Photographing Documents

Taking photos of documents requires some skill and practice. Your camera's features and shooting conditions are also important.

Note. For detailed information about the your camera's settings, please refer to the documentation supplied with your camera.

Before taking pictures:

  1. Make sure that the entire page fits within the frame.
  2. Make sure that the lighting is evenly distributed across the page and that there are no dark areas or shadows.
  3. Position the lens parallel to the plane of the document and point it toward the center of the document. Smooth out the paper (e.g. at the spine of the book) if possible.

The topics below outline the required camera specifications and shooting modes.

Digital Camera Requirements Photography Tips What if...

Minimum requirements

  • Matrix size: calculated in proportion to the image page format at the rate of 2 million pixels per A4 page. Smaller size matrices may be sufficient for photographing small format documents such as business cards.
  • Variable focal distance. Fixed focus cameras (focused to infinity) should not be used to photograph documents. These types of cameras are commonly built into mobile phones and PDAs.

Recommended settings:

  • Matrix size: calculated in proportion to the image page format at the rate of 5 million pixels per A4 page
  • Flash disable feature
  • Manual aperture control, i.e., availability of Av or full manual mode
  • Manual focusing
  • An anti-shake system or use of a tripod is recommended
  • Optical zoom

It is best to shoot in the daylight or in a well-lit area. When shooting with artificial lighting, use two light sources positioned to avoid shadows.

Camera Positioning
A tripod is recommended for shooting documents. Position the lens parallel to the plane of the document and point it toward the center of the text.

At full optical zoom, the distance between the camera and the document must be sufficient to fit the entire document into the frame. This distance is usually approximately 50-60 cm.

If there is enough light, turn the flash off to prevent sharp highlights and shadows. When using the flash in poor lighting conditions, make sure to shoot from a distance (approximately 50 cm).

Note. We suggest combining the flash with background lighting.

Important! The flash must not be used to photograph glossy documents.

White Balance
If possible, set the custom white balance by aiming at the document paper. Otherwise, select the white balance mode which best suits the current lighting conditions.

Not Enough Light
When shooting in poor lighting conditions:

  • Set the largest Aperture Value by opening the diaphragm all the way. Note that it is better to use higher aperture values while shooting in bright daylight for crisper images.
  • Set a high ISO Value for higher light sensitivity.
  • Use the Manual Focus since the automatic focus may fail (failure to focus causes blurry images).

The picture is too dark and too soft
Try to use brighter lighting. Otherwise, set a lower aperture value.

The picture is not sharp enough
Autofocus may not work properly in poor lighting or when shooting from a close distance. Try to use brighter lighting. If this does not help, try focusing the camera manually.

If only a part of the image is blurry, try setting a higher aperture value. Shoot from a greater distance at maximum optical zoom. Focus on a point anywhere between the center and the border of the image.

When shooting in automatic mode in poor lighting, the camera will set slower shutter speeds, which adversely affects image sharpness. In this case, try the following:

  • Enable the anti-shake system, if available.
  • Use the self-timer. This will help prevent the shaking that often happens when the shutter button is pressed. Shake-related issues may occur even when shooting from a tripod.

The flash causes a large highlight area in the middle of the frame.
Turn off the flash. Or try using other light sources and shoot from a greater distance.