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Taking Great Museum Photos

Princess, from a St. George statue group, Swabia, about 1440, Bavarian National MuseumMemory is fallible, so if you get a chance to photograph a museum collection, do it! Here are Marion's tips for great pictures in museums. 

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robkamm  
  Thanks for this information Marion. I am planning a research trip to Scotland in early September and have booked an appointment at the National Museum resource centre to view the items not on display. As it happens I just purchased a camera -- a Canon Rebel T3 DSLR with an 18-55mm lens and my cell phone is a Samsung Galaxy 3 so your article is timely and perfect for me!  
 
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mmcnealy  
  Awesome! You will have such a great time with that camera. Be sure and practice zooming in and taking good closeups before you go, there's so much you can see on the photo that is hard to see with the bare eye.  
 
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jerwin  
  Many museums keep their textiles under special lighting conditions. This can mean that photos taken with the wrong "white balance" settings will take on a ghastly blueish hue. If your camera can record in a raw image format, you can correct the color cast in post production. Generally, in software such as Lightroom or Aperture, you can select a portion of the image which you know to be "neutral gray", and the program will recalculate the colors for you. It helps to take along a "grey card" with you, and place it in your camera's field of view as a reference.

Though the major costume exhibit in my area, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History tends to be so crowded that proper photographic technique is awkward...

If you have a DSLR, a proper macro lens is enormously helpful for this sort of thing. I have a 40 mm micro nikkor, and although the highest magnification requires me to get almost comically close up to my subject, it is both affordable and sharp
 
 
thelacedangel  
  Thanks for these fabulous tips; I'll be using them all on some upcoming museum visits! I had no idea about the micro phone lenses; now I need them all.
Another tip for getting rid of reflections - a circular (not linear) polarizing filter that can be added to the end of your lens will allow you to reduce or eliminate glare when turned to the correct angle. Not sure if they have a phone version though; I think they're mostly made for manual and digital SLR cameras.
 
 

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