Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Day at the Museum

You’ve probably heard that some museums have banned the selfie stick, and while this means you'll have to forego a selfie with your favorite Rembrandt or Picasso, there are still a lot of photo ops to be had in a museum.

What to carry: Many museums will not allow large bags, backpacks or tripods. Make sure you check the museum's website or call ahead and find out what is ok to take in and what's better left at home. Some museums may also refuse to check valuable equipment in their cloak rooms so don't get stuck lugging around a lot of extra stuff that you won't even be able to use.  If you have your heart set on using a tripod, some museums will allow it with a permit, so allow enough time to apply for and have the permit issued. Also, most museums do not allow flash photography so disable your on-camera flash and don’t bother to pack the attachment.

Choose one lens and stick with it. We like a nice prime, as it allows for shallow DOF enabling you to highlight small details or artifacts. Or go with an all purpose lens like this one from Sigma (save $200 through the end of June 2015!). Remember that with a prime you will, in some instances, have to move physically away from your subject, something that can prove tricky in a small or crowded gallery.

Keep your camera out and around your neck to avoid having to reach into your bag when you see a shot. It also saves room in any bag you do decide to carry for your phone, a notebook, a map, guidebook or snacks. If you do decide to take a bag, we like the Billingham compact, small and, like the name says, compact (also really stylish too!).

What to shoot: As anywhere lots of different types of people are thrown together, you can find lots of interesting people in any museum. From full on portraits to surreptitious candid shots, images of people looking at art can be art.
Images of other people taking pictures can make for interesting shots.

Art students concentrating on their sketches. 

A little girl on her first museum trip!

The museum gift shop will carry tons of postcards or books with fantastic images of the artworks themselves, and if you’re at a very crowded museum or visiting on a crowded day, chances are you may not be able to replicate those pristine views, so instead why not focus on the details? If you’re shooting paintings, you can focus on the faces or other element, get up close (not too close, remember to always respect the artworks and the museum's policies!) and shoot the painting's texture or home in on another detail.
If you can't fit the entire piece in the frame, choose one
area to highlight.

Lovely detail on a light fixture with shallow DOF. 
There may be times when you’ll want to focus on something that’s behind glass, and this brings a special set of considerations. Look to see where the light is coming from and position yourself appropriately, either straight on or at an angle. There’s no one hard and fast answer, experiment and see which option gives you less or no glare. A polarizing filter as well as a lens hood can help! In some cases you may be able to position your lens directly up to or on the glass, but this will be the exception and not the rule.

 If the museum or gallery you are visiting has an atrium area or any other area where you can shoot with natural light, take advantage. Natural light is great for shooting people and sculpture.
The ladies in this shot add scale to the huge Egyptian temple.

We hope you're inspired to take a trip to a museum soon, and that you'll not only look at the art, but maybe make some of your own while you're there! 

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