Here is an article I published on my website about shooting photos in museums and cathedrals. I hope it'll be useful to some of you in this forum.
How to Take Good Photos in Museums and Cathedrals
by Gary Hendricks
Have you ever been in an museum, art gallery or cathedral and wished you could shoot some pictures of their interiors? I was once in the Vatican in Rome and I was mesmerized by the sweeping ceilings, majestic interiors, stained glass and ancient pillars. Taking good photos of such environments requires some skill, usually because of tricky lighting. In this article, we'll explore some ways of taking good shots in a museum or cathedral setting.
A interior shot of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague
Get a Good External Flash
If you use a standard point-and-shoot with a built-in flash, you'll soon realize that its not sufficient for these type of photographs. Hence, the number one tip I can give about taking good pictures inside museums or cathedrals? Get a good external flash unit.
Good enthusiast digital cameras (e.g. the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20) will have a hot shoe onto which you can fit an external flash. An external flash unit allows you to throw light 75 feet away, and are much better for illuminating scenes like this. The external flash unit I use with my Panasonic FZ-20 is the Sunpak 383 Super Flash shown below.
No Flash Photography Allowed?
One big problem with shooting indoor tourist locations like cathedrals is that flash photography is often not allowed. Why so, you might ask? Well, flash photography might disturb other visitors, or ruin the serenity of the location. The powerful flashes might also cause cause to ancient materials.
My advice is to learn how to turn off your flash before you step inside the museum or cathedral. Most digital cameras allow you to completely disable the flash by cycling though its various settings until you reach an icon that has a slash through the flash symbol.
Bring Along Your Tripod
Now, assuming no flash can be used - how can you still take a good photo of such museums or cathedrals? Well, hereís another tip - bring along a tripod. Even a small, lightweight tripod is enough to stabilize your camera for the long exposure you'll need.
Remember that to shoot under low-light conditions, you will need to set the camera shutter speed to be very slow (e.g. from 1 to 8 seconds). You can't possible hold the camera steady by hand for that long - hence the need for a tripod.
If full-size tripods aren't permitted, you can try propping yourself against a wall or doorway to keep the camera steady. Set the camera to its highest ISO level (making the camera sensor more sensitive to light) and keep shooting.
Another option is to buy a tiny tabletop tripod - the type with finger-length, flexible legs. You can use it to hold the camera firmly against a wall, doorway, or some other vertical surface while you take a long exposure. The authorities should not mind since you won't be obstructing corridors when you do that.
Well, I hope you've learnt something about taking photos in museums and cathedrals from this short article. Try to apply the above tips in your next vacation photo shoots Ė Iím sure youíll start getting better results. Happy shooting!