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Photographing an old register

hobbo Plus
6 1.1k 2 England
5 May 2013 9:22AM
I require advice here folks.

I have been given permission to copy a pre-war school attendance book, it is larger than A4 so doesn't fit my scanner, there are circa 100 hand written pages. I feel that the easiest and quickest way to copy it, is to photograph each page?

Should I point the camera down from a tripod?....or......Shoot from a tripod horizontaly?....will cloudy or in-shade daylight be OK?

I would like to complete the project in one go so that each shot is the same regarding lighting, eventually it may be printed in part or as whole from the digital file.

Will JPEGs rather than RAW be OK?

Which lens please...............or......will a good compact be OK?

I have an LX5 and a Fuji compact....both shoot RAW:



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puertouk 5 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
5 May 2013 9:54AM
You should shoot downward to get the shots. I would also use some form of lighting as well. Always shoot in RAW, as you can adjust the image in PS much more.
KarenFB Plus
11 4.8k 171 England
5 May 2013 10:03AM
We were allowed to photograph pages from book in the Family History Society (flash not allowed) - I have a bridge camera with a 'super macro' setting, and a good IS, so ours were hand held (though if you want your photos identical a tripod will be essential)

I agree with 'puertouk', we found downwards best and good lighting very important (the FHS has huge windows!).

Once you find which settings are best for you, you'll be well away. Don't forget to check every now and then to see if the writing is clear - a few tweaks in Photoshop (or similar programme) will soon sharpen/lighten the pages.
5 May 2013 10:40AM
Diffused lighting such as window light on a cloudy day can work quite well, if you place the book flat on the floor. If the side furthest from the window is noticeably darker (check by looking at a test photograph of the book, not by eye directly) you could experiment with a reflector such as a large white object like a pillow placed upright at the dark side, just out of view of the camera.

Alternatively, two equidistant (and distant) flash units at 45-degree angles to the book plane provide surprisingly even lighting, if the book pages can be made reasonably flat. You’d need to figure out how to control them manually and trigger them remotely, though.

If you shoot on the floor, which I recommend, make sure the area around the book doesn't actually look like a floor. Floors (carpets, boards, etc.) look amateurish in photos. A background of grey card or felt or some other flat, neutral, non-white material will look better and protect the book from floor dirt.

The LX5 is a good choice. Position the tripod at a height such that you almost fill the frame with the book page when using a focal length somewhere in the middle of the zoom range, like 60 mm-e. (The lens performs well there.) Select the M mode (manual exposure) on the dial, select an aperture of f/4 (a good balance between sharpness and depth of field in this case), and adjust the exposure with the shutter speed until the overexposure ‘blinkies’ (SETUP menu > HIGHLIGHT > ON) just start flashing in the brightest areas of the page – then back off by about 2/3 stop. Use ISO 80 and make sure you have image stabilisation switched off, autofocus switched on, and the self-timer set for 10 seconds (to allow vibrations caused by pushing the shutter button to die down completely before the photo is taken). During the timer countdown and exposure, stand still and preferably a couple of paces away from the tripod to reduce vibrations.

Shoot raw: this is important, though nothing says you can’t shoot JPEGs at the same time. Raw gives you more scope for recovery from errors, and allows sharpening tuned to the subject matter (handwritten text) for optimum results.

Keep an eye on the histogram and overexposure ‘blinkies’ in case the light changes. You want a nice full exposure, but with no blown highlights, for best results.
hobbo Plus
6 1.1k 2 England
8 May 2013 10:16PM
Thank you both, I successfully completed the project using the little Panasonic LX5.....I used light from a north facing bay window and a curtain as a reflector.......


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