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Reflecting On Reflections
December 10 , 2007
Q) Do you have any suggestions on photographing through glass at museums? I want to capture a dinosaur exhibit.
Salt Lake City, Utah
A) Anytime you have to photograph through glass, you need to employ specific techniques to make sure that you get the clearest image possible. One is to photograph as close as possible with a 90-degree angle to the glass. By shooting straight through the glass, you can minimize distortion. This is especially true on aquariums, where the water behind the glass is actually acting like a lens. Another problem is reflections in the glass. By being right up against the glass, you can eliminate all reflections—and I mean right against the glass, carefully touching it without scratching it. The way to make this work is to choose a focal length that allows the closeness to the glass while allowing the framing that’s needed. The alternative is to work at night or after hours when all the lights behind the camera can be turned off or eliminated.
Don’t forget that the lights within the display will be reflecting off the camera or even the photographer and can also show up in your image. You can look through a polarizer to see if that helps to eliminate any reflections that are left. If it helps, use it. If not, it’s best to leave it off. Needless to say, you’ll probably need a tripod and cable release with the long exposures that are typical. Auxiliary light sources can be used, but you must keep them from reflecting back into the camera by positioning them at 45 degrees to the glass and outside of the camera’s field of view.
Photographing into an aquarium is very similar to any display behind glass. Here, I used a Canon EOS 5D with a 24-105mm lens set to 24mm. Two flashes were employed at 45 degrees to the glass, and the camera was against the glass. I shot at 1/125 sec. at ƒ/16, with the ISO set to 200.