The aspiration of every photographer shouldn’t be getting their work to be huge for a few seconds on social media. But instead, they should aspire to have their images in galleries, in museums, used for ads, etc. But there’s a problem that’s been commonplace within galleries and museums for years. And unless you actively seek those places out to look at photography, you’re probably not going to realize it. Indeed, it’s a problem that has kept people looking at screens instead of at prints in a museum.
The issue: reflections.
When you look at photographs on a computer screen or your phone, the lighting comes from the back. It cuts down on any reflections and you see the image mostly for what it is. But when your image is printed, it need to be lit from the front or from the top. That can cause issues like reflections that you’ll never want to deal with. They’re distracting, bothersome, and they force you to sometimes move around to see the image in its full glory. At times, you can’t always get that close to a photograph or move around all that much because you’re probably seeing the work alongside other people.
That’s the problem.
Lots of galleries and museums can completely ruin the experience that is your photography just by not considering reflections. It means that people need to know how to light or they need to use some sort of screen that makes viewing images easier and better. However, using galleries like that goes around how they make money. Often, they sell prints or the work itself. Prints are made in such a way that they’re bound to get reflections on them.
So what do you do? Well, here’s a quick checklist; and take the advice from myself and the thoughts of other journalists:
- Get Museum Glass: this cuts down on reflections on your photographs. Cheaper stuff doesn’t always work as well as the pricier stuff. But it majorly cuts down on the reflections from light, reflections of people, windows, etc.
- Light it correctly based on the paper: Luster, glossy, and papers with a sheen typically need indirect lighting to make them really pop. Matte paper needs brighter and more direct lighting.
- Ask the museum or gallery if they have either moveable ceiling lights or if there can be specific lighting put onto the photograph
- Get a good printer: I don’t necessarily mean buying something Canon or Epson — though we’ve reviewed a lot from them. Instead, the person or company printing your images should do a good job and know what they’re doing.
- Go to the gallery or musuem throughout the day to see how the lighting changes. That can be a major part of the experience that can make your images look better or worse. Those floor to ceiling windows of a gallery or museum might look nice. But they’re going to be a nightmare for lighting your photographs just right.
This begs the question: what’s the point of having the prints then? Well, printed photographs are a delicate thing that is a lasting experience. It can outlive you. Your image isn’t being treated like a scroll action on a social media app. Instead, it lives in your home and takes up space permanently. You can look at it often to take inspiration and it will have a changing value over time.