Photography through a window

You might find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to photograph through a window. This post will go into how you can avoid those nasty reflections you may get when doing so.

When you need to shoot through a window—whether during the day or at night—you may find that you are getting reflections in your photos. These reflections come from objects and light from all around your camera when you take your photograph.

The light source behind me is reflecting off the window and into my photo.
By covering the lens with a cloth, I can eliminate the light source to take a clean image.

To avoid or even eliminate these reflections, you simply need to remove the visibility of these objects and light sources from the camera’s point of view—more specifically, the lens’ point of view.

There are a few options you can take to achieve this, and I will go through these below.

Option 1: Simplest Method

Move! If you see reflections on the window, see if you can simply move to a different location where there’s no light source around you. Without any light source around you at night, there will be no reflection.

Option 2: Next Simplest Method

Move your lens as close to the glass/window as possible to remove most of your reflection. If you’re shooting straight through a window and not angling your lens too much, the simplest solution is to bring the front element of your lens as close as possible to the glass you’re shooting through.

If the glass is stationary and not moving from any vibrations or anything, you can even lean your lens against the glass for added stability.

Note: If you look through the Live View/LCD screen instead of the viewfinder, and slowly move your camera towards the glass, you’ll see the reflections disappear the closer you get to the glass. Be careful not to move the camera while looking through the viewfinder since you’ll eventually hit the glass and may injure your eye when doing so.

Option 3: DIY Solution

If the above methods aren’t working for you, the next best thing is to make your own cover to put around your lens. This can be done easily with just a few things from your local dollar store. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Black cloth (see sizing below)
  • Scissors to cut a line through the black cloth
  • Suction cups (one for each corner)

This black cloth can be anything, as long as it blocks the reflection on the window from coming in to the lens. Black is usually the desired colour as it won’t introduce any colour casts in your photos.

The sizing of this cloth will depend on what focal length you’ll be using to shoot through the glass. The wider your focal length, the larger you’ll want to make the cloth. If you’re shooting straight and using a super wide angle like 14mm, I find that a cloth as big as about 70cm squared works well. If you are shooting with something not as wide, then you can make the cloth smaller accordingly. If you’re angling your camera up, down, or to the sides, then you may want a slightly larger size to accommodate the angle. I found 70cm squared to work even when I slightly angled the lens at 14mm. Experiment with this until you find the right size.

Black cloth to cover the lens. I cut mine approx. 70cm wide and high.

Using your scissors, cut a straight line in the middle of the cloth. This serves as the opening where you will poke the lens through.

Cut a line down the middle, just big enough to fit your lens through. I opened the hole here after I cut the line for illustrative purposes only.

You want to make this cut size so it snugs the diameter of the lens you’ll be using. If the line you make is too big, then you’ll introduce spots where light can enter, which will show in your photo.

The last step is to attach the suction cups at each corner of the cloth. You can do this any number of ways, such as using safety pins, poking holes through the cloth, or anything else you can think of.

Attach the suction cup to each corner using safety pins, poking a hole, or whatever method works for you.

Using the cloth

  1. To use the cloth, first position your camera where you want to take the photo. Bring the lens as close to the glass as possible but not touching the glass.
  2. Align the hole in the cloth with the lens and stretch the cloth so the top is just snug with a slight give.
  3. Suction the top of the cloth to the window.
  4. Insert the lens through the glass.
  5. Suction the bottom of the cloth to the window.
  6. You can reposition the lens to your liking after this but make sure the cloth is still covering the lens without introducing any holes.
  7. You can now take photos without any reflections!
Try and minimize the gap above and below the lens.

Option 4: Buy a cover

If you know you’ll be doing a lot of photography through glass, you may want to invest in a proper covering. There are some options available like Lenskirt. They are not cheap but it may be worth your while if you know you’ll be doing a lot of this.

Scratches

If you find yourself behind a window that isn’t clean on the outside, there’s not a lot you can do other than move to another part of the window that offers a cleaner view.

The same applies for scratches on windows. However if you move your lens close to the glass and use a larger aperture, then the scratch may become less visible in your photo as it blurs out. Try this out if you have no choice but to shoot at that one spot.


Do you photograph through glass? What do you do to remove any unwanted reflections? Let me know in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Photography through a window”

    1. Hi Patrick! I don’t have experience shooting from there since they renovated the observation deck so this will be new for me too. But judging from their Instagram you can kind of get an idea of what it looks like. I believe the ceiling is mirror-like which may make for some interesting opportunities too.

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