Photographing Documents

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Tim W, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. Tim W

    Tim W Guest

    What is the best method for photographing large documents without any
    studio type equipment?

    Specifically this is a question of a reference library which will under
    some circumstances allow copying of documents. If they go on a scanner
    that's fine but some of these are things like maps, several feet across
    and the library have said - 'bring in a camera if you want a copy of
    it'. So how would you get the best image with a camera and tripod, lit
    with a flash or by going near a big window?

    I am not even an amateur in photography, just a bloke who wants a good

    Tim W
    Tim W, Dec 8, 2011
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  2. Tim W

    Darkside Guest

    Do you need it free of distortion?
    ie does it matter if the edges bulge a little bit?
    Darkside, Dec 8, 2011
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  3. Tim W

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    The most important things are that the map is lit evenly and that the
    camera is parallel to the document. To minimise barrel distortion
    you'll be better off using the long end of a zoom. This will probably
    only be possible with the map in a vertical plane as you need to get
    as far away as you can. I'd suggest taking in a rigid board to which
    you can attach the maps. The library may get a bit fussy about this if
    you use blutack or something but you used to be able to get sheets of
    material which are tacky and leave no residue. Can't remember what
    they are called but someone here might.
    Geoff Berrow, Dec 8, 2011
  4. Tim W

    Tim W Guest

    No I don't think a slight distortion would be a problem. I was concerned
    with getting a clear image, detail and colour more than anything. If
    they are to have a purpose these images it would be for printing at a
    later date.

    Tim W
    Tim W, Dec 8, 2011
  5. Tim W

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    Well for detail, you'll need a camera with a decent lens and a tripod
    for stability. If the camera has manual controls set it on its
    highest resolution and (if available) lowest ISO. For best quality
    shoot in RAW if the camera will do that (but check that your photo
    editing software will open RAW files first).

    Practice your technique at home so you know what you're doing when you
    get to the library.
    Geoff Berrow, Dec 9, 2011
  6. Tim W

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    Can't find them with a quick Google but I think I used to use
    something similar on the platen of an enlarger to stop photographic
    paper moving about.
    Geoff Berrow, Dec 9, 2011
  7. Thoughts while reading the replies, Geoff.

    Use Blutack on strips of paper that you put across the corners of the
    subject. That way Blu tack (or Post-it notes) don't get on the valuable

    Next. Lighting.

    If you use a window make sure it is flat on to the subject. While
    sideways on may 'look' OK, when you look at the result you'll discover a
    tremendous difference between one end and the other.

    Fluorescent light may be best if the colour rendering isn't too
    important to you. In that case watch the difference between top and
    bottom if roughly underneath it.

    On camera flash may help, but watch out for differences in reflectivity
    of parts of the subject.

    In *all* cases use tripod.

    Best of luck!

    Michael J Davis, Dec 9, 2011
  8. There are some good replies on technique already, but for someone who is
    "not even an amateur in photography, just a bloke who wants a good result",
    and wants to photograph maps which are several feet across, inside a
    library, I would say, good luck. A professional would probably struggle
    under those conditions, especially with the constraints placed by working in
    a library.

    For the larger maps, I would want to lay them on the floor, then use a
    'boom' arm on a tripod so it extended over the centre width of the map, with
    the camera parallel to the map, then use flash and take a few shots, moving
    the tripod and camera along the length of the map as if doing a panorama,
    then use panorama software to stitch the images together, but the camera
    would be best set in manual mode to give consistency. This way, although
    tricky, should give you some relatively high resolution details from the
    maps, and if the panorama software did not work very well, you would still
    have some useable images.
    Harry Stottle, Dec 9, 2011
  9. Tim W

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    My first thought was that this must be nonsense as the light source is
    a very long way away, but then I realised that the width of the
    lightsource would be narrowing across the subject. I like it, you
    made me think.
    Agreed - on camera flash will be horrible.
    Good practice but not absolutely essential - the IS on my Nikon is
    Geoff Berrow, Dec 9, 2011
  10. Tim W

    Adam Funk Guest

    The library may also prohibit flash, because it's disturbing to other
    patrons and bad for rare/old materials.
    Adam Funk, Dec 9, 2011
  11. Tim W

    john east Guest


    bluetack can definitely leave greasy marks sometimes.

    there is an 'easy-peel' double sided tape about, but you dont often see it.
    i have some good stuff. Its japanese. it peels off easily and i've never
    found it to do any damage.
    john east, Apr 23, 2012
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