B-17 Nine-O-Nine

Sep 012011

If you want to contribute an item to the AAF Collection and you have a digital camera, you can use it to take a digital image of each page of the item.  If the item is a newspaper or something larger than your scanner bed, a digital camera works well.

Here are some recommended settings and tips if you use a digital camera to photograph your document.

  1. Use a tripod if available.  It minimizes camera movement that may blur words on the page.  You can also align the camera directly over the item to photograph.  If you hold it by hand, you may skew the camera left-right, up-down, or backward-forward.  That may cause some words to be in focus, but others to be out of focus.
  2. Use a shutter delay if available on your camera.  Many digital cameras have a setting to add a 2- to 4-second delay after you press the shutter button and before the picture is actually taken.  If you have a digital SLR camera, you can also use a cable release to trip the shutter.  Both methods minimize camera movement caused by pressing the shutter button.
  3. Use natural ambient daylight to illuminate the item.  For instance, place the item on a table in front of a window out of direct sunlight.  If you have mini-blinds, close them slightly to avoid harsh light, or wait for a cloudy day.
  4. If you must use incandescent or florescent lighting, adjust your camera settings to compensate for artificial lighting.  That will eliminate any unnatural color hues in the image.
  5. Set the option for a higher megapixel resolution.  Most digital cameras default to a medium resolution for everyday photos.  To better capture the printed words on a page, use a higher resolution.  For instance if you have a 10MP camera, set the resolution to 8MP or higher.  Note however that a large, super-high resolution image may not result in a clearer picture compared to a lower resolution one.  Take a test shot and see if the words on the page are easy to read.
  6. Set the option to disable flash.  The flash almost always results in a harsh picture with some areas of the page washed out.  You can take good pictures without the flash in low-light conditions if you use a tripod and the 2-second shutter delay feature.
  7. Set the option for macro focus if necessary.  If the camera is close to the item you’re photographing, the close-focus mode may be better.  This may be indicated by a “flower” setting, as if you were taking close-up pictures of flowers.
  8. Photograph all pages of the document. Include blank pages, and even the inside cover pages, and the back cover. Pages can then be combined correctly into a PDF document and facing pages will continue to face each other, as in the original document.
  9. Photograph one page at a time, unless the item is a small book.  Items in the AAF Collection usually appear with a single image per page.  If each digital image is a single page, it’s easier to process them.
  10. Photograph pages in consecutive order. This will keep the resulting digital  image files in consecutive order and help the curator create a PDF document. For example, IMG_00001.jpg, IMG_00002.jpg, IMG_00003.jpg, and so on.
  11. Try to keep the pages of the document straight and aligned consistently while photographing. This helps the curator from having to rotate each skewed image.
  12. Use a ruler or a chop stick to gently hold the pages of a book flat.  Many times the pages of an open book tend to flip unless they’re held down.
  13. Try to keep the camera in the same relative position as you photograph each page.  If the camera is closer or further in different shots, it is more difficult to crop the images.  A tripod works well.
  14. An excellent program to view and organize image files is XnView, available for free at www.xnview.com.

How-To: Contribute Items
How-To: Scan Items

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