Photos in Museums

Taking photos in museums is a special challenge. The light conditions are usually not perfect and the most difficult part may turn out to be being allowed to use your camera at all.

Museum Policies

The wonderful world of museums can be divided in several categories

  • very few let you take all the photographs you wish, using a tripod or a flash
  • some require a permit to take any photos
  • many museums require a permit to bring a tripod
  • most museums do not allow you to use a flash
  • there even are museums that do not allow cameras in at all
  • one museum in Rethymnon (Crete) even labelled each individual piece, allowing you to photograph it or not.

The reasons for these policies usually are that flash might damage the piece of art and that, according to museum logic, only professionals use tripods.
Now, a pro photographer taking pictures would usually publish them, maybe taking a share of the market that the museum itself serves with (often inferior) books and photo-postcards.

This means that you should enquire beforehand whether you are allowed to bring your camera and tripod.
Itís possible that you have to surrender that expensive photo equipment to a person at the wardrobe - leaving you with the uncanny feeling that it could be accidentally dropped or stolen.

If you want to use a tripod, you often need a special permit that may or may not be issued on the spot and may be free or cost you an extra charge.

Over time, I have collected some very official looking documents full of stamps.

Lighting

If you are not allowed to bring a tripod or use a flash, youíll have to make do with available light. This means that youíll need to bring a fast lens (very good if itís an anti shake lens) or film or both.

If you are using a digital camera, you can adjust your ISO setting to a higher value.
Sometimes you can put your camera directly against the glass separating you from the subject, thereby steadying it (almost as good as a tripod).
Make sue not to set off an alarm though!

Using a fast lens reduces depth of field, but this can actually be an advantage concentrating attention on the most important parts.



The head of Akhenaton, the most controversial pharaoh in Egyptian history.
Even though  the museum of Luxor is much smaller than the one in Cairo, the  almost perfect lighting creates an almost mystical atmosphere and actually makes it a more memorable experience.

Crowds

Regardless of what equipment you could use, itís best to avoid the crowds. No way to compose a photo when a large travel group suroounds the subject of your picture.
Again itís usually best to find out the opening times in advance and be there just after the museum opens or shortly before it closes. Often museums are less crowded on weekdays.

 

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