This month’s creativity focuses on shooting through a glass window, door, windshield, etc. While it may seem simple, shooting through glass in this way can bring an entirely new layer of depth to your image … introducing new textures, influencing the quality of light, drawing the viewer in as a plausible bystander on the scene, or establishing a new sense of context by incorporating reflections of the surrounding environment.
1. Focus Manually
When shooting through glass, you may find it helpful to focus manually in order to render the scene exactly as you envision; autofocus may get caught up on a reflection, smudges, light glare, or physical elements within or around the window pane (such as a screen, grid, or imperfections in the glass).
2. Use a Polarizing Filter
Some photographers find that using a polarizing filter is useful when shooting through glass, as a polarizer can effectively reduce (or even remove) the light reflecting off the surface. Simply twist your polarizing filter until you discover the best angle for blocking the reflected light. If you don’t have a polarizer and do not want to invest in one, consider using the reflections themselves to your advantage, or work on your angle relative to the glass’s surface to minimize reflections that interfere with the subject you are trying to shoot on the opposite side.
3. Shoot at Night
Night can be one of the best times to try out incorporating reflections, particularly in an urban or other environment in which there is an interplay of varied lights bouncing off the exterior surface of the window. Do be aware that – again, particularly at night – there is likely to be mixed lighting (different color temperatures) between the indoor and outdoor settings on either side of the window, which can make things tricky but can also make for interesting creative effects; try to use this as an opportunity rather than seeing it as a challenge! Remember that some of the most memorable images come from photographers who embrace settings, subjects, and situations that others would shy away from.
4. Turn Off Your Flash (or Position it Carefully)
If you regularly use a speedlight or your pop up flash, you’ll probably want to set it aside for this shot, as the flash light will bounce off of the glass surface and typically yields a harsh, unnatural glare. If you’re working at night, it can be very helpful to bring a tripod with you to get around using flash. If you must use flash, experiment to be sure it’s delivering exactly the creative results you’re envisioning, or consider setting up OCF on the opposite side of the window (same side as your subject), with the light angled away from the glass between the two of you.
5. Back it Up! (and use framing)
Finally, consider backing up and/or using a wide angle lens to use the perimeter of the window/door/etc as a framing device. Not only is the frame itself effective in drawing the viewer’s eye to the subject, but capturing the entire frame can be a wonderful way to highlight the contrast in light and texture between the interior and exterior settings.
What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!
And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted the next challenge. We’d love to see your work!
Sarah Wilkerson, New York
CEO | CMU Instructor
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Duke graduate and former attorney Sarah Wilkerson joined Clickin Moms as a member photographer in 2008 and quickly became a leader in the community. Together with Kendra, Sarah has led the evolution of the company’s mission, program development, and position within the greater photography community. She currently resides in New York with her Army JAG husband, three sons, one daughter, and two dogs. Sarah shoots with a Nikon D4, enjoys tilt-shift and atmospheric black and white work, and instructs CMU’s upper level composition courses: Elements of Design and Composition and Creativity.