part of


An initiative started by Herman de Wit and Hans den Braber,
in order to get as many genealogical (archival) sources online as possible.





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Terug naar: de informatiepagina van VanPapier Naar Digitaal


IS IT HARD TO TAKE PICTURES FROM OLD DOCUMENTS?                    Nederlandse versie

Is it hard to take pictures from old documents in order to support the project "From Paper to Pixels"?

A dishonest answer would be: No! Of course not, It's a piece of cake!
A real answer would be: it's not that difficult, but you have to take some precautions.

Before you do anything, make sure you have permission to use your camera. Not all archives tolerate the use of digital camera's, or they have restrictions on what type of documents may be photographed.

If you want to do a good job, consider the following:

Hardware: You don't really need a state of the art camera with umpteen megapixels. A simple device with a sensor of 3 megapixels is quite sufficient. A camera like that is sensitive enough to take acceptable pictures even under bad lighting conditions.

Flash: That's a simple one, DON'T EVER USE IT. It's irritating for the other people in the archive and the light can be harmful for the documents. In most archives it's strictly forbidden to use a flash. If you're not sure how to switch it off, consult the manual and try it at home first.

Tripod: Another no-go in most archives. Some people have been caught using a small tripod while placing it on top of the documents. Thereby damaging the old manuscript. The sensitivity of modern cameras is great enough so you can use a relatively high shutter speed, eliminating the need for a tripod.

Lighting: Although the sensors are quite sensitive, it's a good idea to get as much ambient light as possible. Try to stand near a window, or underneath a lighting fixture in the archive.

: Put the object that is to be photographed flat on the table, keep the camera right above that and press the button. Breathe normally and take a small rest after every 30 pictures or so. That prevents your muscles from cramping which might lead to tremors that destroy the focus of the pictures. Make sure no part of your body (would you believe beer belly) obscures the document.

Camera position: The best result is obtained when the sensor and the document are in parallel planes. Hold the camera straight above the document.

Zoom: If you use a zoom objective, adjust it only once at the start of the session, ensuring that all the pictures you take are equally big.

Help: Of course you can do this all by yourself, but having someone with you who can turn the pages and keep them in place could be very agreeable.

Extra hardware: If you are photographing an original document, be extra careful not to damage it in any way. Use a pillow or an other support mechanism (obtainable in the archive). When in doubt, ask advice!

Technology: Don't forget to switch the camera to autofocus. Choose macro mode when necessary (it's the small symbol of the potted plant on the dial of your camera)

[text and illustration: Richard Keijzer]


Terug naar: de informatiepagina van Van Papier Naar Digitaal

Beschikbare bronnen en voortgang in de verwerking van het materiaal: de statuspagina

Bekijk de uitgebreide handleiding:  als word-document | als web-pagina