Taking the perfect shot - 5 tips for masterpiece photography

You’ve been waiting all these years to see your favorite artwork in person and today is the day both of you finally meet. You are now in the same room.

You want to capture this event with a photo that will do justice to this masterpiece. But how can you take the perfect shot?

Here are 5 tips to make this shot a memorable one!

1. Being in front

To take a perfect shot, you will need to be right in front of the painting. Not one step to the left. Not a bit to the side. Right in front of it.

It sounds obvious but it’s not.

Once you aim at the painting with your phone, look at the angles of the frame. If they are slightly crooked, you might not be in front of the painting. Try moving your body (or your phone) to the middle of the artwork to avoid capturing a distorted view.

And avoid to use the zoom of your camera. It will affect the quality and definition of your image. It’s preferable to be close to the artwork… but you don’t want to alert the guards!

2. Hold your ground

Of course, you might not be the only one who wants to look at this precious painting. And you don’t want to see anyone in your shot (not even their shadow).

Try taking position right in front of the painting, even if some people are between you and the painting. Sooner or later (or when their audio guide extra-long clip is finished) these people will move away and carry on with their life.

This is when you move one step closer (and another) and finally reach the “first in line” spot. Then you take your shot.

It’s easy to be nice and to take a step aside to let your fellow visitors take the front spot. But remember, you want this perfect shot so hold your ground! You can be courteous later at the gift shop. 😉

3. Use the grid

An easy way to help you take a straight photo is to activate the grid function of your camera. Most phones have this option turned off by default.

On an iPhone, you can go to Settings / Camera / Grid to activate it. Once activated, you will see 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines appear on your screen when using the camera.

Try to align these lines with the frame of the painting to ensure they are as parallel as possible. This will help you have a straight shot with no weird angles.

4. Choose the right orientation

Square? Portrait? Landscape? Which one to choose?

This is a question of taste. Argh! Since I hate asking a question and not getting a straight answer, here are the reasons why I use all three.


  • Square. I personally use the square format a lot more since I post my photos on Instagram and this is the most convenient format to post on that social media.

  • Landscape. Larger paintings are sometimes hard to capture in the square format so a landscape orientation might be best to capture the composition of the work.

  • Portrait. Same reasons as the landscape orientation. But if you think you’ll be using this shot as your phone background for a while or to make a social media story, then definitely use the portrait orientation.

Since you are there, you might as well take two orientations and choose later.

5. Try to avoid reflection

Famous masterpieces often have a protecting glass placed between the frame and the canvas. It’s very useful to protect the artwork from premature aging or from unwanted flash photography. But it can be really inconvenient for photography as it may reflect lights from the room or from the outside of the building.

Be bold. If you see that your photo would be best if a curtain is closed, you can kindly ask the security guard to close it for you. Here is an example.

It’s not perfect, but the reflection is a lot less noticeable.

Don’t forget, no flash photos in museums!

Have anything to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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