Taking images in museums, how hard can that be? Well, turns out it is harder than one would think 🙂
Sometimes you’re simply not allowed to take pictures and that’s that. Most of the time it happens with guest exhibitions, because the museum has only restricted rights. Letting people take pictures is normally not among them. Fortunately the big museums own enough to keep you busy.
The next thing is light. Try to get a view with not too many reflections. In well-lit museums this is not a fatal problem, but sometimes paintings are too near to open windows, you have mixed light or the image is extremely dark and shiny. If you can choose between reflections and a bad angle, always take the bad angle. The image will be distorted, but you can correct for that in post.
Still, be prepared to need selective color and contrast correction. Even a sheen of a reflection diminishes contrast and shifts your colors towards blue. Unfortunately this is never constant across the frame. You will need to use adjustments and masks.
When you do so, try to use one adjustment at a time. You’ll find that the needed intensity of adjustment often varies for contrast and color temperature, and then it’s easier to have separate masks.
One more thing: try to use a well stabilized camera and/or lens. Forget about tripods though. Using them is always forbidden. Frequently you can’t even take your photo bag with you, so a zoom comes handy.
Normally I use the 12-40/2.8, but I’ve also had good results with the slower 12-100/4. The lower shutter speed is perfectly compensated by the better stabilization, and the longer range gives you more options to get a reflection-free view.
Flash? Nope, it’s universally forbidden. Forget about it. If it were not, you’d still have the problem of even more reflections.
Well, that’s it 🙂