Since this Blog is about Hunting Down Headstones, I want to offer tips for photographing cemeteries and headstones. I am an amateur photographer my sharing observations and experience, so please take suggestions with that “grain of salt” everyone tells you about. You are encouraged to read and use these tips, but do try your own variations and remember that you are making images for your own use.
Do I need a camera?
If you want an image of the headstone you can make a “rubbing” or you can make a photograph.
What is the best camera to buy?
No, I’m not falling for that one! If I knew the answer to this question, I could also answer “Which cola is better, Coke, Pepsi or RC.” My reply will be that the “best camera” has features you need, a price you can afford, and gives you good service.
I will say that I prefer using a camera with a see-through viewfinder. Cameras with a viewfinder make composing the image a lot easier and more natural for me. LCD screens can be very difficult to see outdoors and in bright light, and since I take all of my headstones photographs outdoors, and most of them in daylight, I find this to be quite inconvenient.
Using a viewfinder or an LCD screen, or just pointing and guessing,does not affect how the camera focuses and exposes the photograph, but it does affect how well it is framed. I have difficulty selecting the proper zoom distance when using an LCD, sometimes in too close that I cut off important details like names and dates, and other times to far away that I produce an image with a lot of grass and a tiny headstone in the middle. Also, when I can’t see the screen, I tend to tilt the image.
Don’t get me wrong, I have used cameras with an LCD screen, but they make me work too hard!
Photographer Ken Rockwell link is so bold as to state that the technical details of the camera do not matter, since it is the vision and skills of the that makes the image. He warns not to confuse the price or features of the camera with its ability to make good images, and that buying the latest and most expensive gear does not automatically make you a “photographer.” I did a lot of thinking after reading his articles.
Film or Digital?
I must disclose that I started with film cameras, I still enjoy using film, and I still have too many in my collection. I also have a few Point-and-Shoot digital cameras and one digital SLR, a six year old digital SLR that is now considered “obsolete” but it has lost none of its capabilities and resolution. It is my main digital camera and shares lenses with my film SLR cameras. It is also my preferred camera for headstone photography.
Digital is now the most popular type, but the camera doesn’t matter and either choice and any camera can make a good image. Let us see if some types make it easier or more convenient for photographing headstones.
35mm color print film is not nearly as easy to find as it was only a handful of years ago, but is still available. “New-To-Me” film cameras are available on popular online auction sites and in camera stores, where you can buy a professional film camera for about 10% of its cost when new.
After processing, film can be printed and scanned onto a photo CD by almost any processing lab, so in that respect a film camera is also a digital camera, it just take a few extra steps.
Yes, I still ‘play’ with film, but most of my work now is digital.
Realistically, most of you will use a digital camera, but what type will you use? There are a surprising number of ways to take a digital photograph.
Cell phones and “Smart Phones” that rival digital camera image quality
Point-and-Shoot (pocket size) digital camera
Compact digital camera, Point-and-Shoot cameras with larger lenses and a viewfinder
Single Lens Reflex (SLR) digital camera
Again, I prefer using a camera with a see-through viewfinder. New cameras are coming to market where the viewfinder is actually an LCD screen, but these address the visibility in bright sunlight problem by recessing the LCD into the body, but I have no experience with any of these.