Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Photography Basics for Genealogists: Part One: Orientation

Genealogists accumulate a lot of photos and those who travel and do onsite research end up taking a lot of photographs also. We also accumulate a lot of photos from our family activities. This new series is going to discuss all of the aspects of photography from cameras and lenses to the planning and making of the photograph itself and on to the preservation and display of photo collections. I am going to start out with an example of what can happen to make a poor quality image.

What is wrong with this image? Here is a list of some of the obvious problems:
  • Out of focus
  • Not level or tipped at an angle
  • Underexposed
  • No identifiable objective
  • Bands of light probably from light leaking into the camera
  • There are double images indicating camera movement
How much of this was due to the camera? the lens? the photographer? the subject matter? the choice of the subject matter? or all of these issues? Well, from other photos by the same photographer, I know that she can take adequate photos with none of the same problems. But I also know that she was prone to taking photos where the image was not level. This photo could have been of an identifiable subject, but the lack of focus simply makes the photo unusable. 

It is not unusual to find yourself in a "once-in-a-lifetime" event or situation. Weddings, births, funerals, birthdays, and many other family events will never occur again and it can be heartbreaking to learn that most (or almost all) of the photos of the event did not turn out well. It is also not unusual for people to spend a considerable amount of money hiring "professional" photographers for wedding events. Historically, these special events photos may be the only ones that ever got taken since cameras were rare and film and development costs were expensive luxuries.

Today, cameras are owned and used by a majority of the people in the world. All of the world's smartphones and most of the world's mobile phones have a built-in camera and current statistics indicate that there are more than a billion more mobile connections than there people on the earth. To be more exact, there are 3.3 billion smartphone users in the world today, or 35.13% of the world population and 5.13 billion people have mobile devices or 66.53% of the people in the world. Not everyone has a phone or other device, but many people have more than one so there are more connections than there are people. See "How many people have phones in the world?" 

As part of this series, I will be including some of the history of photography and how to recognize the different kinds of historic photographic processes. Except for the historical perspective, I will primarily be writing about using the present equipment, such as smartphones, for taking photos and archiving records and artifacts. There may end up being some overlap with my ongoing series on digital preservation,

I think I should end today's post with a really good photograph from the same photographer who took my bad example above.

This is a photo of my Grandfather Leroy Parkinson Tanner and his bride my grandmother, Eva Margaret Overson.

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