Photography & Museums: Do’s and Do Not’s

Thanks for tuning in for another ‘Top 10’ with Jamie! Photography is a hobby of mine (like most people nowadays), and I wanted to share a few tips to help you get that perfect shot on your next museum trip, without breaking any rules! I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL, but an enthusiast. Therefore, opinions are my own. Remember that photography is an art, and everyone will have different tastes and preferences!

  1. Check Online for Information.

A lot of temporary and art exhibitions will not allow photography. If this is the case better to leave the camera at home then have to tote it around all day for no reason. It is better to check online to make sure that you are bringing or not bringing the right camera and equipment! Also, sometimes online you can find better shots of objects taken by the museum, since they can adjust lighting and get closer than visitors can! Books for exhibitions are also available if you are after object photos.

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  1. Be Considerate of Other Visitors & Photographers.

Leave the selfie stick at home. As a tall person I can vouch for how unpleasant it is to be repeatedly smacked in the face with one of these bad boys. I own one, but chose to use it in settings where I will not be endangering the public. When taking a photo do not hog the space in front of a painting, and be considerate of not walking through someone else’s shot. It goes both ways.

  1. If they Say ‘No Flash’, it is For a Good Reason!

Flash, especially when repeated incessantly can damage objects, especially fabrics. It can also disturb other visitors, and possibly with enough photographers in one space cause someone with epilepsy to become ill. So if a gallery assistant requests that no flash is used, it is probably for a good reason. Is your one picture really worth it? Set a good example for the other visitors!

  1. If they Say ‘No Photography’, Respect the Rules of the Museum.

This rule can come into place for many reasons, such as copyright, conditions of loans from other museums, to sell more books, or to preserve the ‘mystery’ of the exhibit. Whatever the rule is there for and regardless if you like it or not, respect the rule.

  1. Don’t Spend the Whole Time Looking through the Viewfinder.

Depending on where you are in the world, odds are you have paid a nice chuck of change to get into or to travel to the museum you are at. Look around and enjoy! I have regretted only seeing places through my viewfinder, because I was so worried about missing a photo opportunity! Lower the camera once in a while.

  1. Only take Pictures of your Favorites.

SO how many times have you taken 500 pictures at a museum and actually meaningfully looked through them all?! With the age of Google, you can look almost anything up anyways. Take pictures of you favorite objects so that you have a group of maybe 10-20 pictures that actually have some personal value to yourself.

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  1. Take Note of Features on Objects, not the Entire object Itself.

Some of my favorite museum shots have been of sections of sculptures that bring out the sparkle in the marble. Parts of paintings where you can see the raised texture of the paint. Specific gold figures on pots. What do you like about the object? Zoom in, or zoom out- whatever floats your boat. Change your angle. Take a few shots if it is not crowded.

  1. Know How to use a few Settings on your Camera.

When you are not able to use a flash in low lighting, you might want to know how to adjust the camera to compensate. Plan for what the conditions are going to be, and just Google the best way to set up your camera if you are a beginner. Using your camera does not have to be hard, and you do not have to learn how to do it all at once.

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  1. Try to Avoid Busy Backgrounds.

This is one reason that I enjoy the Getty Villa and Getty Centre, or the NMS Scotland- their objects usually have blank walls behind them that make for perfect backdrops. Objects can be so much more easily seen without people, or other cases looming in the background. Walk around the object and try to find the best angle with the best backdrop. Or adjust your camera settings to make the background out of focus or dark. Your shot will look more professional.

  1. Level, Crop, and Watermark your Photos.

Nothing drives me nuts more than a photo with a crooked horizon (such a beginner’s error). Level them, it can be done on all photo editing programs, and now even directly on your iPhone! No more excuses! Be sure to crop your photos as well– trim off the unnecessary bits, or zoom in on a feature you like. Play with it, especially if you find yourself unhappy with a photo. And last but not least, if you are posting on any public social media profiles or blogs, be sure to watermark your photos! A regular shot of a museum gallery taken on an iPhone is probably not a big deal, but if it is a good photo of an object go ahead and watermark it! There are plenty of free and inexpensive downloadable applications. I am on a mac and I use PhotoBulk, which allows me to adjust the text, font, size, and placement of the watermark on the photo.

Do you have any other tips and tricks? Recommendations? Comment below!

Peace and long life.


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