Should I Take Photos in Art Museums? If So, What Kind?

Are you the kind of museum-goer that loves to take photos of artworks? Or the kind that thinks artworks should only be appreciated by eyes, not camera lens? Read on and see if my take on this will get you to think differently about taking photos in museums.

Keith Chen

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Photo by Author at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo Title: The Girl Who Wanted the Moon. Original Moon Photos by Charles Le Morvan.

When I travel to different cities around the world, visiting art museums is one of my go-to activities. Even I have been disappointed by boring cities, the museums within those cities would still spark joy and inspiration. Since the very beginning when I started to visit museums, there is a question that always lingers in my mind — Should I take photos in a museum? Of course, I am not talking about those no-photo-allowed kinds of exhibitions. Even for the ones that don’t have any photography restrictions, should I? In this story, let me share with you my take on this topic, and then show you what kind of photos do I take in art museums.

Should I take photos in museums?

Photo by Author at Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo. Artwork by Takashi Murakami.

In the beginning, I rarely took photos in museums, even if I did, I would hesitate to present them to others. My top concern was that my photo of the artwork would only be a diluted version at best. I thought viewing photos of an artwork is only a knock-off experience because all the details in a museum setting like lighting, placement, or description cannot be easily incorporated into one single photo.

However, I changed my mind when I realized that, as a photographer, I can add value by presenting a different perspective of how the artworks can be viewed. In a way, this is like another curation — presenting to my photo viewers not only the artwork itself but also how it is placed in the museum and being viewed by other museum-goers or myself, the photographer.

Since then, my answer to this question became yes and I started to take museum photos that incorporate this additional perspective. Please read on and see more photos I took from different museums around the world.

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Keith Chen

Photographer, Product Manager @ Google, Professor, Runner, Hiker, and World Traveler. Took photos from 50+ cities (and counting). Language : 中文 / EN