Optimal Settings for Photographing Documents
My law practice requires me to examine land records in many far-flung courthouses. I take along my D7000 and often photograph records, rather than pay $1.00 per page (statutory) for copies. The photographs I take are simply as a substitute for buying xerox copies from the Clerk. The ONLY consideration is readability of the resulting image. So far my results are good, but I'd like to optimize them. Keep in mind that:
1. I are required to hand-hold the camera. The Clerk's don't mind camera use, but they won't tolerate setting up a copy stand or tripod. The shooting speed has to be fast enough that my increasingly weary hand can get a sharp image. I place the book containing the document I need on a table top and hold the camera straight out from my body over what I think is the center of the document, attempting to shoot straight down.
2. I have to use available light. They don't want a lot of flashes going off. Even if they would tolerate flash, to use one, I'd have to get a special way of holding the speedlight since I'm shooting so close to the subject.
With the above in mind, this is all I've come up with:
1. Use highest ISO that the camera will support. After all, color depth and quality are non-issues in this situation.
2. Use the smallest aperture (so depth of field will be greatest) that will let me shoot at 1/125 or faster (so my hand shake is tolerable).
3. Use manual focus, since waiting to grab autofocus slows things down (a little).
4. Check results often.
Any different or other suggestions on how to achieve good results consistently?
#1. "RE: Optimal Settings for Photographing Documents" | In response to Reply # 0Geoffrey4 Nikonian since 01st Nov 2005Fri 29-Apr-11 01:12 AM
I often copy old photographs, for use in a historical journal which I edit. Of course I try to use a tripod or stand, but not always possible so I've faced similar problems to you.
Some comments which you might consider:
1. Right-angled finder can be very useful - I bought one of these cheap generic brands, I don't use it often enough to justify teh Nikon part price. This helsp you to check that you have focus, and are roughly 'square' to the document, which decreases your need to use small apertures for DoF.
2. For copying when I can use a tripod, I use my 35mm prime lens as you get less distortion, however if I must shoot handheld without flash, I use a VR lens. I bought an 18-55mm for hand-held uses like this, my 18-200mm is too heavy and has a tendency to slide out if pointed down.
3. Personally I use AF-S for such work, rather than MF, you might experiment with this?
4. Discomfort in the holding of camera in front of you will likely increase shake problems - a zoom has another advantage here because you can vary teh focal length (probably to wider angle in your situation) to get easier stance to hold.
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