A reader judiciously wonders about the best process for avoid glare from glass in order to take a photograph from the heights of a tower.
To embrace the gigantism of certain cities, you have to gain height and climb to the top floors of the tallest towers. Paris, Tokyo, New York... The biggest metropolises offer superb panoramic views, but often from the other side of glazed surfaces. While it is possible to minimize glare in daylight, such shots become more complex in the evening, when indoor lights cause strong glare.
During a recent trip to Tokyo, I wanted to photograph the superb view of the city at night while climbing to the top of the town hall, but my shots all have unsightly reflections. How to make them disappear?Pierre Lescure, reader of Focus Numérique
Shooting through glass brings with it several difficulties such as distortion, loss of sharpness and, as our reader has rightly noted, reflections. If it is difficult to minimize the first two defects, it is possible to reduce reflections when shooting with certain accessories and a few tricks. It is also interesting to note that it is possible to use these same techniques to photograph fish in an aquarium or quite simply objects behind a window.
Note that as far as the editorial staff of Focus Numérique is concerned, photographing the new products presented at trade shows behind glass bell jars always makes us happy...
Shooting and accessories
The sun visor
The first solution to limit reflections when shooting is to approach as close as possible to the glass through which you are photographing. When we say "as close as possible", the ideal is even to stick the lens to the window. To avoid damaging the front lens, the easiest way is to use the sun visor and stick it to the glass. It then prevents external reflections from appearing on the image. If you don't have a lens hood, you can use all sorts of accessories to block stray light around your optics. If clothing can do the trick, for example, there are also large rubber or fabric sun visors that can eliminate glare. One of the best known is called Lenskirt and costs just over $50.
To limit reflections, the subject photographed must therefore be brighter than the environment from which you are photographing. Since you will not always have access to the main switch, it is up to you to find – sometimes with the means at hand – tricks to limit stray lights.
Shooting through glass can further complicate focusing. In certain situations, it is therefore preferable to switch to manual focus to avoid errors of appreciation of the autofocus.
The polarizing filter
If you are unable to get as close as possible to the glass through which you wish to take a photo, there are several solutions: find, while moving, the position which presents the least reflections or use a polarizing filter . This last tip is probably the most elegant and the most effective. We therefore invite you to consult our article on the operation of said polarizing filters.
Be careful though, a polarizing filter does not completely eliminate reflections, it simply attenuates them. For more comfort, opt for a circular polarizing filter that allows you to orient the filter so that you can quickly find the best position. Note that a polarizing filter tends to reduce contrast by densifying the entire photo. If you want to eliminate reflections with a filter, also keep in mind that you should avoid positioning yourself in front of the glass surface; shift and vary the polarization of the filter to best reduce reflections.Water Repellent Circular Polarizer Sigma (WR CPL) Give your opinion read the test
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Surprisingly enough, flash can prove to be an enemy as well as a valuable ally when it comes to avoiding glare. Indeed, used frontally, the flash is then the most treacherous of accessories: the glass returning a good part of the light directly to the camera, your photos will often have an unsightly effect. However, if you have the possibility of using an adjustable flash, or better, remote controllable, it will be able to support you in your work. As we have seen previously, to limit reflections, the subject must be more illuminated than your environment. The idea is therefore to illuminate your subject indirectly or remotely. You can also stick the flash against the glass to avoid the phenomenon of reflection while illuminating your subject.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle solution to remove reflections in post-production. In Lightroom, playing with haze correction increases the overall contrast of the image. Depending on the shooting situation, the reflections of a glazed surface can thus be reduced or, on the contrary, accentuated. If the exercise often requires a good dose of patience, it is also possible to play with the local correction tools.
Play with reflections
It is sometimes very difficult to limit reflection phenomena. Instead of giving up and going your own way, it can be interesting to play with reflections and compose your shots with them.
Photo credit: Pierre Caillault.