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Shooting newspaper articles and photographs

Make an improvised stand for your material on a table and lean the "stand" back to around 45 degrees. I use a large coffee table book as a backing board leaning it back against other coffee table books or a couple of telephone books (good for something these days). The photos should rest nicely here with the odd strip of gaffer tape on the back to prevent them slipping.

The camera should be on your tripod set to a distance that allows you to focus without having to turn the focus ring all the way to minimum focus. You need some focus breathing room. Camera should be set to a height that results in the picture having even focus from top to bottom. It’s better to be seated behind the camera as these can turn into long sessions – be comfortable so you can make accurate camera moves over small areas. It's very demanding at these high magnification levels.

In the case of photos, you need to frame your shots WITHIN the photo. Don’t reveal the edges of the photos as this takes away any atmosphere that images evoke. Frame a shot that takes in as much of the photo as the wide 16:9 permits and shoot a static shot for a minimum of twelve seconds. This amount of time allows for dissolves and narration. Factor this in as you can always chop it in the edit. Lock the pan and tilt on the tripod so there is absolutely zero camera movement. Happy with this shot? Now explore the detail in the photograph by panning from say, face to face – tilting up from shoes to faces or moving slowly across landscapes to reveal something interesting or a feature in the landscape.

Zooms work well here too and as you pull out, don’t be too concerned that you’ll reveal the edges of the prints as you can reverse the shot later or dissolve out before you reach the end of the zoom. When you’re shooting, try to imagine how the shot might be used. Think of the mood as you record as this is where the a lot of impact can be set in place. Do the moves at two speeds.

Lighting should be flat on photos and bright enough to get you a camera aperture of around f5.6. A light on each side of the camera at the similar angle; about 45 degrees. If there is a flare from a light on a glossy print, move it further away from the camera to the side (almost reaching 90 degrees to the camera) but at the same time make sure you don’t introduce unwanted shadows into the print. This is caused by the photo not being completely flat. Some old photographs are a bit curly.


Set the lights so that one of them is skimming along the paper at an angle of almost 90 degrees . As opposed to the advise above, this creates shadows in any minor ripples in the paper itself and gives it real texture rather than looking like computer generated graphic of some sort. Switch the camera to a warm colour balance – light it with tungsten lamps and set the camera to a daylight (outside) white balance. This will “brown up” the newspaper and give it an old newspapery look. Cutting light off other areas of the newspaper will draw the audience into the part of the text you want them to notice.

Pan or tilt up out of black to reveal the text or even a photo on the page. In other words, find your shot, focus, set aperture, then look for somewhere to come out of to reveal. Out of black is always a winner. The magic of this becomes apparent when you add music or narration. You must imagine the mood and motive of what you are doing right here and now. It will pay off later.

Television screens. Set the white balance to a daylight setting. Most TV screens output at daylight and this records as a blue tint if the camera is set to tungsten or inside. Tempting as the TV is usually inside, but just set the camera to daylight and it will look normal I promise.
Pieter de Vries ACS