Photographing your finds - tips for the field.
Every treasure has a story of how it got there, but most of the time we never know what that is. There is a story we can tell though, the story of its recovery and when appropriate - restoration.
I personally prefer pictures to tell this story, which is why this blog contains mostly photos. This blog post describes the techniques I use in the field to capture the moment a treasure is unearthed. Taking nice photos of your finds is really easy, but what many people don't realise is you don't need a fancy or expensive camera. Almost all of my in field photos are taken with my iPhone.
Step 1 - Define the subjects of your story.
First, I always think about what I want to tell other people about this treasure and how it was found? Do I want to show what detector I used? Do I want to show how deep the hole it came out of was? Do I want to show people where I found it? Whatever I decide, I make that my background subject. Sometimes I don't want anything in the background, so I fill the frame with the subject.
Below is a photo of a penny, showing the ground and the digging tool I used to retrieve it.
Step 2 - Depth of field.
Depth of field is the range of distance where objects will be in focus in your photo. Everything else in front of and behind that range will be blurry. Sounds tricky but it's not, your smartphone has some nifty autofocus software to make this happen automatically most of the time, all you need to do is place your subject in the right spot.
The image on the left was taken with the coin held FAR away from the lens of the camera (the photo was then cropped to make the coin seem larger). The image on the right the coin was CLOSE to the lens on the camera. You can clearly see the clarity of the background is significantly different between the two.
I prefer the narrow depth of field (i.e. the one with the blurry background) but when photographing your finds - you're telling the story. Take the photo YOU like.
What do you do if your smartphone is focussing on the wrong area?
There are two techniques. The first being just move the subject really close to the lens then slowly move it back until it comes into focus. If this doesn't work just touch the screen where you want it to be in focus. On the iPhone a little square box pops up. In the photo below, the camera was focussed on the rock, I just tapped the screen where the coin was and it forced the camera to focus on that point.
Step 3 - Lighting
Lighting can be a tricky one when you're outdoors, you're at the mercy of the outside world. Smartphone cameras will generally autocorrect everything, but they find it tricky when part of the photo is in the shade and part is in the sun. Try to keep either all in the sun, or all in the shade.
This photo was taken with the coin and the background in the shade. The lighting is much more evenly balanced, there are no very dark (underexposed) or very bright (overexposed) spots.
This photo shows the coin in the shade, but the background in the sun. As you can see the coin is a bit more difficult to see and is slightly underexposed as the camera has compensated the light settings for the background. On the iPhone you can tap the coin and the lighting will adjust, but you will find the background will become blown out.
This photo shows both the coin and the background in the sun. Shooting in the full sun can have its advantages and disadvantages, the shadows are a lot more pronounced but this can be sometimes used to accentuate features on your find.
Step 4 - Direction
The eye is naturally drawn to travel from left to right, like reading a page. If you want to include other items (say your detector) in the shot, keep the main subject towards the left of the photo and have the background portion of the story to the right. Or the other way around - it is your story after all!
This photo shows the coin, starting towards the bottom left, then as your eyes move up and to the right you can see the detector used. You can also see the blow out (over exposed bright spot) in the top right corner of the photo. This was a bright sunny day and I wasn't able to keep all my shot in the shade. It's also made the coin look a bit underexposed too. I wanted to capture this photo in the spot I found it so I had to make do with the surroundings I had.
Step 5 - Edits
As a general rule I always edit my photos because I like one of the filters in the photo sharing app I use. I sometimes take a wider shot so I can zoom in and crop to a square later. Edits are a completely personal thing. There are many good photo editing apps out there.
This photo was edited in Instagram for shadows, highlights, temperature and saturation to create a gloomy feel.
Happy hunting and story telling! I best be off. The kitty is demanding pats.