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Photography Question 
Paul D. Carter

Shooting Churches: Stained-Glass Windows

What special considerations should one remember when shooting church stained-glass windows in order to capture the intense, vibrant colors? I am thinking that I should underexpose about one stop or meter from the window close-up and not from the general interior of the church so as not to overexpose. I am using a center-weighted in-camera light meter and 35mm SLR manual film camera (Ricoh KR 5 super II). Thanks!

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4/16/2007 7:29:11 AM

doug Nelson   Be on the safe side and take one exposure governed by the light through the windows and nothing else. There might be enough variation in brightness intensities as to average out to a middle tone, which is what your exposure meter "wants". Shoot one/half stop over, one under, one whole stop over, one under. Generally, you underexpose a tad when shooting slide film, but overexpose when shooting negative film. Either way, you get more film density.
Unless you don't mind the windows narrowing from botton to top, use a wide enough lens to get all you want with a minimum of tilting the camera up. Consider also a short telephoto that would isolate certain interesting patterns and details.
Also, you need the stained glass to be illuminated from behind to really capture the colors.
Just my opinion, but I think you're going about the learning process in photography the right way, thinking about and questioning exposure!

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4/16/2007 8:11:28 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  Somebody's going to tell you to expose for the windows with one shot, then expose for the church in a 2nd shot, scan and then combine them with photoshop(layer masquerade). The fun way would be to do it as you're taking the picture.
What look you're going after changes what you might do. You want the church dark to give a dark framing for the windows, then exposing for just the light coming thru the windows you have to be mindful of the makeup of the windows. If you spot meter off the window, pay attention to the dominant colors of the area you're metering. The blues, reds and greens in stained glass that I remember seeing are pretty saturated, so you almost always have to overexpose to get them to look right. It's not like metering off green grass. But you have to watch out for making yellows too pale. Blues, reds, and greens have more room to overexpose but still look acceptable.
If showing the church inside with the glass is what you want, then if the church is dark with wood like old churches are, then you can try balancing the inside by camera on tripod, and a long enough exposure time wise for the windows that will allow you to hold a flash and fire of several burst of light to fill in areas of the inside. I wouldn't think an old church would have a ceiling that would be good for bouncing a flash off of. Probably too high and not a good material. Newer churches in the suburbs can sometimes have stucco ceilings, that although may be high, you can still bounce a flash off of, even if you have to do several on the same frame.
If you don't bounce, you can still shoot several lower powered burst to paint the room and avoid a lighted look that's too directional.

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4/16/2007 11:02:23 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Gulfport, Ms Presbyterian Church Stained glass
Gulfport, Ms Presbyterian Church Stained glass
1/5s, f/14, iso100, 20mm, tripod & remote shutter.
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 20D Digi...
  Dove stained glass
Dove stained glass
1/40s, f/14, iso100, 37mm, tripod & remote shutter. Gulfport, Ms
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 20D Digi...
I took these about a month ago with the inside of the church pretty dark but a nice sunshine was illuminating outside.

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4/17/2007 6:01:48 PM

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