4 Easy Statue Photography Tips For Dramatic Images

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Photograph by Martin Much

Photograph by Jacob Surland

Photograph by Zen Silicon

Photograph by Joan Abella

Photographing Statues for Photo Exchange May 2016

Photographing statues is a unique challenge—when you take a picture of a statue or sculpture, you are incorporating someone else’s art into your own. But photographing sculptures is a great way to either show the artist’s work in its surroundings, or to show your own interpretation. Here are four statue photography tips to make the most out of your next encounter with 3D art.

Identify what inspires you.

What is it about the statue that drew you in the first place? Is it the texture or the material that was used? Or perhaps it’s how the statue mixes with the surroundings? By pinpointing what you like about the sculpture, you can decide on the best approach. For example, if what first drew you to the statue was the texture or color, you won’t want to photograph the statue as a silhouette, with the light coming from behind, or you’ll lose all that detail.

Incorporate the surroundings, but eliminate distractions.

Statue photography is about finding a balance between highlighting the environment and eliminating the distractions. A dramatic sky can create an amazing image—and the shapes and color of foliage and other elements of the landscape can help too. But, other things are best left out of the image. Try to crop out signs and power lines. If you don’t find the surroundings very dramatic, try getting in close or using a zoom lens and filling the frame. Using a wide aperture will also help blur out any distractions in the background.

Experiment with angles.

Angle plays a big role in sculpture photography. Walk around the entire statue—what view strikes you the most? Look for an angle that portrays the statue best—watch for angles that cut off a limb or another essential part of the figure. From a different angle, the figure may appear to be entirely different. Take a look at the background too, one angle may have big buildings in the background while another offers a dramatic sky. Foreground elements—like tall grass or branches—can help frame out the shot too.

Don’t forget about height. Shooting low and looking up at the statue will make it appear large and powerful but also distort some features. Standing back or climbing until you are eye-level offers a more realistic perspective, but you may need a zoom lens for these shots.

Look for portrait lighting.

Lighting is essential to any image, but when photographing statues, you can adapt some concepts from portrait photography. Side lighting is a nice way to add depth while front lighting is a bit flat and backlighting can leave you with a silhouette (which could be a neat way to shoot a statue if you’re okay with losing the details). Of course, you can’t bring a studio with you to the statue. If you can, wait for cloudy weather, or visit just before sunset or just after sunrise.

Statues make great subjects and leave plenty of room for creative interpretation. Find what inspires you about that particular statue, so you can highlight that in your images. Consider what parts of the surroundings should be included and what is better left out of the image, then experiment with different angles, watching how the lighting changes as you adjust your position. Take your time to get the shot just right—after all, your subject isn’t going anywhere!

Have a great statue photo, or simply one that could use some feedback? Join us for this month’s Photo Exchange  for inspiration, tips and just plain fun.

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