Tombstone Photography

by K-Dean
words inscribed on an old tombstone

Graveyards were usually established at the same time as the building of the relevant place of worship and were often used by those families who could not afford to be buried inside or beneath the place of worship itself.

Pictures are a great way to document graveyards, photographs make for beautiful scenic views of the cemetery as well as capturing inscriptions on individual tombstones. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to achieve clear, sharp photos of stones that are centuries old. Some stones may be easy to read up close, but if you want to capture some artsy, three dimensional carvings and inscriptions, it can be tricky.Take more then one photograph of the headstone, one up close so that you can read the inscription, and one from a distance which identifies the marker’s location in the cemetery. If the gravestone is surrounded by other family members’ tombstones, then you can also try taking a wide angle shot of the entire family plot. Take several pictures showing the entire cemetery, or as much as you can fit in a single picture. The front gates or entrance of a cemetery also makes for a nice photo.

The most critical factor in achieving a good, high-definition photograph is having the proper lighting. It is a good idea to visit the cemetery before you plan on taking photos to figure out the best time of day for taking pictures. Traditionally older cemeteries buried people facing east, which make the inscriptions on the tombstones also facing east. In situations like this, the morning sun is the perfect lighting for photographs. Overhead trees and clouds can make photographing tombstones a difficult task.

When natural light is not possible, there are several tools that can be used to reflect light onto shadowy tombstones. The most common tool is a mirror. The mirror can be propped up with a set of legs to effectively reflect sunlight where you need it. You can also purchase collapsible reflectors, or if your on a budget, aluminum foil works too.

If you are having trouble capturing a clear image of the inscription, water is a handy tool. By wetting the tombstone within spray bottle, and letting it dry for a few minutes, the lettering will be damp, darker and easier to read. Using black light is also another way to enhance a worn out, hard to read inscription. Use a 75 watt or higher black light bulb to shine light directly on the tombstone. They work particularly well in the dark but if you don’t like visiting a cemetery at night, you can try draping a large dark blanket over yourself and the tombstone while using the black light, this will create enough darkness to illuminate the inscription.

Read more:

http://genealogy.about.com/od/cemetery_records/a/pictures.htm

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