California Settlers Reference Sources Historical Object Photography (Documents, Tombstones, ...) About/Contact

Document Photography

See Document and Object Photo Page - Using a Copy Stand.

Tombstone Photography

General Guides
Camera Settings:
The Association For Gravestone Studies recommends using a 35 mm SLR that is outfitted with either a 50-55mm lens or a wide angle 35mm lens for crowded areas. Smaller lenses will distort the straight lines in the image.

Color film with an ASA of 200 shot at 1/250th of a second should yield a good result. Black and white Tri-x film is a also good choice.

Digital Cameras:
JPG file format was the best, with image size set to 1024 x 768 pixels, and "quality" set to "fine/best".

Take pictures at the time of day when the inscription is illuminated by the sun.
Light coming from an angle may accentuate the inscriptions.
An alternative is to use a reflector (Photo shops have Collapsible Reflectors for $30-50 or you can make your own with tin foil.

Guidelines on the Web
Making Photographic Records Of Gravestones
From The Association for Gravestone Studies - Links to cemetery information
278 Main St Ste 207
Greenfield, MA 01301-3230
(413) 772-0836

Tips for photographing Gravestones:

Photography Guide at the British War Memorial Project

Tips for Taking Great Cemetery Pictures at

Gravestone Photography

Photographic Guide at the Australian War Graves Photographic Archive Threads on ROOTS-L mailing lists:

How to read tombstones.

A non-harmful way to photograph tombstones

Other Links:

Tombstone Transcription Project.

Tombstone Images and Articles (Tombstone Rubbings) at

Using Photos in your Research

Graveyard Preservation - Sources of technical information and assistance on the subject of graveyard and tombstone preservation.

Photographing tombstones: Equipment and Techniques (Technical leaflet #92 - American Association for State and Local History - AASLH), 1977, Mary-Ellen Jones of the Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley. Though many of its suggestions for particular kinds of equipment are now out of date, the leaflet addresses basic principles and questions of methodology in useful ways.

"Photographing Historical Collections: Equipment, Methods and bibliography",
(Technical leaflet #63 - American Association for State and Local History - AASLH), 1973, Janson L. Cox

Articles and Reports

Baker, F. Joanne and Farber, Daniel, Recording Cemetery Data, The Association for Gravestone Studies, Greenfield, Mass., 1986. Sterling, John E., Gravestone Database Standard, Association for Gravestone Studies, Greenfield, Mass., 1995.


Mytum, Harold, Recording and Analyzing Graveyards,

Practical Handbook in Archaeology 15, Council for British Archaeology,

in association with English Heritage, Walmgate, York, United Kingdom, 2000.

Return to Califorina Settlers.

last updated 16 Apr 2005