Tag Archives: Family photographs preservation

Using Your Smartphone Camera for Genealogy

Vicki’s note – very helpful article from Family Tree Magazine:

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Using Your Smartphone Camera for Genealogy

Caught on Camera: Smartphone Camera Tips
6/13/2017
Learn to use your smartphone to capture high-quality photos of genealogy records, relatives, gravestones and family homes.

When was the last time you used an actual, dedicated digital camera to take photos? If you’re like most of us, your smartphone has replaced your old point-and-shoot digital camera. If you got your phone within the past few years, it likely offers a high-resolution camera with sophisticated algorithms to compensate for the small sensor and lens size. That small size makes your smartphone easy to keep in a pocket or purse and capture friends, family and genealogy resources at any time. And if you have a data plan, it’s also easy to instantly sync these photos to the cloud.

Your smartphone is the ideal tool to “photocopy” microfilm records and library books, preserve images of ancestors’ gravestones, take snapshots of all 45 people at your next family reunion, and record the homes and other buildings that form the backdrop for your family’s story. Most of us rarely get opportunities to capture these important genealogy images, so you want to make sure you do it right the first time. Follow these tips to get the perfect shot when taking five types of family history photos.

Microfilmed record

A few inexpensive accessories can turn your smartphone camera into a portable microfilm scanning machine, and make your library research time more efficient. No more waiting for a turn at the scanner-equipped film reader or taking laborious handwritten notes. Not all libraries permit cameras, so check with the librarian before you go. Here’s how to do it:

  • For best results, use a small flexible tripod or a clamp with a smartphone mount. I like the Joby GripTight Mount and GorillaPod tripod, which securely holds my cell phone and has bendable legs I can attach to the upper hood of the microfilm reader desk.
  • A remote shutter release like the CamKix prevents “camera shake” when you press the shutter.
  • Position the camera to aim straight down over the reader projection surface. Eliminate glare or reflection by placing a large sheet of plain white paper onto the projection surface. Adjust the microfilm reader lens to sharpen the projected image.
  • Turn off your camera flash and close apps you aren’t using to help conserve power. Take a few test shots before you get started on your project. Make sure the image is sharp and clear, and includes the entire page. If necessary, brighten or darken the film reader lamp to minimize glare.
  • When you start a new roll of film or a new section of records on the same roll, take a photo of the film box and file number or of the source information on the title page. You can use the photo to create a source citation in your research log.

Books, documents and photos

Smartphone cameras are often a better solution than flatbed scanners or photocopiers for digitizing fragile or bound books at the library, and you don’t have to worry about running out of change. When you’re surprised with a photo find at a relative’s house, your smartphone may be all you have to reproduce it. Multiple documents, maps, and other papers can be digitized quickly and with excellent results using a smartphone camera. Remember to ask permission before photographing library materials. Turn off your flash if required (it often causes glare, anyway).

  • Make sure your lens is clean. Apple recommends using only a soft, lint-free cloth, such as a camera lens cloth, to carefully clean dust and fingerprints from the iPhone camera lens. Avoid moisture, compressed air or cleaning agents of any kind, particularly anything abrasive. See your cell phone dealer for more extensive cleaning or repair.
  • To avoid shutter shake and save your arms when photographing many pages, use a remote shutter release. A copy stand, such as the Fopydo Smartstand, also is useful. You’ll also want a bookrest or bean bag to support a book’s covers when open (the library may have these available—ask when you call ahead).
  • If possible, find a flat surface with plenty of light.
  • Support your smartphone on the copy stand, if you’re using one. Place a document or photograph flat on the table and position your camera directly over it so the lens has an unobstructed view of the entire page. Avoid shooting at an angle, which distorts the shape of the paper or photo.
  • If you’re shooting a book, place it on a bookrest so it stays open. You may need to use one hand or a bean bag to gently flatten the page. Position the camera over the page, tilted at the same angle as the page.
  • Take test shots with (if permitted) and without flash to see which produces the best photos in the available light.
  • Speed your scanning workflow by using a scanning app, such as CamScanner (iOS, Android, Windows), Genius Scan (iOS, Android) and TurboScan (iOS, Android), instead of the phone’s built-in camera. These apps crop and straighten pages as you scan, create files with multiple pages, and offer enhanced lighting. You also can name pages as you “scan” them, add a date stamp and choose whether to create a PDF or JPEG file.
  • Save scanned images to your Camera Roll or email account, or export them to your cloud storage service.

Gravestones

Capturing a good image of a gravestone lets you extract all possible information and edit it to improve readability. Some cemeteries have regulations regarding the type of equipment you can use or they require photographers to get permission from the office, so call ahead before you go. And of course, respect the solemnity of the surroundings.

  • Bring a soft brush to remove loose dirt from the stone and a spray bottle with plain water to help bring out the inscription. Don’t apply any other substances, such as shaving cream or flour, to the stone. If the cemetery isn’t maintained, bring garden shears to trim weeds that cover the inscription. Don’t forget water for yourself, sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Use the built-in viewfinder grid to keep the gravestone straight and level.
  • To illuminate a hard-to-read inscription, try to photograph the stone when sunlight hits the face at about a 30-degree angle (morning for an east-facing stone, midday for west-facing stones). Using a reflector or a large white board can help you aim light at the stone. If the sunlight is too strong, shade the stone with a dark cloth. You’ll want to have a helper to handle this paraphernalia while you shoot, as well as for safety reasons.
  • Photos of hard-to-read gravestones can easily lose their identifying information. Your phone’s photo app probably lets you add text on an image, or you can use an app that places a caption below the image on a frame. Instants Photo Edition by Soreha (iOS) adds a Polaroid-style frame to photos captured “in-app” with the camera, or already in your camera roll, with an optional space for a caption. MOLDIV photo editor (iOS and Android) lets you add captions on the photo or within a simple frame around the image.
  • Record and upload GPS and inscription data to the web with a cemetery app such as Find A Grave or Billion Graves (both available for iOS and Android).

Houses and other buildings

Your ever-present smartphone is a handy tool for photographing family homes and the buildings where your ancestors worshipped, worked or attended school. A few tricks will help you best capture the entire facade and, for public structures, move inside to photograph interior rooms. If you’re photographing a private home from a public sidewalk or street, it’s not required—but it is good manners—to first let the owner know the purpose for your pictures. Don’t enter any yards unless the property owner gives you the go-ahead. Be aware that some public buildings have photo and media restrictions for security reasons.

  • Morning or afternoon light, or overcast skies, will give you the most pleasing light with fewer harsh shadows. On sunny days, plan to photograph buildings when the sunlight falls on the front of the structure, rather than directly overhead or facing the camera.
  • Position yourself at a comfortable distance, where you’re safe from passing traffic or other hazards. If you plan to take several photos, a tripod and smartphone camera mount may be helpful.
  • Use the camera’s built-in viewfinder grid to keep the horizon or roofline level. Or use the Camera Plus App (Android and iOS), which offers the traditional “rule of thirds grid” (which helps you compose a pleasing image) and a horizon level. The iPhone’s built-in Camera App includes a grid you can enable in Settings>Photos & Camera>Camera>Grid.
  • To include the tall dome of City Hall or sprawling wings of a ranch-style home with the built-in camera app, you’ll need to step back far enough to see the entire structure in your camera viewfinder or use a wide-angle lens on your camera. Sometimes that’s hard to do. A clip-on wide-angle or fisheye lens (which is curvilinear and will cause straight lines in your photo to appear curved) is especially useful in tight city streets, where it can be virtually impossible to back up far enough to photograph large buildings. The lens also lets you capture interior views of home living rooms, kitchens, and other spaces.
  • Experiment with taking portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) images. The panorama mode available on newer smartphone cameras is another option for including wide structures. See the techniques for Family Group Photos for ideas on using this feature.
  • Turn on your phone’s geotagging, or location, option to help you remember the exact location of the building.
  • Before snapping your photo, check the corners and edges of the frame for power lines, poles, bus benches, parked cars and unsightly trash bins. Try to minimize them if you can. A few of these “props” can help set the date and place, but too much confusion in a photo can overwhelm your main subject.

Relatives

Frame-worthy group photos rarely just happen. It’s hard to get a gaggle of people assembled in one place, all smiling and looking at the camera at the same time. Use these pro photography tips to make the pictures from your next family reunion the best in decades.

  • Smartphones typically boast two lenses. The front-facing lens, best for selfies, is usually relatively low resolution. For example, the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL both offer a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera and 7 or 8 megapixel front-facing camera. Use the main, rear-facing camera for the best photos.
  • Plan ahead for group shots, if possible, by encouraging relatives to wear solid-color tops. That puts the focus on faces in your pictures. But don’t be overly strict: Uncle Harry’s signature bright plaid button-down deserves a place in history.
  • Turn off the flash to avoid red-eye and harsh shadows. Shoot outside in the early morning or late afternoon, or under an overcast sky. In bright sun, go for open shade, like under a large tree. Avoid patchy shadows.
  • Select a spot with an uncluttered background that’s free from distractions such as trash cans, telephone poles and cars. A park, garden or beach location works well.
  • Gather props like stools, benches, lawn chairs and even ladders to achieve different levels. Pose the kids on laps and on the grass in front.
  • Wide panorama pictures are great for large groups or playful smaller groups (such as everyone holding hands in a chain). Take advantage of your smartphone panorama mode by slowly panning the group in the direction of the arrow on your phone camera app (practice this ahead of time—you don’t want to have a large group posed and waiting on you to figure out your phone).
  • To include yourself in the picture, use a tripod and the self-timer or a remote shutter release. Set up your camera and compose the picture. On the iPhone, access the self-timer by tapping the timer dial at the top of the photo screen, then select 3 or 10 seconds. Check the user guide for other phone models.
  • Take a bunch of photos. You’re certain to get some pictures with closed eyes, runny noses, fussy kids and awkward body language. More photos gives you a better selection. You can take multiple shots in quick succession with the burst mode feature found on most Android and iOS smartphones. Simply hold down the shutter button and the camera will take 10 frames per second. This can result in lots of images, though, so be aware you’ll need to choose the best and toss the rest.

Tip: When shooting a photo, steady your camera by standing with your legs slightly apart and arms held at an easy height, or use a tripod with swivel head.

Smartphone Smarts

You don’t have to use the latest model phone to capture great digital photographs. Most devices released in the last two or three years feature high-resolution cameras and compatibility with popular photo and editing apps. Each device and model will be slightly different, so take time to learn the basic features of your phone’s built-in camera app, including:

  • turning the flash on and off
  • locking focus on the subject (usually by touching the screen)
  • adjusting exposure
  • using the self timer
  • selecting the mode (such as video, photo or panorama)
  • setting resolution
  • performing basic editing (use photo-editing apps for advanced edits)
  • sharing photos

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Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Photos (Family Tree Books).
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Free Family Genealogy Charts

Here is a great website from Cyndi’s list that may have the family chart(s) (and other genealogy forms)  that you need:

http://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/?page=3

I have not found the chart that I am looking for yet. I have been looking for a particular type of family genealogy chart which does not seem to exist, so I will be creating one.  My family is making a unique family history book that will be mostly photographs of ancestors and descendants.  My sisters and I are right in the middle of the generations that will be depicted, and we will have a chart in the middle of the large (12″ x 18″ ??) book that opens onto both pages showing ancestors and descendants of our parents.  My Mom’s ancestors will be on one side of the book, at the top of a page, and my Dad’s ancestors on the other side of the book on the top of that page.

My best way to describe the family chart that I am looking for is an angel-shaped chart (without the head.)  It will have 6 or 7 generations of ancestors as a wing from our Mom’s family, and another from our Dad’s family.  I don’t like the fan charts, as I don’t like standing on my head to read the names and dates, so their ancestors will be shown as 2 landscape hourglass wings.

The descendants will be split on both sides of the bottom of the pages, with (my) three siblings on one page and four on the other side.  Then the grandchildren, and great grandchildren will continue as the “skirt” of the angel. (Although – looking at  it, I may have to make it a two/five split to balance, because my own individual family has the most grandchildren/ great grandchildren.)  I’m not sure if it will include the descendant’s spouses yet; but I will include the dob, dom, dod, and places of birth for the ancestors, so that I can show the countries of origin.

It will look something like this, with the spine groove of the book in the middle, open to the center of the book. (I did this on Excel.)

Angel Family Chart

There will be more generations back, even if some of the names are blank. I want to get back far enough to show the diversity of the countries that our ancestors came from- Germany, Ireland, Scotland, French, Welsh, English, and (??)

So there will be bigger “wings’ and less “skirt”, unless we take too long and need more room for descendants.  The book will be (self) published years before that, but maybe I will leave room for more descendant names to be written in later as some of the grandchildren have not yet had children that are in our (unplanned near) future.

Happy Easter to all of you, and enjoy celebrating your families on this holiday, and everyday.

 

Google announced Photo-editing Picasa’s retirement.

Family Tree Genealogy Insider article

Monday, February 22, 2016
Google Retires Its Free Picasa Photo-editing Software
Posted by Diane Haddad

Have you been relying on Google’s free Picasa software to edit, store and share your digital photos and scans of old family photos? Then you’ve probably heard that Google has announced Picasa’a retirement. Photo-editing will still work if you have Picasa installed on your computer, but support ends March 15.

Photos you’ve uploaded to Picasa Web Albums will be automatically transferred to Google Photos on May 1. There, storage is free as long as your photos don’t surpass the upper limits set on resolution. Google Photos has tools to enhance and edit your photos, though not as extensively as other options. Sharing also is limited.

You can read more about Google Photos in this PC Mag review (which says it’s “not the best option out there”).

On the lookout for new options to edit and preserve digitized family photos? Want to learn how you can digitally repair tears, spots, fading and other photo damage at home—inexpensively? In Family Tree University’s Photo-Editing for Genealogists one-week online workshop, How To Archive Family Photographs author Denise Levenick will show you a range of editing tools and techniques including Photoshop Elements, PicMonkey and others.

The Photo-Editing for Genealogists workshop takes place online Feb. 29-March 6, and includes educational videos, as well as written lessons and a conference message board for asking Denise questions. See a workshop program and register at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.

Scanning your family photos for safekeeping? Special offer from this company, Larsen Digital

With all the talk of floods and wildfires, isn’t it time you scanned your family photos for safekeeping?
Better Safe Than Sorry: Scan Family Photos Before It’s TOO LATE!

Thomas MacEntee; GeneaBloggers 6-15-2015

Larsen Digital

As I write this, Chicago is in the middle of another rainy day with flash flood warnings. While I live on the 3rd floor of my building, my family photos are still prone to water damage . . . what if there were a leak in the roof right over my office?

And after living close to 20 years in California with the threat of wildfires, I saw too many examples of genealogists losing precious family photos.

After I inherited thousands of photos recently, I decided to hire a company to do the scanning for me. They were quick, easy to work with and the price was fantastic. Now I’m ready to share a special offer from this company, Larsen Digital.

15¢ Photo Scanning to Digital Format – Exclusive Offer for Fans and Friends of GeneaBloggers

Converting photos to digital has never been easier! Just send in your loose photos to Larsen Digital and they will put them on a disc for just 15¢ per photo!

Now is the time to stop procrastinating and pull out your boxes of photos and finally get them all converted to digital. All you need to do is get them to Larsen Digital and they will take care of the rest by creating high quality digital images from all your photos.

Click here for the PDF form with instructions on how to take advantage of this great offer!
FREE return shipping on all orders over $100. Photos will be scanned at 300 DPI Jpeg and saved on a disc. This deal will be available until June 30th.
To protect the scanner and the photos, this offer is valid on:
• Photos sized 3×5 – 8×10
• Photos must be loose and not mounted
• Photos need to be in good condition
• Photos should not have sticky adhesive residue
• Photos can’t be cut into odd shapes
• Scanning does not include any retouching or color adjustment services.
I swear by Larsen Digital and their work; click here to see a recent review posted at GeneaBloggers.

Click here to learn more