Sometimes family historians have little choice when copying documents or photographs. Whether visiting relatives to share photographs or courthouses to research deeds, we are more likely to carry a digital camera than a scanner.
In this week’s eNews from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Michael Leclerc discusses the relative merits of both scanning and photocopying as a means for duplicating original photos and documents. He particularly cautions against using a scanner, with its bright light, for fragile originals,
Documents that are in fragile condition, with faded writing, should not be scanned. The bright light can cause even more fading. If they must be scanned, you must be certain to scan them as few times as possible. Every time the image is exposed to the bright light, you are causing damage. Sometimes the damage is not visible to the naked eye, but it will eventually show up in the document.
Michael goes on to describe a safer practice by using a tripod-mounted camera to photograph documents and images, and notes, “Scanners and cameras take the same types of digital images (TIFFs, JPEGs, etc.). A scanner is, in reality, just a fancy camera.”
After seeing Ancestry.com’s scanning setup for conferences, I can see where each method has its merits. Scanning can be automated with a sheet-feeding machine, or set up to perform photo-corrections during the scanning. This saves considerable time on the processing and editing end, making a scanner a good choice for newer, less-fragile objects.
A photo copy stand, however, like the one used to copy my old newspapers and described in an earlier post, was even quicker in copying than a scanner. The real delay was in moving and setting up each shot.
I primarily scan old photos and documents to create archive TIFF copies. This format is unsupported by my digital camera, but better for archiving than JPG. An alternative would be to shoot photos in JPG and convert to TIFF for archiving.
Michael makes an excellent case for using a camera to copy fragile or old photos and documents and reinforces the usability of a digital camera.
Hi Geniaus and thank you for the heads-up. I think the link should work now.
Most photo editing software offer a few file formats under the save or export option. Use TIF for archiving as it is less “lossy” than JPG.
Your tripod mounted camera sounds like a good idea. I hope you will come back and share any tips you find to make the work easier.
Thanks for commenting.