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4 Informative Tips On Photographing Detail In Graveyards

Graveyards are full of interest; they represent local history, artistic taste, social position, tragedy, scandal and pride. They are also pretty much on your doorstep and they offer a rich source of material to a photographer.

| Landscape and Travel

4 Informative Tips On Photographing Detail In Graveyards:


Leading up to Halloween you may like to spend some time in your local graveyard... you will find plenty to photograph and much of it will be in the detail. You should remember that graveyards are, by their very nature, places that should be treated with respect, but don’t let that put you off: as long as you behave yourself you shouldn’t get into too much trouble.


1. Kit Choices 

A zoom lens with close focusing capabilities will be useful and a tripod will certainly improve the quality of your pictures. If you fancy doing something a little more dramatic you could also consider using some 'off camera' lighting, either a flash or even a torch.

2. Detail Is King Here

First, look around for interesting details, there shouldn’t be any shortage of these. They could be stone, lichen or moss, text on the gravestones, sculpture, ironwork, trees or the flowers left on the graves. When you have found something that interests you, look at it carefully and decide how best to make a picture out of it. Consider where the light is coming from, what angle will best suit the subject and how tight you should frame it. It is these decisions that will make the pictures ‘work’ or not. If you are getting in really close then try using different apertures: isolating the detail by shooting wide open or stopping right down to get the subject sharp from front to back. 


3. Think About What Distractions 

When you are looking at detail, it is usually best to try and frame in such a way that there is no distraction in the foreground or background – unless you are making some specific use of them. To do this, you may need to get right in close. If your camera then struggles to find something to focus on, try switching to manual, focus as close as the lens will permit and then move the camera to get the subject sharp.


4. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark 

You can also get some spooky results by waiting until it is dark and then shooting with the camera on a tripod and ‘painting’ with a torch. Get the camera focused on what you want to photograph, a gravestone for instance, set the ISO to around 200 and the shutter to ‘B’ then do a test, open the shutter and ‘paint’ with your torch. With digital cameras, you can see the result straight away so review the picture and adjust the amount of time you take to do your ‘painting’. If your torch is not bright enough you might start to get problems with noise, but it is easier to get subtle shading if you have a little longer so don’t use a super bright torch. It may take a while to get it right, but it’s very rewarding when it works.   

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I asked my young daughter as we were walking around a graveyard what do you see here, she thought for a bit and then said, graves, names, headstones and grass, I said I see life ? If you think about it all the names on the headstones had a lifetime of memories and a life that no one will ever know about that look at their grave, just a thought
1 Nov 2015 5:23PM
Just be aware there is a very slight chance you may take some kind of spiritual energy home with you.
kab0811 9 2 United States
2 Nov 2017 12:19PM

My wife & I took an early spring Sunday afternoon drive (March 10, 2014) out to St. Peter's Brush Creek Church located on Gentry Drive in Ralls County, MO. [Just south of Huntington, MO] This is a local historic church but it is no longer active. It is also the church attended by Father Augustus Tolton's family and owners when they were still slaves in 1860. Father Tolton became America's first black Catholic priest who was trained in Rome at the Vatican and is presently being considered for Sainthood. [Father 'Gus' is not buried here but in Quincy, IL.] This is a great location and one section of the cemetery contains the unmarked graves of local slaves. In walking around and photographing some very nice scenes & details, I quite fortunately came upon this scene which spoke for itself. This is a place where broken or replaced tombstones are placed together in one grouping. At one time this wooden cross was upright at the front of these stones but the base has now decayed and the cross has fallen over on top of the stones. I saw not only life, lives, untold memories and Love in this place. The blood of Christ not only covers us but also these long passed individuals and infants. This photo was taken as is with no alterations of stones or Cross. Another example of simply taking a photo that tells an eternal story. I call this 'Paid In Full'.
kab0811 9 2 United States
2 Nov 2017 12:22PM
Unmarked graves of slaves.247484_1509625363.jpg
kab0811 9 2 United States
2 Nov 2017 12:24PM
Old Cumberland Cemetery, Ralls County, MO
27 Sep 2020 12:35PM
As a lifetime professional and educator - Bournemouth and other Colleges.
If you photograph in a cemetery/churchyard and someone is offended the Police will be involved. It is essential to get a 'release' permission. Graveyards are not always near a church these days and may have a different regime. "Rest in Peace" means just that.
The Dutton family may be offended ny the image I see here?

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