Genealogy: Digital photography is all about lighting and location

Digital photography is all about lighting and locationBy Barry J. Ewell

Digital photography is all about lighting and location. As genealogist with digital camera, the first problem you will always face is lighting.  The following reflects my experiences as I have used my camera for genealogy research:

  • I use flash less than 10% of the time.
  • Instead of flash use
    • Natural lighting (e.g., near a window).
    • Light stands with diffusion screen and lights.
    • Self-contained photo studio includes: tripod, diffusion lights and screen, copy stand.
  • 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 like 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.

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.