Photographing as a Genealogist
Posted on Feb 08, 2012
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Digital Photography for the Genealogist
As a genealogist, you will surely come across the need to take pictures. Naturally, the goal will be to get the highest and best quality picture from your camera.
Most photography as a genealogist will be indoors. Common places include:
- Historical societies
- Family reunions
Other places where documents and pictures are located
The types of things you will photograph will include documents and existing photographs. Some will be black and white, some gray scale, and some will be in color. Some will be in books, some will be unbound. Others will be old and brittle, or so fragile that they are stored and viewed in a room where they won’t let the light of day in.
Many outdoor shots are of historical consequence, but not of genealogical substance. Outdoor photography often involves cemeteries, or places where family members once lived, worked or worshiped.
Digital photography is all about lighting and location. The first problem you will always face is lighting. Shooting documents with flash indoors usually creates a “hot spot” caused by using a flash too close. When you have no choice but a flash, use it sparingly, such as in a group setting or for a gravestone that is in a shaded area. Many libraries and research facilities prohibit flash photography. Come prepared to shoot without flash.
Instead of flash use:
- Natural lighting (e.g., near a window).
- Light stands with diffusion screen and lights.
Self-contained photo studio that includes tripod, diffusion lights and screen, and copy stand.
Note 1: Sunlight is known as “white” light and gives what we recognize as true or natural colors. Any other type of light source has light of a different color temperature and gives off different color tones.
Note 2: Digital cameras try to automatically adjust for different kinds of lighting but sometimes need additional help. The camera’s “white balance” setting provides this help. This setting “reads” the light coming into the camera lens–and by assuming the brightest area in the image is white–attempts to balance the entire image so that the bright area looks white. All other colors should then appear natural.