I often find myself traveling… and one of my favorite stops is a good museum. All the time I see signs for no photography in museums. No tripods… no flash… no professional cameras. But cell phone cameras are just accepted.

I say, if you can’t beat them, join them. While my iPhone is no match for a true macro lens, I can still capture some fun memories of what I see.

The left and right image are a HDR bracket set shot on an iPhone.
The image on the right was merged in camera with slight touchup on the phone.

While on a recent trip to Costa Rica, we stopped at a museum about gold (the country has a long history with the precious metal). The museum was filled with great pieces of native art. Here was my workflow.

  1. Use an HDR photo app. As we’ve covered on an earlier post, a HDR photo has much more information than a standard camera phone one. Plus the app will store both photos to use later.
  2. Lay the Camera down. If shooting an item in a case, I just laid the camera flat against the glass. This worked well to minimize reflections as well as stabilize the camera.
  3. Use the touchscreen. To minimize vibration and movement, I used the touchscreen button. This means I am pushing the camera down into the glass, and not side to side with an external button.

    Two images captured using in-phone bracketing.
  4. Post-merge. You can easily take the images shot on the phone and open them on your computer. I find that I can merge two exposures with an app like Photomatix to get even better details in the image.

    While it may seem overkill, you can load bracketed photos from a phone in Photomatix on a desktop.
  5. Don’t forget post-processing. You can further enhance your photos with sharpening and noise reduction. The camera phone will probably benefit from four adjustments: Clarity, Noise Reduction, Sharpening, and Lens Correction.


I don’t consider the smartphone a replacement for traditional gear here. However, if my choice is get zero photos to remember my visit or get creative… I’ll choose to make a photo any way that I can.

Disclaimer: This is just one way to shoot in this situation. You may still find yourself harassed by security guards.