museum doesn't own certain items, you may need to obtain a release form before taking photos of them. If you plan on contacting the museum regarding tripod usage, ask them about photography limitations too so you don't make a wasted journey. If photography isn't allowed don't try and 'sneak' a shot, just play by the rules and find something else that interests you in the museum.
Shooting Through GlassGlass cases may keep items safe but they can make life difficult for photographers. Glare, reflections, finger marks and other visitors standing on the other side of the exhibit are all problems you'll have to work around when shooting in museums.
By walking around the museum the opposite way to the crowds should give you the opportunity to shoot some of the exhibits without people's faces squashed on the other side of the glass while a polarising filter will help reduce glare. If you don't own one, try cupping your hand around the top or side of the lens.
Unless you want to be in shot, don't take your photos straight-on to the glass and carry a cloth with you to wipe away smears and finger marks.
To ensure the object you're photographing is sharp, switch to a smaller aperture to increase your depth of field. Just remember to pay attention to your background as you don't want this to be the focus of attention.
Try not to spend too long at each exhibition as other people are there to view what's on display too and they'll soon get bored of you hogging a particular item. If you do want to spend more time with a particular exhibit, wait until it's lunchtime or closer to closing time as visitor numbers tend to drop off.
Don't forget to look at the structure of the museum too as the architecture can be just as impressive as what's on display.
Lens ChoicesIf you go too wide, chances are you'll get some distortion, especially when working at close distances. To stop this, work further back from the exhibits and use a zoom or longer lens to create your frame-filling shots. You will have to be patient though, particularly at busy times, as other visitors do tend to have a habit of walking in front of your lens.
White BalanceDo check your shots to ensure they don't have a colour cast which can appear when working indoors under a mixture of artificial and natural light. Experiment with other white balance settings other than auto or try switching to manual white balance if you're not happy with the results the pre-sets give.
No Flash AllowedIf you can take a tripod in with you do as shutter speeds are likely to be slow due to the darker nature of these locations. If you don't have one or they're not allowed, find something to support yourself against, keep your arms tucked close to your body and keep your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a more stable base to shoot from. Using a higher ISO will also quicken your shutter speeds, although do watch out for noise as too much of it will spoil your shots. Having said that, most DSLRs now cope well at higher ISO but it's still worth checking the preview.
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