Genealogy: Photographing unbound pages

Photographing unbound pagesBy Barry J. Ewell

For over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.

Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research in places such as local courthouses, libraries, genealogical societies, family cemeteries, and long-ago home sites and the homes of those who have a portion of the family record.

The following is the process I use with my digital camera to photograph unbound pages.

  1. Mount your camera on its stand, in shooting position.
  2. Use a white sheet of paper,orawhite painted cookie sheet:
    1. a. Set the pre-set white balance on your camera.
    2. b. Choose auto white balance if your camera doesn’t have a pre-set option.
  3. Place your document in position and anchor it with magnets.
  4. Select the camera’s macro mode if necessary.
  5. Zoom in so your document is properly framed.
  6. Check to make sure the focus is clear and sharp.
  7. Under most conditions you should be able to simply press the shutter button and go to the next page.  Depending on the light conditions, you may need to manually set your shutter speed to stay open a little longer.  If this is the case, set the timer and press the shutter button halfway down and hold in position for a few seconds to give the camera time to adjust the automatic focus and exposure settings.
  8. View the picture on the LCD and zoom in and check for the proper focus and exposure (brightness and contrast).  Can you easily read the text?
  9. If the focus and/or exposure are incorrect, make the camera corrections and re-shoot the document.