How to take photos of documents

Ask yourself some questions about the practicalities of getting an image of a manuscript. Work through the checklist in the Capture Your Collection: Small Museum Tutorial.
  1. 1.
    Should you use a scanner or a camera?
  2. 2.
    What are you going to do with the digital file afterwards (processing and post-processing)?
  3. 3.
    How long do you need the image?

How to take a picture of a document

[suggestions by James Opp; adapted by Marc Saurette]
If you are using the camera rig in Paterson Hall, room 327 (the "DH" lab), you might be able to get access to the Public History's Canon Eos T3i DSLR camera which can be screwed into an adjustable mount (moves up/down and in/out, but not side to side). Given that the camera sits rather high on the rig, it works best if you can tether it to a computer so that you can view the shots but adjust settings (if necessary) remotely. The IMac beside the camera rig has Canon Eos Camera Utility which allows this. Other software (Mac's Aperture and Adobe Lightroom) also can remotely control many DLSR cameras.
  • turn off overhead lights to keep the colour balance constant
  • make sure you do all of your adjustments on the camera after you've made sure that the lights are set exactly where you want them, because tilting these will have an effect on the lighting intensity, etc.
  • shooting with a remote control or 2 to 5 second timer is recommended to avoid shaking the stand/table (might need to slightly tighten the nuts on the bottom of the post). • Delayed shooting is unnecessary when using a tethered DSLR camera • by “tethering” a digital camera to a computer via a USB cable, you can usually achieve much control over the camera without needing to touch it and change settings if you need to adjust the setup to achieve different images
  • using a "normal" lens, preferably a prime, or a zoom at 'normal' length is highly recommended (Not wide angle); for full frame cameras, o for full frame cameras, this is 45-55 mm, for 'crop' frame cameras, o this would be about 35mm. The PH Canon EOS T3i is a crop frame camera. • recommend setting the ISO to 100 or 200 ; 400 would be the maximum before you would start to see artifacts / noise levels • recommend setting the aperture at least one stop down from 'wide open' ; ie. if the widest aperture is 2.8, then 4.0 ; if 4.0 then 5.6 ; most lens tend to be the sharpest between roughly f4 to f8, but f8 likely won't give you enough light (or it would make your shutter speed very low)
  • if you set your iso and preferred aperture in whatever Nikon calls it's "Aperture priority" mode (in Canon it's the Av setting) ; you can test and see what it is reading for a shutter speed. Once you're happy with the values and test shots, I would recommend noting down the shutter speed and then using Manual mode to dial in the exact shutter speed and aperture that you want.
  • (if there is a lot of 'white' spaces, you may want to compensate a bit because the camera's natural impulse will be to make the picture too dark). If you have all of the values you like in manual mode, then you'll have consistent exposure across all of the frames with the same light source.
  • I'd recommend shooting in a combined .jpg / .raw mode so that you have both easy files to work with and larger files for later manipulation if you wish.