Saturday, August 28, 2010

Film Readers and Photographing Images

Copyright 2010, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

I was asked about taking photographs of images from microfilm readers.  Is it doable?  Yes.  Is it easy?  Sorta.  Is it preferable?  Maybe.

At the Allen County Public Library the majority, if not all, of the microfilm readers are this type.

These readers have the lens at the top, shooting the image to the white, slightly sloped area, below.  As you can see, there is already a shadow on the white surface.  My experience is that there usually is some kind of shadow, or glare, even when loaded with film. 

Lets be up front here, this is one of my first experiences trying the photo the image vs the printers onsite.  My experience is limited. 

For really great reproductions of the images, you need to take the film to one of the printers available in your library.  There be the difficulty here at ACPL.  MY experience, MY opinion, MINE, is that the new computerized type printers they have here are a nightmare.  They are extremely hard to learn to use, I am no hacker, but, I am not a computer newbie either, and these printers give me a headache.  Well, they give me a great case of heartburn and agnst.  They are by far the most irritating, horrible machines.  Can you tell, I will do just about anything to NOT use them??  Don't get me wrong, if you can figure out how they work, they do work great, fab images, you can print to paper or to your own flash drive.  To get one image out of these new fangled machines has taken me 30 minutes and more.  My patience does not last that long, eh??

SOOOO, that is one reason I have been experimenting with the camera.

So, here are some preliminary opinions I have made, learning curve still ongoing:
  1. You WILL be fighting shadows and the curved white surface.  (Unless you can find a reader with the image on a screen in front of you - like a telie or computer monitor.  I have not tried one of those, not had the opportunity, but, I feel they might work best for photography.)
  2. Take a LOT of shots, digitial, you get to toss the bad ones.
  3. If the pages are wide, like old vital records tend to be, I take several across the page, not trying to get the entire image in one photo.  If you want the entire page in one image, you might want to try "stitching" the photos together.  I can "stitch" images, but, it is not one of my more favorite digitial enhancing tools, so I tend to just capture the most I can per photo and use more than one for my output/saving to the database.
  4. Obituaries are easier to capture, they usually don't extend more than one column wide and are fairly easy to get centered in your photo.  You can push the image on the reader to one side or the other, allowing you to get a more "square" looking photo.  By the way, if there is a photo of the ancestor published with the obit, I found they turn out pretty nice, I zoom in, then edit digitally later. I mean, an image of the ancestor is an image, if you don't have one, this will beat the heck out of never having one!
  5. You will have to fiddle around the lens and the adjustment handles.  This was the tough part with the vital records, handle in the way.
  6. Watch for your own hands and camera shadows in the image BEFORE you shoot.  I found that by getting the camera up as high as I could, near the lens, I had less issues with my own shadow.
  7. Again, take LOTS of shots, zoom in a bit, take the entire page, then, zoom in.
  8. I try to take a photo of the film box, or film description image first, THEN take the photos of the images I want.  (I do the same with books, take a photo of the title page, etc, first, then the pages I want.  Ya, sometimes I mess this up, but, still learning!  LOL)
No, all your images will not turn out, as you can see:

So, here is another hint , preview your captured images before you  move on.  I preview just about every photo I take of books and film.  So, when I previewed the image above, I could easily see, it needed a do over.

The image I used on last night's post was cropped, auto enhanced (which made the background turn even darker and the print even whiter), and sharpened (to crisp up the edges of the letters), and re-sized.

Try using your digitial camera, and if you don't like the results you see when you preview the image, take the film directly to the in house film printers and do what you have to do to capture that record you have been hunting down for 20 years.

Since I had my laptop computer with me, and the camera with me, I also thought ahead to take the cords to download the photos from the camera to the computer.  I downloaded the photos each day before I left the library, verifying that the quality was satisfying and sufficient for me. 

Try it, and be your own judge.  Verify quality before leaving the image and the library for the day.  Have fun!

One side benefit to photographing books, etc, is you can use that snifty program, Transcript, with the images.  My camera saves as jpg images, which load easily to Transcript, and I can type from that image.  Don't we all just LOVE Transcript??  YAA, we do!


Linda McCauley said...

Thanks Carol. I really want to try this, just have to find a library that allows cameras.

hummer said...

Sometimes when a book is too large for the scanner one of those long shaped ones, I have taken a shot of the page with the camera too. I had taking the picture on the slope. I always feel like I am on a warp. We have a patron at our FHC that has a tripod and black cloth to cover from the outside area and gets great shots every time. Really a set up.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I'm with you when it comes to these new fangled microfilm printers. Great printouts once you get to the image on the film and get the printout. Definitely too time consuming. However, I do like the fact that you can get a really nice digital image for your flashdrive for those really important documents.

The camera is the way to go! Love it, love it, love it. The same goes for Transcript!