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February 11, 2010 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Taking photos of kids' homework and projects. How do I take good photos of children's paper items such as, construction paper projects, and drawings?

Background: I am trying to lessen my clutter. I have BAGS of children's work projects from daycare and school. I am planning to put together a box for each of my children of important, sentimental items in the hopes of giving back to each of them a piece of their childhood when they are older. I cannot place all their childhood items but I can keep a record of their stuff.

How do I take photos of all these items before trashing the real thing? I have a DSLR but no other special equipment. I do have a scanner but the nature of some of the items (think glitter and sequins) make it difficult and the camera is just more readily available.

What are best practices and advice from all you moms, dads, uncles, aunts and grandparents?
posted by jadepearl to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Flash will in most cases give a crappy picture of objects. The best thing is to take pictures in direct sunlight and with the child displaying the object. Something like this maybe.
posted by JJ86 at 6:03 AM on February 11, 2010

Make a $10 lightbox to remove the flash issue, use your DSLR and you'll be good to go.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:14 AM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Direct sunlight is the best way to go. If possible, use a standing easel or something that you can set the artwork onto, and rest a ruler or other scale object next to it. You could set something up on a porch with a cardboard box and tape and such, or maybe the side of a house. Use a white posterboard and then attach or rest the projects onto that.

The ruler and the white poster are so you can resize everything to be proportional to one another, and so you can very easily set your white balance if things seem off or you have to split your work into batches during different light or weather. A white edge is also a nice, clean way to display art in general, so everything will be consistently presented.

To make things easier on you, set up your easel or whatever you have at eye level, so you can shoot parallel to the art and not accidentally capture things at an angle by crouching or reaching up. It's easiest to do this if you have a wooden porch or something - set things up parallel to the planks and make sure you're always standing the same number of planks away. And be sure you're not zoomed in or out; wide angle photography has its place, but not when you're archiving.
posted by Mizu at 6:49 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend made the $10 lightbox above to take pictures of her cooking and it works pretty well, you can get different color posterboard to set inside as a background to complement / contrast different items.
posted by ghharr at 8:59 AM on February 11, 2010

Although perhaps overkill, the book Light: Science and Magic addresses it. It's referred to as photographing art for reproduction.

I have not read through this entire PDF, but it seems to address some of the same issues. Again, might be overkill, but hopefully it'll give you some good ideas. I think the $10 lightbox is also a good idea.
posted by dave*p at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2010

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