April 16, 2012 in The Glass Lifestyle
Cathedral stock photography courtesy of Shutterstock
Stained glass is both timeless and representative of some of the most beautiful, and lasting, displays of art man has accomplished. Yet photographing it can often times yield results that are less-than-impressive. The good news for any would-be stained glass photographers is that with recent advances in photo equipment, the task has become easier. With a little practice, and some patience, you can take photographs that are almost as artistic as their subject matter.
When shooting stained glass, the best shots are from inside during the day with the building lights off, if possible. If you have to shoot at night, you’ll want to set up from the outside of the building with the lights on inside. Essentially, you are trying to capture the beauty of light streaming through the stained glass, so you’ll want as little glare as possible. Which means no flash, because the panes of glass and leading around the glass will reflect your cameras flash and can very easily overwhelm your shot. Unless you need to even out light during a bright summer day, keep it turned off. Cloudy days are the best for obtaining even lighting.
Most stained glass is inside of dark, older buildings, so you’ll need to rely on longer exposures. You’ll want to set your exposure manually, so consult your owner’s manual for directions. Take your light readings nearer the glass you are photographing and at a mid-tone color, like yellow or flesh-toned panes. -.5 or -.1 is generally good settings. If the stained glass you are photographing is large, set your aperture at a low setting like F-16.
Since you’ll be utilizing longer exposure times, a tripod is a good idea. If you don’t have one handy, find something else, like a table or a pile of your own equipment, to hold your camera steady. If your camera is film instead of digital, make sure you’re armed with a slow slide film like Agfa RSX to obtain better saturation in your photographs.
In some cathedrals and churches, your options of where to shoot from may be narrowed; the same with museums or stained glass that is installed in an exhibit. If you can’t get right on top of the glass, where you’ll find some of the best detail, you can also set up away from the glass and utilize a long zoom lens instead. With a small aperture and longer exposure time, the results will be almost as good.
Since the scale of a lot of stained glass artworks can be quite large, the best photographs are often those that focus on smaller details. Instead of capturing larger pieces in their entirety, break them down into smaller sections and really focus on getting vivid, detailed shots. If the areas you are shooting are particularly detailed, you might even consider stepping down the exposure time in order to get the best shot.
Window stock photos courtesy of Bigstock
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