There is a unique and radiant beauty to stained glass windows that makes the sight of them captivating. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that they have been a popular subject for photographers for centuries, and for other artists even longer. But now, thanks to advances in technology and helpful online resources, you no longer have to be an expert photographer or have an expensive camera to capture a good photo of a stained glass window.
Tourists can get a clear snapshot to document the moment they looked upon a world-famous stained glass window. Business owners can get high-quality photos of a unique property feature to make their marketing materials stand out. The possibilities are endless—all it takes is a little preparation. If you’re trying to capture the striking elegance of stained glass, use these tips below to get the best results!
Start with the right equipment.
You can take a pretty decent picture of a stained glass window with most standard digital, and even smartphone, cameras these days. If you’re trying to produce something a little more professional-grade though, having the right accessories will help you get better results.
Your most useful tool is going to be a long lens or other zoom lens. If the window you’re photographing is larger, a wide-angle lens will be helpful as well. A tripod is also a good piece of equipment to have, especially when used in conjunction with a remote release, to help reduce shake.
Line up with the window as directly as possible.
Try to position yourself directly across from the window and line up your camera with the center for a square shot. This will minimize distortion and put as much of the subject in your frame as possible. If you’re using a zoom lens, stand as far away as you can while still getting a good, focused shot, to help keep the perspective as accurate as possible.
If the window is too large to fit in your frame even with a wide-angle lens, you can opt to take multiple shots and stitch them together later. You could also choose to just take close-up shots focusing in on your favorite details.
Shoot in RAW for the best quality.
Photos in RAW format store all of the captured information from your image unprocessed and uncompressed. Most standard cameras save photos in JPEG format, which processes the image when you take it so that it can be easily shared and viewed on other devices. Many later model smartphones include a RAW setting option.
Shooting stained glass in RAW yields the best results because it gives you more control over exposure and color saturation in your photos. RAW images also capture a higher level of brightness and sharper details. The natural qualities of stained glass—translucency, transparency, and reflectivity—can more easily distort and compromise the quality of photos with default processing.
Use spot or center-weighted metering.
The metering settings on a camera are used to optimize exposure by controlling shutter speed and aperture (focus). For the best exposure on stained glass windows, which can be difficult to achieve because of the way the light streams through, use spot or center-weighted metering. To check that you’ve set it optimally for the conditions you’re shooting in, look at the mid-tone color of the glass. If set correctly, the mid-tone should be the sharpest with the best exposure. For detail shots, matrix metering is ideal.
If you want to capture a high-quality photo of the window and its surroundings together, your best bet may be to take two images. Take one image that is exposed for the window (the window is light and surroundings are dark) and one exposed for the surroundings (the window is dark and surroundings are clear). Stitch the shots together for one perfectly-exposed shot.
Before you photograph the stained glass windows in your church, home, or commercial building, you’ll want to ensure they’re ready for their close up. At Cumberland Stained Glass, one of our specialties is stained glass window repair and restoration to preserve historic windows and return them to their original beauty.
Contact us today to learn more about the wide range of stained glass window services we offer!