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THIS AND THAT GENEALOGY TIPS ON PHOTOGRAPHS



COPYING PHOTOGRAPHS:
When copying photographs on the photocopy machine, the quality can be improved by using a copy-screen. Copy-screens are available in the 65 line and 85 line sizes. Use of the screen (under the photo being copied) creates a dot matrix image and produces a copy with better detail and contrast balances. Such screens are available from larger art supply stores. It is reported that the difference in the copies is worth the small cost of the screen which can be kept and reused many times.

If you want to make a copy of the photograph yourself with your own camera - first you need a basic single lens reflex 35 mm camera - not the auto focus type. The basic lens on your camera, provided it is not less than a 50mm lens, will often focus close enough to copy large photos. For smaller photographs you will need a set of "close-ups". These are actually ring-shaped magnifying glasses that screw to the front of your lens.

You will need a way to hold your camera steady while you are making the exposure. A tripod or copy stand is helpful but is not a necessity. You may be able to position your photo on a table in front of the camera and get a good copy. Use books or other objects to adjust the height of your subject so you get the entire photo in the view finder and get it level with the camera. If you do not get them aligned properly your copy will be out of focus. A cable release will allow you to trip the camera shutter without movement or vibration.

Any black and white film will do so long as it has a low ISO rating. Your exposure will be longer but the finished product will look much better.

Be sure to have plenty of light on your subject and watch out for shadows and glare. A couple of lamps on each side of the copy should do nicely and diffused daylight coming through a window is ideal.

A slow shutter speed and a small lens aperture is preferable. An aperture setting of f16 or f22 will give better results. Fill the view finder with the entire subject.

If you use lamps with 60 watt bulbs, ISO 50 film and an aperture of f16, average exposure time should be about 1 second. If the subject is darker than most, exposure time should be longer.

Colored filters will help in case of stains or faded photos. Use a filter the same color as the stain. On faded photos use a blue filter to improve the contrast, possibly an 80A filter.

A good film lab should be able to process the film to your satisfaction. In this day of computers and scanners, you might also consider scanning the photo and have it digitally enhanced.


CAMERA STAND:
A pattern for a good camera stand can be found on the Internet at http://www.frontiernet.net/~rjacob/copystnd.htm ).


LIGHTING:
Try blue light bulbs.
Try using a blue filter on the lens and then regular light bulbs.
Try using sunlight if possible


OTHER TIPS:
Black-and-white photographs usually last longer than color photographs, so try to take at least one roll of black-and-white film. However, the black and white paper now being used is not as archival as the paper of yesteryear. In addition, some labs will print black and white film on color paper and make it look like black and white images. You can have black and white photographs made from color negatives. Make sure your negatives are stored in light tight and waterproof containers. Color photographs are subject to loss of color from UV rays, so keep them out of the light. If you see a color photograph changing colors to a blue/green tint, get it copied on black and white film as soon as possible. This tip was submitted by Texden1
If you have an auto focus camera by all means use it and it is easy to check to make sure you are focused by bring a contrasting line to the center of the viewing area and if it is sharp it is in focus. In connection with "auto" be sure your aperture and shutter speeds are manual or at least your aperture. let the camera set the shutter. Stop to an f16 and fire away perfect copies every time. You can use Kodak T Max 400 speed film and go up to as big as 11X14 prints with no grain so with todays film both B&W and Color you can use fast film and get excellent results. . Be sure in coping color that you DO NOT have any fluorescent lamp on that have not been corrected for daylite Kelvin. f using fast film (B&W) I. use an extremely fine grain developer on the negatives.

This tip was submitted by Margaret Scheffler
Most important to the process is a BASIC 35mm CAMERA preferably with built in light meter that uses fixed focus lenses (minimally a 50mm lens). The small point and shoot variety will not do. All that said, if I had a once in a life time chance to copy something I would not see again, I would give whatever camera I had available a chance.

One can buy a used manual 35 mm for around $100, with a 50 mm lens a little more. I use a Minolta, but any standard 35 mm camera works the same. The key to my setup is a Tamron 90mm tele-macro lens. I later purchased the matched doubler so that I can make full frame a picture not too much bigger than a postage stamp. There are other similar lenses by reputable companies -- just ask for a 90 to 100 mm macro/portrait lens. You need to go to a major camera store that knows more than just about the latest cameras on the market. You want a fixed focus macro lens that FOCUSES AT CLOSE distance -- about 15" or less. You DO NOT want a zoom lens with a macro feature. You may be able to find a used lens.

All that said, if you have a manual 35 mm camera with a good 50 mm lens, you can probably buy a set of close-up attachments for less than $50 and give them a try -- not quite as good as a macro lens, but considerably cheaper, produce quite good results, and will give you an idea if you like copying photos before investing much money. I started out using close-up lenses. They produce acceptable results. Since the close-up lenses cover fixed focal differences you have to take them off and on the camera depending on the size of the picture and you cannot always "fill the frame". (The macro lens eliminates those problems). Another alternative is using bellows or extension tubes, but calculating the exposure is difficult and I would not recommend them for the beginner. With both the macro/portrait lens and the close-up lenses process, you can use the built-in light meter on your camera which makes the whole process easier.

A "MUST" piece of equipment, is a sturdy tripod or copy stand on which to mount your camera facing the table. (People have used piles of books in a pinch). You can get copy lights which attach to the pole of of a copy stand.

I use strobes for lighting (flashes that screw into the copy light sockets like regular light bulbs), but you can use natural daylight or copy light bulbs that are the right temperature and color for the film you are using. Strobes are the easiest and produce the most natural colors. They cost only about $25 each (you need two) with a guide number of 60 for 100 speed film. As an alternative to a copy stand and lights you can try matching goose-neck type lamps which let you put the light at various angles. [When copying you need to watch the shadows -- this pertains to both natural and artificial light. Outside lighting may cause a problem with shadows unless the day is overcast. Use a cable release, particularly if you are not using flashes, as the slightest movement can ruin your picture.

If you are using natural light, you can use your light meter in the camera for proper exposure. When you use flashes, a flash meter is helpful.

I frequently use 100 speed color film to get the brown tones of old photos. However, black and white pictures will last longer. I believe color film is expected to last about 40 years. B & W lasts much longer. Set your f stop to about f16 and use the light meter in the camera help you calculate the shutter speed which will be SLOW (thus the need for the cable release). If you are using black and white film you can get 50 & 125 speed film, also 400 speed B & W document film. You might try practicing with the 100 speed color film since it is cheaper and you can get it developed more quickly. I have had difficulty finding good quality black and white processing. Regular light bulbs cause color errors when used with color film but they can be used with b & w film.

It takes most of us a while to acquire ones equipment. Initially I used a tripod to steady the camera, and a 50 mm lens with close-up attachments and natural light. I probably next added the copy stand. Then copy light bulbs -- then the flashes. Copy stands aren't too expensive and are much easier to adjust up and down than the tripod with the center pole reversed to face the camera towards the table. Obviously, if you are taking the equipment to a library or similar place, a tripod is more portable.

You can copy a photo hanging on a wall if it is flat/parallel to the wall. (If the picture is hung and not parallel to the wall, you might use some of those pink or artgum erasers to bring the bottom out from the wall to make it parallel). You can copy photos that are in frames behind glass, although one has to be careful not to get glare from the glass. If the picture can easily be taken from the glass I do that. A polarizing lens may help reduce the glare. The polarizing filter can also help reduce that sheen that is on old photos that are starting to decompose.

Old photos suffer (fade) from light exposure, so once you copy them, put them away in a dark place. The same goes if you scan them into your computer. Do it ONCE and then put them away. If you want your picture hung on the wall, have an enlargement made. At the very least put it in a darkened area of your room, not where bright light hits it.

I've enjoyed copying old pictures -- made lots of mistakes starting out. Even now, if I have borrowed pictures, I get my copies developed before sending the originals back, as the copies might come out too light or dark, with light streaks, etc. If you only have one chance at seeing what you want to copy, vary the exposure settings (varying f-stop and shutter speeds), positions of the camera and lighting to maximize your success.

To make sure the camera is parallel to the picture or document I want to copy, I use a little level that attaches to the camera (by flash attachment shoe) to make sure I have the camera level. There are some small levels in hardware stores you might be able to set on the back of your camera. Without the camera being perfectly level and parallel to what you want to copy, at close distances some parts of the picture may be in focus and other parts not.

In summary, an alternative is the special kind of photocopier I have seen in high end photo processing centers. Some of them make almost as good quality pictures as the originals. The copies are quite expensive, but if one only wants one or two pictures it could be cheaper than buying expensive equipment. Another option is to send pictures out for a copy negative, but I would be reluctant to chance losing an original that way. What I have described is essentially the process for making copy negatives.

Scanning and digital cameras are fine for adding photos to your genealogy program, but the resulting prints will have a short life. They are not the solution to saving old photos. Today's scanned images may go the way of the 8 track tape.

This can be an interesting hobby in itself. For those who like photography, give it a try. Look for used equipment. It can save you a bundle.


PHOTO DAMAGE:
The absolute worst way to save pictures is in a "sticky-type" photo album. It is next to impossible to unstick them. You might try steaming up the bathroom & leaving a couple of pages in there to absorb some of the moisture...without getting the paper or pictures really damp themselves. This might loosen some of them without a lot of damage. If it works with a couple of them, you can try more of the book but just a very little at a time.

You might try to microwave the photos that are stuck together... just a very little at a time. DON'T COOK them.

Another method, tedious but it works, is to take a hair dryer on its lowest setting and carefully working from the edges inward, a little bit at a time, warm the photo's edge and lift. It will work BUT it takes time.

Before you try anything, take your paper album to Kinko's or some other coping business and make copies of the pages, or even scan your pages into your computer. Just in case your removal methods are not successful. These pictures are too valuable to take a chance with.


Photographing Photographs from Jerry Merritt - jerrym@beaches.net
A well taken photo can show just as much detail as was in the original document or photo being shot. "Well taken" is the key.

To get a good photo of a document or old photo you need a few things:

A single lens reflex (through the lens viewing) camera.

A close up lens -- either a macro lens or a set of inexpensive close up lens that screw onto the end of the camera's regular lens will work.

A stable platform to shoot from. A good tripod will work.

A fine grained film with plenty of contrast to bring out faded ink or faces. TMax 100 works great.

A means to hold the document or photo exactly perpendicular to the camera lens for low distortion and perfect focus over the whole document. The document or photo should also have as flat a surface as possible without damaging a curled object by bending it too much. Another person can hold the object in position, if they brace it against something solid to keep it from moving even a little bit. Otherwise you'll need some kind of jig made up ahead of time to keep the object being photographed rock steady.

A good light source. Indirect sunlight is excellent. An Ott light works well, too. Or, in a pinch, use any bright, diffuse light available.

Once all this is amassed, mount or otherwise orient the object being photographed so that it is well lit and stable. Then mount the camera on a tripod or other stable mount and get it oriented exactly perpendicular (head on) to the object. Now focus carefully and frame the object dead center to fill the view as much as possible e.g. get as close as possible so you pick up the most detail. Check to make sure no shadows or reflections fall on the object. It may seem like overkill to get the camera mounted on a tripod for a simple shot of an old photo but any movement of the camera (or the object) in a close-up will blur the image and you will lose the sparkle in great-grandma's eyes. Make sure you have a steady mount and a crisp,clear focus above all else. You may get only one chance to take a photo of an ancestor or of a valuable document so be prepared to do it right and you won't be disappointed in the results.

I've done over a 100 old photos this way and several old Family Bibles. Even on regular size prints, all of the writing in the old Bibles is completely legible. And copies of the old photos make great gifts to cousins who are sharing the family history with you.

I wouldn't recommend, however, trying to use a "point and click" type of camera. You'll get a picture but compared to the results obtained using a good 35mm or better camera the difference is like a fire fly to a lightning bolt -- to paraphrase Mark Twain.


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