Monday, June 7, 2010

Nope, Not a Scanned Doc, a Photographed Doc, Part 2

Russ, who has 2 blogs, one of which is My Tombstone Collection , asked some very good questions on my post earlier today, Nope, Not a Scanned Doc, a Photographed Doc.  I started to answer via comments, then realized I wanted to show a few graphics, and decided to write Part 2.

Yes I do use a digital camera, a new to me, Sony DSC-HX1. Karen, I wrote about it here.  It has a 20 X zoom, which is great, but, I had issues with focus, say when subject is closer than 5 feet. I have discovered tho, that the macro will do under 5 feet quite well.  So, anything closer than 5 foot I put on macro.  Problem solved.

Remember, now, EACH CAMERA is different. And, I am still learning this one, it has lots of things to play with, lots of settings. And, I am NOT a professional.

I was trying to remember all the settings, I cannot tell you exact settings tho, especially if you are asking about aperture or F stop settings.  I let the camera determine that kind of stuff. Did have the macro on.

I can tell you that there is another setting for focus, you can "spot" focus, I am loving that for the flowers, or, you can focus across the entire subject, and I know I did the entire subject for the documents, as I don't want them out of focus on the edges.

I looked at the current settings for the camera, some are:  5 mega pixels, which is more than sufficient for my use of the camera.  It is set on programmed; noise reduction is normal; DRO (have no idea - where is the book??) is set for Standard; color mode is set to Vivid; color filter is off; color saturation is high; contrast is high; sharpness is high; and steady shot is on.  Like I said, I am still learning this new camera.

As far as setting against a wall, don't think so. Paper, will bend and twist. It will NOT be flat for long, and if it is not flat it will not look my example, almost like it was scanned.  At least that is how it works for me.

To make this work and look really good you need to have the photo come out square. If you are at a bit of an angle, the document might look like a trapezoid. That cannot be corrected with a photo digital enhancement program.  I did a test shot while writing this post, and it did not look so much like a trapezoid, but you could not read one side of the document as well, it just does not look right.  I have done photos of cemetery stones upside down (as in standing with the inscription upside down) and they had that trapezoid thingy going on big time, they look kinda weird when ya flip em with software.  But, hey, a photo is a photo, in that case, I'll take a trapezoid.  For documents, trapezoid is not desirable.

This probably could be done with a tripod set up, but I wanted to see if I could do it sans tripod, I usually forget to carry one!

I did this with a book typed on onionskin, old fashioned typewriter, lots of bleed through. Had the camera, needed 20 some pages in a library that does not encourage copies (like NO copies), I happened to have the camera with me, so, took photos, came home, fussed with the photos a bit.  I found they were of sufficient quality to actually print to use to work on the project.  I was not going for square on this, I was going for ANY image I could read and later use for the cemetery project.

Above:  Photo of page, right out of the camera.
Taken with low light, in library,
not sure even all the overhead lights were on.

Photo, tweaked by digital editing program,
page was then printed for use in cemetery project. 
I needed to be able to read names and information, after 
which the printed copy served no further use and could be trashed.

OHHHH, no flash. Not even in the library. Those photos were a bit dark, but, still quite workable, as you can see.

And, Russ, please be careful with savings files to PDF. Did you know that they can "die"?  I wrote about that here:

Data Backup Day, of a Different Sort, or Sometimes Backups Just Are NOT Enough

Again, the disclaimers, I am NOT a professional photographer.  I do shoot a LOT of photos, and many of them are of the same subject, I can delete all the bad ones, and I delete a LOT!  LOL! I am still learning the new Sony.  I am finding what settings work for me on my camera, and will use them over and over again. My best advice, experiment, try it with your equipment, and for goodness sakes, if you are a thousand miles away from home and just found THE document you have been searching for for over 15 years, said document breaking down a HUGE wall, be sure to get a photocopy TOO!!  Don't leave the research facility without at least one copy you know is the best you can get!  Better yet, take home 2 copies, OR MORE!!

Have fun trying this out, especially if the documents are already in your possession at home, where you have the luxury of playing/testing/trying that ONE more time!

*Maybe I should have titled this post, "More Than You Wanted to Know!"  LOL

Copyright 2010, CABS for Reflections From the Fence


Linda McCauley said...

You are so right about practicing this at home. I had never tried using a camera to "copy" when I had a trial by fire in the dark basement of a Chancery Bldg in MS last summer. I needed copies of newspaper articles from 1900 but they were too fragile to copy. I got home with readable articles but I've since practiced and could do a much better job today.

Barbara said...

Carol, this is useful information to those who didn't know you could take pictures like you showed. I've been doing it for a few months, and love it. Good article.

Russ said...


Great follow up. Thank you.

My question about the "against the wall" or vertical vs "on the desk" was to try to avoid taking the photo looking downward. I do understand the paper issue, I was thinking about a book, not paper. But Thank you.

When I have tried looking down on a book / paper was more about shadows and to use available light. Perhaps when I have tried this, I wasn't in good lighting. I'll have to try it at a library. I have tried it elsewhere, but not the best of lighting.

The setting question was more about speed. Understand the Auto settings. I use Auto-Focus and the Auto-Settings AFTER turning the Flash Off (manual setting).

Since I have the Original Photo / Digital Image, backed up a number of ways, I am not concerned about the PDF file. Will read the article you included. Thank you.

On tip I have learned: The first picture of a series is The Cover followed by the inside information of that book or document so that I can identify what the following pictures are of. I do the same when visiting Cemeteries.

Again, great follow up.

Thank you,


Carol said...


Books, ok, I did one flat, as shown, on table top, I must have been very lucky, as you can see, no shadow. Can see where that may become an issue. Random thought - - carry a couple of those HUGE clips (black binder clips) and use them to temporarily hold open the pages better??

Your tip about first photo of series - - excellent, thanks for sharing.

Apple said...

I use my camera to photograph letters and documents often. I have just a basic little Kodak. It never hurts to snap two of something because you can always delete extras later. One library I went to had long fabric bean bag type things to help hold pages flat. I don't know if all libraries would have them but you could ask - might be safer than clips if the pages are delicate.

Carol said...

Apple, I have never seen anything like you are describing, I agree, a great idea for fragile pages. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Goodrum said...

I love to use my camera to take photos of documents too. I think your idea on the macro setting is right on. I'll be using that from now on.

There is a device you might try for holding the camera (kind of like a tri-pod) that should work well for documents because you can position the camera directly over the document. It's called Photo Studio-in-a-Box. I've seen it on Amazon. The only drawback is that there are some other components you may or may not be interested in.

Also the fabric bean bag things for holding pages flat can be found at:
In their search box put in "book snake" and also "weights" for the different products they offer.

Have fun!

Michelle Goodrum said...

PS I did not know about the PDF issue! I'm really glad I read this post!!