Digital Cameras

Digital cameras are becoming increasingly common-place in the “Toolboxes” of many researchers but they have their pros and cons


  • You can get through a large amount of information very quickly which you can sort through when you are not limited by the archive opening hours
  • A photograph can often be more useful than a written description of a photograph, object, drawing, table, chart, etc
  • For items that are faded or difficult to read for whatever reason, a photograph may allow for better readability: you can chage the contrast, the colours, the size


  • You have to sort through those images when you get home (can be particularly labour-intensive if you took many images of written documents)
  • They do not aways capture the item perfectly (ex. written documents on which the ink has seeped through may be more difficult to read in a photograph)

Tips for Digital Camera Notes

  • ALWAYS check the policy of the archive re: what you are allowed to photograph and what you can use those photographs for afterwards
  • Keep a list of everything you photograph
    • Even if the archives doesn’t require this, it’s a very handy tool for those moments afterwards when you wonder “where did this come from?”
  • If possible, take some notes – brief descriptions of what the photograph shows – so that you can streamline when reviewing your notes later
    • Pay attention to page numbers too
    • Ex. When I was working with The Opal at the New York State Archives I noticed that the page numbering wasn’t always consistent. I noted this in my typed notes so that when I was reviewing the photographs from these documents later I knew I hadn’t accidentally missed pages
  • Glare on the item you’re trying to photograph? Try holding a piece of paper behind the camera to block the light.

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