Windowscapes

Photography is full of `scapes: landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes are all very popular subjects. But the next time you grab your camera and head out for a day of shooting, why not take try to capture what's on "the other side" and shoot some windowscapes for a change? There are a couple of different approaches to take. You can use a window as a compositional device to frame your subject, or you can concentrate of photographing objects you find inside or behind a window.

A polarizing filter eliminated the distracting reflections in this scene shot through a window on a bright, sunny day.
Photography by Ron Leach

When using a window as a framing device, simply move back or use a sufficiently wide lens so that you can include the window frame and what's beyond it in the photo. Be careful with your exposure settings when using this approach: If you are inside looking out, your scene will usually be much brighter than the window frame. The opposite is true if you are outside looking in. You can expose for the exterior scene and let the window frame become a silhouette or add supplemental light to the frame so that it better matches the brightness of the exterior scene.

Here, the reflections of the trees on the glass created the sought-after effect, so no polarizer was used.

Sometimes you'll end up with a more interesting image if you just capture what's behind the window without showing the window frame at all. Elaborate store displays created by professional designers offer great opportunities for capturing unique images. When shooting through glass it's important to pay close attention to glare and reflections, and minimize these potentially distracting elements (unless they create an effect that you find interesting). A polarizing filter is usually all you need to eliminate glare and reflections (or at least reduce them to an acceptable level). Sometimes it also helps to experiment by shooting at different angles to the glass.

These sidewalk-bound pigs seemed very interested in what was behind this storefront window. Again, no polarizer was used because the objects reflected in the glass created an interesting effect.

Lens hoods are also very helpful in dealing with glare and reflections, especially when shooting at night. Put the lens hood right up against the window, being careful not to scratch the glass (rubber lens hoods work best for this application). If you must use flash to light your scene, shoot at an angle to the window, or move the flash off-camera so that it strikes the window at a different angle from the lens axis.

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