How to shoot through glass?

There are lot of occasions we will be shooting through transparent glasses. Especially scenes from inside a car or airplane, aquariums, merchandise on display, exhibits in a museum, artifacts and lot more. If we are not careful, we may end up with disastrous pictures.

inside a display case

Inside a display case

The following few tips can help you to get the shoots right when you shoot through the glass,

  1. Use manual focus to get the subject behind the glass sharp. Some autofocus cameras may not get your subject sharp when it is behind the glass.
  2. Clean the surface of the glass if possible to get the subject clear. Dirt is a major enemy for shots through the glass.

    from Indigo

    Inside a flight

  3. Shoot from near the glass to make the dirt/scratches go out of focus. This also could take the reflections outside the frame
  4. Use Polarising filter to remove unwanted reflections of the surrounding on the glass. Rotate the glass element of the filter till you see the reflection going off.

    from giant wheel cubicle 011

    Shot from a Giant wheel cubicle

  5. Do not use direct on camera flashes while shooting parallel to the glass surface. Stay little diagonal to use a bounce flash light from the ceiling or walls.
  6. Avoid back light as it unnecessarily reveals all the dirt/scratch on the glass


    Shot from inside a car

  7. Check for proper exposure as there may be drastic difference in brightness in the scene. Play with exposure bracketing to settle for something you want.
  8. You could try HDR imaging technic for high contrast subjects

    from a car

    Shot from a moving car

  9. Use the best of white balance control to shoot subjects inside glass cases lit with different kinds of display lights.
  10. Include the frame or the edge of the glass using wide angle lenses to establish the glass if you want to show that you are shooting through it.

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How to look for different/unusual view points

A photograph looks different when it is shot from an unusual point of view. An unusual point of view is a view that many photographers would not have tried. May be it is something very contemporary or unconventional. A conventional photograph is one that is normally shot from a comfortable zone. When we try to jump out of a common path the photo automatically becomes different. The unusual point of view creates an extra attention to the photo.

The following tips may help you to shoot something unusual.

  1. Come out of the tourist instinct and avoid seeing things from a gallery point of view or a tourist guide’s point of view.


  1. Go around the subject if possible or visualize the other sides of the subject.


  1. Step out of the common path…and refrain from shooting along with most other persons with a camera.

Kapaleeshwarar temple

  1. Avoid eyelevel point of view as far as possible. Look at the subject little from a low level or climb up little elevations.


  1. Include some interesting foreground… a suitable or meaningful foreground will make the point of view truly unusual.

Balaji Prasad (4)

  1. Shoot through arches, doorways, holes, fences, jolly etc. to make it interesting.

Hindu temple

  1. Look for interesting reflections in the foreground or background.


  1. Shoot people from others point of view – an over the shoulder shot will be exciting and unusual.


  1. Overlap the subject meaningfully on to a suitable background to make the subject unusual.


  1. Use extra wide-angle lenses for unusual perspective distortions and visual effects.


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The Reflections

Like shadows, reflections also communicate a lot about the subject. But unlike shadows, reflections, many times reveal the details of the subject. Reflections are exciting. You can understand this feeling, when you observe the reactions of a child or a pet dog looking through the reflected image in the mirror. I cannot still forget my first water reflection shot of my friend standing on a very small canal bridge.
The clear reflection of a glass table top gives you tremendous still life pictures. A semi reflective acrylic sheet or mica or any metallic surface provides you reflections of variable strengths. The distorted reflections on the uneven surface provide you a great feel of abstract. If handled carefully these reflections create an immense feel of aesthetics in our pictures. These magical reflections are powerful emotional strength for photography.
There is something called unwanted reflections in photography. These reflections could de-saturate the colours and take away the contrast in a photograph. These reflections could be removed to the desirable extent by using a polarizing filter.
But to me, reflections are natural and they are true to life.
For example, have you ever looked at the reflection of the world around in small dew drop hanging from the tip of a leaf? Have you ever seen and enjoyed the reflection of a tall building in the tinted wind shield of a car as it is approaching the building? Have you ever seen and enjoyed the reflection of your entire new house in the sun glasses of your wife? Have you ever seen and enjoyed the reflection of the automobile lights as they move on a wet road after the rains? Have you ever seen and enjoyed the reflection of your wine glass on the black granite table of your bar counter? Have you ever noticed the distorted and elongated reflections of your entire family on the stainless steel glossy water mug when all of you are dining..?
If you have not seen such beautiful things in life then, there is very little you could do with your camera. Because, reflections prompt you an instinct to photograph even the ordinary things to make it look extra-ordinary.