The following tips are provided to help those who intend to create their image(s) for uploading to the UKDFD database using a digital camera. Those intending to use a scanner for this purpose should see scanning tips link.
Camera and Equipment
All digital cameras available today are likely to have a satisfactory resolution (Megapixel rating). The essential requirement for photographing small artefacts and coins is that they have a macro facility, or are capable of focusing to within a few centimetres of the item. In general, mobile ‘phone cameras are not suitable for this purpose. The other piece of equipment that is absolutely essential is a tripod or other fixed camera stand. Focusing has to be very precise on close-up shots and this can only be consistently achieved with the camera fixed firmly in position. Additionally, its use ensures that the risk of camera-shake is minimised.
Planning the Pictures
Before taking any photographs, consider the object itself, and in particular how many shots (up to three are allowed per item) of it will be required. Plan those shots so that each image shows a different aspect of the item, and collectively they give the viewer as complete a picture as if he were handling the actual item. Coins and jettons will require two images (obverse and reverse), many artefacts will require three, as the example shown.
For some items, flat buckles and circular weights for example, one image will be sufficient. Note that all images may be combined on a single picture using image-processing software. This method may also be useful if more than three views of the item are required. It may be necessary to support the item for some or all of the shots, and the best way of doing this is to use ‘Blu-Tack’. Always make sure that the Blu-Tack is out of sight when the picture is taken, and that all traces of it are removed from the item when the photography is completed.
Because of the extremely small depth of field associated with macro-photography, measures should be taken to ensure that the distance between the nearest and furthest surfaces from the camera is kept to a minimum. When photographing a fob seal, for example, tilt the top of the handle towards the camera such that the suspension loop and the rim of the intaglio lie on the same plane. Please ensure that, when known, images of items are correctly oriented. For example, coin images should always show the head and tail sides the right way up.
Preparing the Object Ensure that all loose soil is removed from the surfaces of the find before it is photographed. Immediately before taking the shot, lightly brush the surfaces to remove any dust particles.
In the absence of specialised equipment, the best source of lighting is probably natural daylight. This is at its best when it is diffused (light cloud cover) and the sun is low in the sky (early morning or evening). Strong glaring sunlight is unsuitable for photographing finds, and will result in images displaying excessive contrast and lack of detail. At the other extreme, murky daylight with no directional element will produce extremely flat images. Ensure that the direction of the main light source (the sun in this case) is striking the object from above or obliquely from the side. Avoid lighting objects from below their centre-line. If there is any uncertainty about this, check the shadow cast by your find. It should be in the west-south-east sector, never in the west-north-east, assuming of course that it is correctly oriented. If this rule is not observed, it can cause an optical illusion, which gives the impression that detail has been turned ‘inside out’. It is particularly annoying when associated with low-relief designs like those used on coins.
Taking the Photograph
Having fulfilled the above requirements and set up the camera and item ready to photograph, there are three further important things to ensure: The first is that the image of the object fills as much of the frame as possible, subject to leaving a small border to prevent any risk of ‘clipping’. The second is to take great care with focusing. As already stated, this has to be extremely precise when carrying out macro-photography, as the depth of field is very small. If the camera has a manual facility to select the aperture (stop), choose a small one, as it will increase the depth of field. The third is to ensure that there is no movement of the camera when the shutter is pressed. Camera-shake on macro-photography is fatal. Consider using the shutter timer or a cable release to avoid this risk.