I was recently shooting in a museum that had a no tripod rule. It also seemed to have little budget for lights either as the display cases were pretty dark with a lot of harsh reflections.

One of the exhibits had some old cameras and gear. I had a nostalgic moment when I saw one of the first cameras I shot with during my music journalism days. Of course it was in shadows and behind glass. But I combined the two problems to create a solution.

Olympus OM?D E?M5 with Sigma 30mm Lens ƒ 3.2 | 1/10 second | ISO 640
Olympus OM?D E?M5 with Sigma 30mm Lens
3.2 | 1/10 second | ISO 640

Here’s how I got the shot using just my camera (no filters or tripod).

  1. Position the camera so its lens hood touches the glass to help stabilize the shot.
  2. Set your cameras exposure based on the light meter readings inside the case.
  3. Keep the camera at an angle. Adjust the angle of the camera to minimize reflections. If you want to be a good camera geek, read this article on Brewsters Angle to understand the concept of polarization.
  4. Reduce the aperture to increase the depth of field.
  5. Set the shutter speed shorter to reduce the chance of camera shake.
  6. Adjust the ISO to get a solid base exposure.
  7. Exhale your breath, don’t hold it which causes shake.
  8. Fire the shots. Consider using a burst mode to get multiple photos or even a few series of brackets so you have options to develop.

I hope this technique helps you the next time you find yourself light on gear. A polarizing filter is ideal for these scenarios. This is (of course) just one way to solve this problem. Use whichever suits you best.