8 Colorful Tips to Use Stained Glass in Photography

Stained-glass.jpg
Timothy Ball / Getty Images

Glass can be one of the more interesting subjects you can photograph, especially stained glass. The beautiful colors and patterns in stained glass make it a popular photography subject.

However shooting photos of stained glass requires some different techniques than photographing clear glass requires. You’ll also need to follow a few different steps to ensure that the vibrancy of the colors on the stained glass shows up well in your photographs.

Try using the following eight tips to ensure that you’re making the most of the stained glass in your photos!

  1. Pay attention to composition. When photographing any stained glass window, composition is very important. Do you want any of the wall or a nearby object to show in the photo? Do you want to shoot the stained glass from an angle to provide some depth? Make sure you position yourself to achieve the composition you want.
  2. Shoot from a variety of distances. If the area around the stained glass is in darkness, for example, you can shoot from farther back and make the stained glass appear as though it’s surrounded by a night sky. As shown in the photo included with this article, shooting from farther back with a long shutter opening can create a great effect. Or shoot an extreme close-up that perhaps shows some of the imperfections in the glass.
  3. Shoot with a tripod. Having a tripod handy is important when shooting stained glass photos because you may want to shoot with long exposures – 10 seconds or more – which are impossible without a tripod or other device to keep the camera steady. The long exposures can help bring out the colors in the glass, especially if you’re shooting at a time when the sunlight isn’t shining directly on the outside of the glass.
  1. Watch the brightness levels. When shooting a stained glass image, you want the glass to be illuminated from the outside by sunlight, to give the image a bright appearance. However, sometimes the sunlight might be too bright or too direct on the stained glass window, leaving the window’s image washed out. In this instance, you can use a diffuser outside the window, such as a thin white sheet hanging outside, to reduce the effect of the direct sunlight.
  1. Move farther back to minimize glare. You sometimes can limit the effect of glare from direct sunlight by moving back from the window and zooming in. However, if you’re going to use this technique, be sure to use a tripod too, as it will be difficult to hold the camera steady enough to have a sharp photograph.
  2. Pay attention to the focus. Make sure the entire stained glass image is in sharp focus if it’s a window that depicts a scene. You might need to shoot with a large depth of field, if the window is particularly large, to make sure the entire window is in sharp focus. And you’ll need to pay close attention to the sharpness of the image after shooting it by reviewing it on the camera’s LCD screen. With a surface like stained glass, it can be difficult for the autofocus system in some cameras to achieve a perfectly sharp focus.
  3. Blur the stained glass, but maintain the colors. Conversely, you can use the stained glass in the background with a small aperture to emphasize a subject close to the camera. The subject will be sharp, but the colorful stained glass in the background will be blurred, creating a cool effect. This can be a nice image for a wedding photo, for example, or a religious ceremony photo.
  1. Maintain your safety. If you must use a ladder or scaffolding to move close enough to the stained glass window you want to photograph, be careful. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the process of shooting the photo and forget where you’re stepping while you’re looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD screen. Don’t try to move while you’re looking at the camera. The last thing you want to do is fall off a ladder. But you also don’t want to lose your balance and bump the ladder into the stained glass, cracking it. Stay safe with your camera!