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Shooting Through Glass: Reflection Free Photography.

beginners technique tips Feb 14, 2024

Shooting Through Glass

Reflection Free Photography

For any photographer, capturing the perfect moment through a pane of glass can be a daunting challenge. Whether it's a scenic landscape from a train window or an urban vista from a skyscraper, reflections can turn a great shot into a murky disappointment. Fear not, though; let’s dive into some practical tips to help you nail those clear, reflection-free photos.


First of all it’s important to understand the problem. It’s the light on the camera side of the window that causes the problems.  And the brighter it is, in relation to the scene you’re trying to photograph on the other side of the glass, the bigger the problem is going to be. It’s also about angles - the flatter you can get your camera lens to the glass, the less of a reflection problem you’ll have.


1. Embrace the Rubber Lens Hood

Your first line of defence against reflections is the rubber lens hood. This simple, flexible accessory allows you to press your camera snugly against the window, blocking out those sneaky reflective light sources. It’s straightforward yet effective – sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.


2. Polarising Filters: Your Glare-Busting Friend

Polarising filters are akin to polarised sunglasses for your camera. They help reduce the glare and reflections significantly. Just rotate the filter while observing the scene until the unwanted reflections vanish. It’s not only effective but also quite satisfying to see those glares disappear with a twist.  The effectiveness of this technique does depend on several factors:

  • Different artificial light sources (such as LED, fluorescent, or incandescent lights) have different characteristics. Some may produce light that is more polarised upon reflection than others.
  • The degree of polarisation depends significantly on the angle at which the light is reflected. The most significant polarisation occurs at “Brewster's angle”, which is specific to the refractive index of the material. So, for glass with a refractive index of 1.5, Brewster's angle is approximately 56.3 degrees. This means that when light strikes the glass at this angle, the reflected light will be polarised as much as possible.
  • The properties of the glass surface, including its texture and any coatings it may have, can affect how the light is polarised upon reflection.


3. The Classic Hand-Cupping Method

Caught without all your gear? Use your hand to cup around the lens and create a makeshift barrier against reflections. It’s an old-school technique but can be surprisingly effective in a pinch.


4. Fast Shutter Speed: Essential for Moving Shots

Shooting through glass on moving vehicles like trains or buses? A fast shutter speed will be your best ally. It helps freeze the scene, capturing a crisp image even when you're on the move. This might require a few attempts to perfect, but the results are worth the effort. 

5. Navigating Double Glazing Challenges

Double or triple glazed windows can be tricky due to internal reflections. The trick here is proximity. Get your lens as close as possible to one of the glass surfaces to minimise internal reflection issues. It’s all about reducing the angles and surfaces where reflections can occur.

6. Positioning and Angles

Sometimes, shifting your position and experimenting with different angles can miraculously remove reflections. It might require a bit of moving around, but finding that perfect angle where reflections are minimized is often key to a great shot.


7. Ensure Your Glass Is Spotless

A simple but crucial tip – ensure the glass you’re shooting through is clean. Smudges and dirt can add unwanted texture and obscure your subject. A quick clean can make a world of difference in clarity. Shooting through dirty windows on public transport can be tricky - but it’s worth trying to clean your side of the glass as much as possible even if you can’t access the outside! (A pack of wet wipes and a lens cloth are handy items in your camera bag).


8. Darkening Your Environment

If you're indoors, reduce the light behind you. Turn off interior lights or draw curtains to create a darker environment. Less light behind you means fewer reflections on the glass, leading to a clearer shot.


Remember, photography is about problem-solving as much as it is about creativity. Overcoming the hurdle of shooting through glass windows sharpens both these skills. So, grab your camera, and with these tips in hand, you’re ready to capture those once-elusive scenes with newfound clarity and confidence.



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