Tips for Photographing Outdoor Sculptures

Copyright (c) 2010 Dianne L. Durante

To take great photos of New York's magnificent outdoor works of art, try the following.

1. Weather: Hope for overcast skies, or look for sculptures that are in shadow. The sharp contrasts of bright sunlight on bronze or marble make your camera lose detail in either dark or light areas.

2. Composition: Try to get a good view of the sculpture's head, in profile or 3/4 view rather than a full-frontal mug shot.

3. Background: Look methodically for distractions. In New York, the most frequent offenders are street signs, tree branches and pigeons. Shift your position to get as many of them out of the picture as possible.

4. Zoom: Use the optical zoom (never the digital) to fill the lens with the sculpture or a detail of it. To prevent distortion, stand back as far as you can and zoom as much as your camera allows.

5. Spot metering or center-weighted metering: Set your camera to meter the light only at the center of the frame. Aim the center mark in your viewfinder at a big, solid chunk of statue (the sky will fade almost to white), press the shutter halfway down, and shift the camera back to treeless, pigeonless, signless image you composed before. If this doesn't produce an image with good detail, try using the exposure bracketing function (still center-weighted), if your camera has one.

6. Simplify: If you can't avoid all distractions, change the color mode to B&W or sepia tone; many distractions will immediately be much less visible. Or try zooming in on interesting details rather than capturing the whole sculpture.