Tips for Photographing Statues

Photographing statues - Perseus and Medusa
When photographing statues, a good sky helps tell the story and set the dramatic mood.

Photographing statues is hard. They’re usually surrounded by distracting town and city things like traffic, people or bushes and trees in parks. Trentham Gardens in Stoke on Trent has some wonderful statues on tall columns, making them much easier to photograph without distractions.

The weather cooperated nicely too. Dark stormy skies suited the mood and drama of this gruesome scene, which just wouldn’t have been the same if I’d shot it a few minutes earlier when the sky was blue.

Quick tips for photographing statues:

Eliminate distractions – look all round before snapping for distractions like tree branches, stray birds, wandering people, street signs, lampposts. Physically move around the statue to see which angle works best. In busy places it’s hard, so maybe revisit when there are fewer people around. Sometimes moving just a fraction to the side can prevent posts coming out of heads. Try a lower or higher angle of view, or move back or zoom in.

Simplify the background – if you can’t eliminate all distractions, try and find an angle where the background is uniform. You could look for a building with regularly placed windows that form a pattern, or one that avoids high contrast areas between bushes and bright sky. A shallow depth of field (low aperture number) helps too.

Be selective – if you can’t get a clear view of the entire statue, what about taking a close-up of a section? Home in on the most telling feature or features, and aim for sharp, minute details that capture texture, light, shadow or story.

Choose your light – photographing statues often means shooting upwards, and a bright sky can really mess with your dynamic range. You’ll likely end up with either a nicely exposed sky and a dark statue or a well lit statue and a blown out sky. Spot metering (or alternatively centre-weighted) over the statue helps expose for the subject, but likely have problems with the sky. Over cast or dramatically cloudy skies work well, like with Perseus here. Exposure bracketing can also help. You can either merge images or replace a badly exposed sky in post processing.

Photographing Local Statues is an Ideal Project

Photographing statues makes for an interesting photo project (here are some other photo project ideas if you’re feeling a bit lacking in the inspiration department). Most town and cities are full of them, but we often take them for granted because we see them every day.



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