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logoProformat News                  ISSN 1833-9514
No 27
May 2008


May seminars

13 May: Tracing your Irish ancestors, Tea Tree Gully Library 10:00am

14 May: Introduction to FH research, WEA Centre Adelaide 8:00pm (over 7 weeks with sessions of 1.5 hrs each)
20 May: Tracing your Scottish ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30pm

See the seminar program for more details.

...continued from the March issue

Digital cameras Part 2
Probably the most useful tool for a genealogist away from the desk has to be a camera. In the March issue we looked at recording headstones and places frequented by your ancestors and in this issue we will address the method to avoid the repository’s copier and collect photographs held by other family members. Both are somewhat related in the procedure to be used.

Unless you seek to photograph at a professional level, here are three tips...
1. Photograph your image at the lowest ISO setting possible. This will ensure that the quality of your images will be greater and sharper.
2. With digital photography image manipulation is an available option but if the camera provides menu options then use them.
3. Once you have taken an image with a digital camera check the exposure by using the cameras’ histogram. This function will show you if the exposure balance between highlights and shadows is evenly distributed.

In this issue:

• May seminars

Digital cameras Part 2


Adelaide Proformat
5 Windana Mews
Glandore SA 5037

Tel: +61 8 8371 4465
Fax: +61 8 8374 4479


Drafting charts
Locating documents
Seminar presentations
Writing & publishing
SA lookup service
Ship paintings

1. Photographing documents
A growing number of repositories are allowing users to photograph documents as long as a flash is not used. This seemingly relaxation of rules is in fact a benefit to the preservation of documents by avoiding the photocopier which can be quite destructive. Moreover this use of a digital camera overcomes the problem of over-sized documents.
A camera's resolution is defined as the number of megapixels (or millions of pixels) that it can capture in a single photo. The resolution setting you choose depends on what you want to do with the picture and in the case of documents you should use the largest possible setting available to you.
Set your camera to available light and turn off the flash. To get the clearest photograph possible you should employ a tripod if allowed by the supervisor. Find a tripod that is compact but with legs that have a wide spread that are long enough to allow the whole document to be photographed.* You need a compact tripod where you can reverse the center column so that you can photograph with the camera upside down. Cheap video tripods do not have this feature. Speak to your local camera shop to get the version that suits your needs.You can improve the result by using the camera timer feature to take the photograph rather than causing minor vibrations by pressing the shutter switch yourself.
[* it is possible to take several photographs of large documents and then tile them together.]
If the document has narrow margins then ensure you allow for this as you will find that text towards the edge on image may not be as clear as that in the centre. This will be especially evident if the lens is not placed perfectly perpendicular to the document and/or the camera you are using has cheap plastic lens. The more expensive cameras often have a document setting. Spend some time practising the process to ensure that when you go to the repository you are getting the best possible results
The photograph is often just the first step in this process as often the material being photographed is already suffering from issues including ink fading, ink stains, creasing, etc and you may need to use picture enhancement software. Try some of these techniques individually or collectively:
   • enlarge sections of the image using the zoom feature and scroll around the page
   • play with the contrast tool to remove large shifts between dark and light
   • try converting the image to black and white
   • use the sharpen tool
   • switch the image from a positive to a negative

Incidentally the above techniques can also be applied to those less than crisp scans you download!
To review the previous summary—apart from your camera you need:
• spare memory cards
• back up rechargeable battery
• recharger and preferably one that works from a the AC power and the cigarette lighter in the car
And now you need to add a tripod and appropriate software to manipulate the photographs. There is some very good shareware on the web with all the features needed. Check out GraphicConverter.

Pictured from top down: 1. A photographed document 2. Zoomed to handwriting 3. Contrast adjusted 4. Image sharpened 5. Switched to a negative. Note all these images are much reduced to accommodate this newsletter and the feature are less obvious as a result.

2. Photographing photographs
When it comes to photographing photographs it largely depends on the format they are in and whether the owner will release them to your custody! If the owner will let you borrow the photographs and they are unframed then scanning is the better option. If you have a laptop and a scanner perhaps you could still undertake this process in the owner's home. To ensure a comprehensive record you need to take three aspects of the photograph:
1. the image including all the mount
2. the rear
3. record the thickness of the mount and the size of the actual image
To do the first two scan or photograph and for the third aspect consider using the small white board and marker or blackboard and chalk suggested for headstone photography to keep all the records in a single medium.

If the item is framed then take down from wall and if the chance to remove the frame is not available then treat as a document unless it is behind glass.

Photographing art behind glass can be a challenge because glass reflects light like a mirror. The best way to photograph art behind glass is to take off the glass. If you can not do this then light the photograph through the glass obliquely from the sides and shoot straight into the image. You may find that you will need to consider hiding the camera (everything but the lens) behind something soft, non-reflective and black or a dark towel to avoid reflections of yourself, the camera and the tripod.
Glass steals focus and distorts your images because it is not truly clear. Sometimes and usually when it is lit at an angle, glass adds its own blue-green color and ripple texture. Many modern camera autofocus systems focus on the first thing they are aimed at and not necessarily what you want in focus behind the glass.
If your glass is any distance from the surface of your image and your camera focuses on the glass, your art may may be rendered just out of focus.

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