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I would love to know any tips you have for using your camera in documenting your genealogy research. Especially in how to take pictures of microfilms, documents, gravestones and other photographs.

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One of the biggest things to remember is that you need to stabilize the camera when taking pictures of any of these items. Using a tripod and a timer delay is the best way we have found to do it.

We use a Canon 450 (we each have one) and do pretty well with it.

A few items to remember:

- Turn the flash off or put a piece of tape over it (except for tombstones). The flash will reflect off the surface and ruin the photo.

- Use as high a resolution as you can comfortably (space wise) afford. This allows for enlarging, reducing, cropping, and other editing without losing picture quality.

- Use a decent photo editing program, of which there a multitude! Blurring can often be resolved with the auto enhancement feature of these programs.

- Be sure to stabilize (as I said above) the camera. If you try to hold it in your hand when you shoot the photo, the act of pushing the shutter button can cause it to move a bit, making the photo blurry.

- For shooting microfilm, you may need to have a clamp with a camera mount to put on the shelf above the screen. One is available for about $30 ( see, but they are not that hard to make if you are so inclined. The biggest problem with microfilm readers is the slant of the screen, and using an overhead mount can help get the screen in perspective.

- Gravestones are another problem completely! You can find a bunch of ideas here: When I started out in the 60's & 70's, using crayons and shaving cream to accent the engraving were considered good options. Now they are highly frowned on due to the reaction of the chemicals with the surface of the stone. Basically, using the same techniques for shooting anything outside will help get good pictures. For problem stones (hard to read), be sure to read the information in the pages above.

Hope this helps!

If you have a laptop, I suggest taking a scanner along for the trip!!!
When we were in UK last year, we visited National Archives several time. My husband had ordered several legal documents. These are extremely large, luckly they have tripods on each corner of the table so people can photography the items. this worked very well, now the long task of translating them.
I also take lots of photos of gravestones, I usually take several photos with 2 cameras. Often one will work better than another. I find dull days are much better than sunny days.
Good advice Terry!

I share similar practices with my camera (Canon PowerShot SD750). I slip it on mu belt and take it everywhere I go. A good habit!

"Guided by the Ancestors"
When photographing a gravemaker, I record the latitude and longitude of the grave using a tracking GPS device. This information proved extremely useful after I mistakenly deleted photos from my old computer while installing a new computer. Finding a grave for a new photo was a snap.
I take digital photos of many grave markers, and record the G.P.S. location as well. In large cemeteries this makes returning easy. Most of the cemeteries in my home town have thousands of markers.

Over cast days work best. If it is a sunny days I make sure my shadow is not in the photo. Sometimes this requires taking the photo upside down and flipping the image. If the marker is glossy I make sure my reflection is not in the photo, that may require taking the photo at an angle.

I link the photos that match my family to their record in my family file.
I have a Canon Power Shot S3, and have had good results when photographing documents. I use the AV setting and press the macro switch, mostly hand held. If you hold the camera steady and breath out at you press the shutter this helps keep it steady.
Best wishes, Chris
I am not a photographer, but I am self taught and have picked up a few tricks along the way. I use a Nikon D80, but a point and shoot may have the same features - check your owner's manual.

When I shoot a gravestone, i get on the ground if it's low. Prop your elbows on the ground with your camera held in your hands. It acts as a tripod. I agree with other posts in not using your flash. The best trick I've found is to use "bracketing". This is when the camera will take 3 different pictures using 3 different exposure settings. Set the camera for bracket, get it postitioned and you will have to push the shutter separate times. The beauty is you'll end up with one darker, one medium and one very light. You never know which one will be best until you view them on your computer because there are so many variants. Such as the stone itself (the type of rock), and coloring of it, what angle the sun is hitting it and how deeply engraved the impressions are. Just remember to turn bracketing off when you go to take pictures of something else or every other one will be too light or dark.

I will cover some of these tricks with photos in my series - see my "RelativelySpeaking.TV Fan" Group.
For taking pictures of flat materials (papers, photos, documents) it's best to use what is called a copy stand. These can be purchased from most photo shops and you can buy them online, as well. You can also make your own or improvise using ordinary lamps. The key is to get balanced, even illumination that yields a decent exposure, and also, a good stand should have a glass plate under which your original goes. The plate holds it flat and secure while you photograph your original.

Here are a couple of copy stands you can order online:



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