The Problem with Glass
Taking photos of photos behind glass doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here’s how to take a GOOD photo of your framed print WITHOUT being a pro.
So…you COULD just walk up and take a photo of it, but there’s a couple of problems with that:
- You can’t use a flash because of the reflection off the glass
- And, a photo taken without a flash means possible camera shake and your photo being out of focus
BUT, THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL IS THE GLASS ITSELF
It doesn’t seem to matter what you do – ANY light in the room is going to reflect off the glass. Sometimes you can change your angle a bit and that might help, but then the photo itself is now angled meaning the photo will be distorted. Glass reflection can also cause the camera and the photographer to be seen on the digital picture.
What are my Options?
- Take the framed photo away from the wall and put it somewhere where there is less reflection. But you will still have some reflection issues.
- Remove the photo from the frame and have it scanned on a flat bed scanner. I’ve done this many times for people. BUT, you don’t want to do it where the photo WITH the frame has special value to you as a single unit. No one 100 years ago, or even 20 years ago, ever imagined that your photo would be removed from the frame! If you DO decide to remove the photo, use a Stanley knife around the edge of the paper on the back. Be prepared that the metal used to secure any card or board will probably snap off if rusted. In other words, be prepared that the back of your frame might never be the same again. If the photo is very fragile it may be best to not remove from the frame at all.
BUT there IS a way to take good photos of photos behind glass and produce a very reasonable digital duplicate.
How to take photos of photos behind glass
- Get a hold of a tripod if you possibly can.
- Turn the flash setting to ‘do not flash’
- Ideally, but not necessarily, use a camera with manual shutter and aperture settings. Using your phone will get you a sub standard result. It might look great on your phone screen, but if you tried printing it you would see its shortcomings. Your camera doesn’t have to be an SLR with a polarising filter (nice), but it should ideally have manual settings
- Put the camera on the tripod and ensure that the lens of the camera is the same height as the middle of the photo. It also needs to be centered to the photo, NOT a little bit left or right. If this means getting your framed photo off the wall and putting it somewhere else then do that. Place it in a room with good natural light or take it outside on a cloudy day. Ensure that the frame is not leaning either forward or backward. Position camera on tripod to be the same height.
- Get something you can use as a dark background. “Ideally” get a piece of black matte sheet of cardboard. Cut out a circle-shaped hole big enough for the lens of the camera to go through. If you have a way of hanging your board, even better. ALTERNATIVELY, use a dark (no patterns) blanket or similar and hang it behind the camera which is on the tripod. You will also need to place a piece of dark material over the tripod itself so that it is not reflected in the glass. [I USE THIS EXACT METHOD ON THE PHOTO ABOVE and to take photos of photos behind glass].
- Look through lens of camera and using viewfinder ensure that the photo is both square to the camera AND the correct distance away. It is usually better to be a little bit further away and zoom in 2x. This ensures you avoid the distortion that a wide angle produces. It doesn’t particularly matter if your camera is angled for a portrait shot or landscape because you will crop the photo in software later.
- Your camera settings should ensure a) your ISO setting is no more than 200, otherwise the photo will have a lot of ‘noise’ b) you are opening up the shutter for a long enough period to ensure there is sufficient brightness in the image. Use trial and error to ensure you have the right setting. Also, use the self timer on the camera so you are not pressing the shutter button. If you are using the ‘blanket strategy’ in point 5b, a 10 second self timer delay will give you time to pick up the blanket with both hands and position it between the camera and you. Finally, make sure you are shooting in the highest resolution possible. If your photo is capable of shooting in RAW, use this setting. Check your manual.
- Take a few photos, connect your card or camera to computer and look at the files. Image should be square. It should be sharp. It should not be too dark or too light. There should be no evidence of reflection.
- Choose the best image and bring it into your edit software to crop it how you want it, either with or without the frame. You might need to adjust brightness, contrast, or colour tone to match the original image.
Hopefully, that all helps! Often times these beautiful framed photos reside only in one home. Taking photos of photos behind glass is possible. Securing a good digital reproduction allows these photos to then be shared around. People can even print their own duplicates and have them framed. ☺