Taking Photos of Cemeteries, Monuments, and Tombstone

Preservation of cemeteries which was an expensive affair has been relieved by digital photography. Photographs are a wonderful way for documentation of grave yards, from panoramic views of the whole cemetery, to details of inscriptions on individual tombstones. It is especially important considering the deteriorating condition of these older stones it has become all the more important. It will benefit future generations to be able to read these monuments.

Since many of these stones are still in a readable condition this is the most appropriate time to document them for future references. An important facet of these photographs thereby becomes the “clarity of information”. Although it is quite difficult to read the information through the photographs, but, close-ups with proper focus can do the needful. With the advent of digital photos, one can click as many photos as one wants. 


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Monument Photos

The best way of ensuring that you do not miss out on any aspect of the monument is to adopt a sequential organized process. A cemetery is usually divided into number of rows and sections. One must be absolutely definite about each and every picture that one takes. Usually, following some simple techniques discussed here will help. Initially, organize and plan out the way into which the whole session of photography takes place.

Divide the yard into sections and rows. Now take pictures of stones row by row completing each row consistently. Most importantly, take pictures of ground at the end of each row to demarcate the end of the row. You can also take help of a small chalkboard to indicate the section and row numbers on it to ensure complete consistency in work.

Suggested Photos

Generally it is advisable to click the back and the side snaps to capture any written information. But in absence of any such writings, side and back snaps can be avoided. Usually, the ideal distance to click the photos is 15 to 20 feet and preferable angle being 45 degrees. For a close up shot, one must directly face the front of the monument. For side and back shots one must face the monument directly and be at a distance of 5-10 feet.

Especially the zones of engravings that are difficult to read or interpret zoomed pictures work well.


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Special techniques

Using the latest techniques, and certain settings of camera like the negative setting etc, one can make the illegible engravings readable. But, these decisions depend on the conditions of the stones to be documented. Now-a-days much software are available to edit these photos. But if the stones are too old and difficult to interpret, one can make use of natural cornstarch baby powder. Shower a little bit of cornstarch on a piece of cloth and dust it lightly over the inscriptions. Cornstarch, being natural it can be rinsed off easily with water.

These were the individual details; now on a broader scale it is important to provide a map of the cemetery for perfect orientation of first time visitors. Also do not forget to capture the important streets etc.

Lighting conditions

Since legibility is the important question, optimal lighting condition is a vital criterion. But it is not possible that always natural light is at your aid. So it becomes essential to learn other techniques to aid optimal lighting. Directing natural sunlight across the face of the stone makes the inscriptions readable. A mirror is very efficient tool in effectively reflecting sunlight where ever needed. Other elements like the collapsible reflector, black bulb, aluminum foils, etc. can be used depending upon the budget of the project. 


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Thus following simpler techniques will lead to organized and perfect documented monument photography.