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Photography In Museums

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Category: General Photography

Museum Photography - Capture a little bit of history in one of the many museums that are open across the UK.

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A museum's a great day out for the family and photographer alike. They are fun, educational and most of all there's plenty to keep a photographer busy.

However, taking photographs in museums can be a bit of a challenge as you can be limited on what kit you can take in and once you're in there may even be restrictions on what exhibits can be photographed. If the museum doesn't own some items they have on display you may be asked to require a release form before taking any photographs. It's best to check with the museum before you arrive so you don't make a wasted journey or pack kit you won't need. If you don't fancy shooting through glass cabinets why not visit a living museum where items don't tend to be hidden behind glass as much. 

Pot
Photo taken at the Black Country Living Museum by Daniel Bell. 
 

Gear:

Flash photography is not allowed in most places so make sure your camera's internal flash is switched off and leave the hotshoe flash at home. 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. You may be asked to leave your bag at the entrance with museum staff if it's too large so if you don't want to leave your photography gear in the hands of a stranger make sure you have a smaller camera bag.

Technique:

As flash photography is usually prohibited and museums can be rather dark, chances are you'll need to slow your shutter speed and use longer exposures. Of course this is rather simple if you have a tripod but if you can't take one in find something you can support yourself against and crank up the ISO, making sure image stabilisation is on.

If you struggle to find the right exposure because of the differences in light try bracketing the shot and don't forget to check your white balance before you shoot to prevent your photos having an orange colour cast that can appear when working indoors.

To avoid lens distortion, don't stand too close to the exhibit you want to photograph and pick a focal length which isn't too wide. Then, if you want a close up, step back and bring the exhibit to you with your zoom or a longer lens.

To stop people stealing or breaking objects museums usually keep items under lock and key in glass cases which may be good for the artefacts but it's a real pain for the photographer. To reduce glare use a polarising filter or if you don't own one try cupping your hand around the top or side of the lens. Carry a cloth with you to wipe away finger marks (be careful though as some cases are fitted with sensors) and use a small aperture to increase your depth of field so the whole object will be in focus. Unless you want to be in the photograph you need to angle the camera so you're not shooting straight on at the glass. Pay attention to who or what's at the other side of the case as a group of school kid's faces squashed up against the glass is probably not the background you're going for.
 

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