Museums and galleries are often one of the first places people visit when they go to a destination. After all, these are a centrepiece on the history and art of a civilisation so they are often an important element of a set of photographs from a location. But photographing museums and galleries can be very challenging due to photography restrictions, the crowds and low light conditions. Follow these simple tips to help you on your way.
Know The Rules
First and foremost, before attempting to photograph any museum or gallery you should be clear on the rules about what is allowed. Most places will not allow flash photography or tripods inside. You may also find that some museums and galleries do not allow any type of photography whatsoever. If you are unsure about the rules ask when paying to enter or from a security guard. If photography isn’t allowed, don’t attempt to take photos.
Avoid Peak Times
All museums and galleries will tend to have peak periods when they are busier than at other times. These are usually around school holidays and also weekends, so if you want to have more space to work in and avoid the crowds, it’s a good idea to do some research to find out the best time to visit. If you do find yourself going at a time when it’s busy, try to utilize the crowd to your advantage by incorporating them into the photo. If you need a clear view of something that is being obstructed by people passing, often if you are patient and wait, you will get a small window where it is clear.
No Need For Flash
One of the benefits of photographing in museums or galleries is that the exhibits are often lit in the best way to show them off. For example, an artifact from the past is carefully placed and lit by a professional so you won’t need a flash to light it. Even if the room you are photographing is low in light, a flash will not be strong enough to light the entire room, and if something is behind glass all a flash will do is bounce off the glass and back into your lens, so the best thing to do is to switch it off and raise your ISO setting.
Unfortunately there is no single set of settings that work for any museum or gallery. As every one of these venues is different, and even in most cases every room is different, it requires its own bespoke thought process. Your biggest challenge will be to avoid camera shake, so you usually need to raise your ISO level and have a wide shutter. If you find railings or seating areas this could provide an opportunity to rest your camera on to help.
Find Your Own View
You don’t always need to photograph the entire exhibition or even the entire artifact, painting or statue. After all there are usually plenty of post cards in the museum shop showing it in its entirety. Sometimes you might find that actually finding your own unique angle or crop makes the image far more intriguing and unique. So instead of trying to photograph the entire statue or artifact, concentrate on a small part of it and zoom in. You might be surprised by the results.
Don’t Forget The Venue
Often museums and galleries are hosted in buildings which are just as impressive on the outside or architecturally as the exhibits are inside, so always allow time to photograph the buildings and surrounding as well.
Museums and galleries are an integral part of our experience of any destination and are often requested by picture editors when they require images from a location. It’s not always easy or straightforward to take good photos of these places, but with practice and patience you can often capture set of photographs that can relay the experience to the viewer.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. Dreamstime.