Museums are usually strict on visitor photography; yet relationships between museums and professional photographers exist if in terms of museum photography. Museum photography is different because shots will be taken in a delicate environment Not unless it involves producing photographs for museum exhibition purposes.
When used as a method for documenting museum collections as well as promotions, museum photography facilitates archiving of historical, archaeological, anthropological or scientific objects, to be stored as supporting documents of artefacts, events and stories of museum exhibits.
In both cases, museum photographers share some tips on what to consider when taking photographs. The quality of the images rely not only on using the best photography cameras but also on the approaches used in taking shots of rare and delicate articles or special editions placed in dimly lit environments; whilst restricted from using flash and other photography equipment. Some museum artefacts tend to deteriorate overtime; rapidly at that if they are constantly exposed to bright lights.
Important Pointers for Museum Photography
Museums are confident that a professional photographer will use methodological approaches that conform to the limitations of the environment. Thankfully, advancements in digital technologies have enabled photographers to develop ways of working on modern and historical materials.
Dealing with Low Light
Use a camera with a large aperture, i.e. (f/2.8 – f/4), a fast shutter speed and push the ISO by up to 400 at the least. Doing so will allow an adequate amount of light in. Some artefacts displayed inside glass encasements have even dimmer lights as a way of minimizing reflective light. In such cases, set the ISO to 1600 to improve the lighting.
However, even if your camera offers a higher ISO, setting it too high can make the captured image look grainier.
Avoiding Glass Reflections
Rare artefacts and valuable paintings are often enclosed behind glass, which automatically eliminates the use of flash as a way to avoid glass reflection. One effective approach is to carefully push the lens right next to the glass without any gap in-between but do this only if permitted. If not, use a polarizing filter to reduce reflections.
Be Meticulous with the Details
If there is one thing that makes museum photographers stand out, it is their attention to details but without losing the drama of the story behind the object. If getting close to the artefact or precious object is allowed, use a macro lens as this can pick out details with precision. Still, when shooting from a distance use a zoom lens, especially on facial features, because you need to emphasize life behind the model who posed for the image.
If use of flash is not allowed, set the shutter speed to 1/60th of a second or even slower; but make sure to use a large aperture (f/1.8 – f/4).
Lastly, don’t forget to take shots of the museum’s indoor and outdoor architecture since they can help set the mood of the museum photography, especially if for promotional purposes. Most museums have incredibly ornate designs, they are art works by themselves.
Although museums do not prohibit visitor photography, they impose certain restrictions on who to allow, where and what can be photographed. After all, photographs taken by visitors also serve as promotions, knowing that selfie takers inside museums are likely to circulate their photos online across different social media sites.