Taking Pictures Through Windows

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by hughitb, Dec 22, 2008.

  1. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    I just uploaded the image below to the gallery. I took this on a whim one day while walking down the street. It's taken from the street into a shop window. I really this - so much so that I am thinking of going out with the explicit purpose of trying to take lots of images like this through shop windows.

    I was quite surprised that this came out so well - I figured that there would be all sorts of problems with reflections on the glass, with the window affecting image quality and so on. My question is this:

    What sorts of considerations with regard to exposure and so on are there when trying to take pictures like this? Are there particular lighting conditions that are going to work best (I am guessing soft diffused light e.g. light cloud)? Are there other things to bear in mind? e.g. angle of view with respect to the glass/direction of sunlight etc?

    In short, was my picture a fluke or is it really that easy?
     

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  2. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    It doesn't look bad.

    I don't have any experience with shooting through windows but just trying to think about it logically---- seems you would have to be concerned with clarity issues or how much does the glass degrade the image light reaching the film; reflections, etc...With an in-camera meter used properly, it seems that issue would be adequately addressed; but, certain reflections may alter the meter reading, IDK.
     
  3. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    Use a polariser and reflections won't be an issue.
     
  4. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    It's not that bad really. Reflections can be a problem when shooting through a window, but avoiding them isn't magic. If you can see the reflection from your viewpoint with the naked eye, then the camera will see it too. These reflections may or may not be strong enough to substantially affect the metering. Naturally, if the outside light is very bright, then the reflections from the glass will be stronger than if the outside ambient light is dull and diffuse. Using a polarizer can help a lot, and so can changing the angle at which you're shooting.
     
  5. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Actually, a polarizer doesn't do much good if your line of sight is at right angles to the glass; they are much more effective against reflections bouncing off about at 50º.

    As fschifano says, you have to assume the camera viewpoint and see what bounces back, it depends a lot on the angle of sun or position and brightness of the lighting outside. I haven't found it to be much of a problem except in a few odd cases. You could step up close to try and meter the interior you wish an optimized exposure for.

    DaveT
     
  6. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    Thanks all. Lots of food for thought there. Actually I am not sure I necessarily want to avoid reflections. In the case of the picture above you can see, to the left of the head, reflections of the buildings on the opposite side of the street. I think this adds to the picture rather than detracts. Though obviously in many cases reflections are going to be undesirable so the suggestion of using the polariser is a good one in those cases.

    What I really don't want though is reflections when I am taking a shot when, as DWThomas says, the line of sight is at right angles to the glass .. as that would obviously be a reflection of me ...

    I am still really surprised that the shooting through glass does not degrade the sharpness of the picture more. Maybe it was really clean and recently washed glass :smile:
     
  7. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    A polarizing filter can still help if you don't want to eliminate ALL reflections. As you rotate the filter, and change your position, the polarizing effect can be increased or decreased at will within reason.
     
  8. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Shove the lens right up against clean glass and go for it!
     
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    A polarizer can sometimes help, but if the window is plastic then you can get all kinds of patterns...

    The best way to work around glass or plastic is with a hood. You set the hood against the glass. Failing that, you can make yourself a darkcloth from a jacket or such and off you go. No reflections. I've taken quite a few acceptable shots from airplanes that are not recognizable as such; these were done with flexible plastic hoods from the mamiya rb system- they are very wide and flexible.

    You often lose contrast when you go through another medium, so if there's anything you can do to boost contrast in the dev or print stages then you might consider that.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2008
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    IMO, the reflections are what make these types of pix interesting. I would use them rather than worrying about them. My only advice is to go out and shoot a lot, and to not think about the pix in literal terms, but in conceptual ones. Your pic is made by the reflection of the apartment in the top left, IMO.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2008
  11. white.elephant

    white.elephant Member

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    I totally agree. To me any pictures of this type are made interesting at all but the interplay between the obvious point of focus and the 'commentary' in the reflections. If you get really lucky, you get an image where the two comment on each other. It's similar to double exposure, but the store window is doing it for you.
     
  12. Katier

    Katier Member

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    Couldn't agree more, for killing reflections works a treat. There's a couple of shots in my flickr which show this very well.
     
  13. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    Thanks for all the incredibly useful and interesting feedback. I am definitely going with the idea of trying to use the reflections as an added element of the picture, rather than trying to eliminate them. I went out again the other day and had go at this. Here's one of the results ...
     

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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Glad to hear it! For some inspiration, check out some of Lee Friedlander's pix.
     
  16. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    I was just eyeing up a very large book of his work on Amazon last night ... I think I'll have to splash out on it.
     
  17. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    My friend Dinesh once got arrested for taking pictures through windows, but that's a story for another day :wink:
     
  18. tac

    tac Member

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    Used to occasionally shoot shop windows commercially, ages ago, We hung up a huge curtain 12x25' of black velvet about 5 feet from the glass (at night) and poked the camera lens through a slit cut in the middle. result: NO reflections!
     
  19. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Yes, I use a smaller scale version of that when I shoot winning art show paintings for my local art club. I have about a five by seven foot dark cloth hung on a background stand and poke the camera through a slit in the middle. Works well with the watercolors which are always behind glass.

    DaveT
     
  20. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    Finally got around to uploading some more of these shots I have been doing. Any comments welcome ...
     

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  21. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Like them both, but 'really' like #2. Nice work.
     
  22. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I take pics through windows often. As long as you don't notice a reflection in your camera's viewfinder, you should be find
     
  23. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I do agree with this. The use of a polariser, or the elimination of all reflections is very clinicial and cold. Unless reflections interfere with subject matter on the other side of the window, the inclusion of the world through reflections is more documentary and interesting. Windows alone are seldom interesting, though you can have a lot of fun with beautiful natural setups of colour, pattern and form in places like Tuscany, Greece, Italy and Copenhagen.

    The image does not come up in my browser. Just a blank white screen. Hmmm.
     
  24. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Always shoot at an angle. You can even shoot flash through a window glass if you shoot at an angle less than 90 degress. The reflection of the flash goes off the window away from your camera position - just like a pool ball going off a rail.
     
  25. nicefor88

    nicefor88 Member

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    If you place your camera at an angle of 45 degrees with the glass surface you will avoid most reflections. As for metering, you may have to overexpose in some cases a glass surfaces have a bigger albedo than the other materials we usually photograph, I would say up to 2/3 of a stop.
     
  26. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    I was out taking a few more of these shots yesterday and had an interesting experience. A tale of two halves ...

    My first stop was a wig shop where there were some interesting looking mannequins and great opportunities for reflections of people walking by. I had shot this before but not gotten it quite right so I wanted to try again. Anyway, a lady who was working in the shop noticed me doing this, I caught her eye and she smiled. A minute or so later she popped her head out and struck up a friendly conversation. She was into photography too and we had a nice chat for a few minutes about it. After a chatting for a while, a took a few more shots, thanked her, and moved on. All good ...

    I then moved to a nearby street where there was a large clothing store with some mannequins with animal heads. I was in the middle of shooting these when next thing a lady from the shop comes out and tells me I am not "allowed" to take photographs of the window display. I kind of deliberately ignored her for a minute to finish the shot I was taking and then embarked on this ridiculous conversation with her whereby I tried to tell her that since this is a public street and the window display is the public face of their store she has no legal basis on which to tell me I am not allowed to take photographs. She didn't really take this in and just kept repeating that I am not allowed to take pictures .. blah blah blah. I told her that I was finished anyway but that she was wrong in what she was saying. She went back into the shop and just because I was irritated I took another one before moving on.

    Now, my question is this. Am I correct? It strikes me that this may be something of a gray area. It's obviously the case that you are free to take pictures on a public street. It would not however be okay to take pictures inside the store (or at least the store are perfectly within their rights to make no photos a condition of entry). As I understand it, it is generally not okay to take pictures into a private premises from a public street (i.e. I can't sit in a tree across the road from your house and take pictures of you sunbathing in your garden). This could reasonably be extended to taking pictures into (e.g. through the door of) a store from the street. But what about a window display? Technically it is inside the store but on the other hand it's the public face of the store intended for public view ...

    I'm aware that obviously this sort of thing varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so its pretty hard to have a definitive answer. Also, whatever the exact legal status I am not going to let this inhibit me doing this. I am just curious and want to have my arguments prepared better next time ..

    Hugh