27 August 2010

Taking photos of ancient magazines

At last I took the big decision and bought a new camera. With the perspective of taking many hundreds photos of ancient magazines, I thought it was worth to buy one of my own rather that stealing constantly my daughter's one... So I took advantage of a special offer and I bought a Nikon Coolpix s570, 12.0 Megapixels. Not a professional model, but definitely better than my previous one! My previous camera was a Coolpix too, but an old model that was only 4.0 Megapixels, and the difference shows!
But taking photos is just a step of the process... Not the first and not the last, actually!
First there is the ironing. Yes! Old magazines have been kept folded for decades, and once unfolded look more or less like this:

Of course the lines around the folds are unreadable as the paper doesn't stay flat and they fall out of focus, and the whole page does not lay flat, making it difficult to take a good photo (this is also blurred because I was starting to learn how to use the camera :-) )
The problem is even more evident in the case of the large sheets with patterns such as this one, which should be lying flat:

The paper is very thin and more than a century old, and creases almost cut the paper in some points (light can be seen through!)
These sheets too must be ironed. Here is the same sheet; the part on the right  has been ironed a bit.


I used a medium temperature (I presume too hot will an iron damage the paper ... I suppose it isn't beneficial to paper fibres in any case, even just warm, but I'll do it only once, in order to take photos, and then keep sheets flat  so that they won't get creased again), pressing the iron rather that pushing it around as such old  paper is exceedingly delicate and the risk of tearing it is very high.
As I wrote, this is just the first step.
But then photos can be taken. I use a tripod, while placing the papers on the (just cleaned) floor. I use only the natural light, as I've never been able to make decent photos of the flash, and this is no exception...
Then I download photos on my pc, and I must edit them, Actually they don't need any important intervention, just (usually) a slight rotation as they are never perfectly horizontal (it would take more time to pay attention while taking photos than correcting this later!) , the discarding of all the unimportant details (my floor and some tripod legs that enter the image), and the balancing of the brightness/contrast (which is difficult because the paper is very yellowed by time and doesn't give a good contrast). I do all this on-line  with Picnik , which is free and very immediate for this kind of simple  interventions on images.
Then at last I can upload the final photos on Italian Needlecrafts! (I'll do it tonight)
This is the Pattern Sheet, after ironing...


Creases are still visible (ironing can't make miracles and delete century-old wrinkles...) but the patterns can be seen very well!

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