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Photography and saving photographic data

Photography is used to capture digital images of three-dimensional objects, and some two-dimensional items – such as watercolours and drawings, or fragile books – that may not withstand the physical requirements of being scanned.

Setting up a dedicated space for photography is very useful. It does not need to be permanent and can be temporarily set up for a photographic session and taken down again. See Equipment and software for information about equipment to consider.

If you have very large scale objects, such as vehicles or outdoor sculpture, that will not fit in your photographic space it is prudent to photograph them in situ. Once the photographic space is set up, organise the items to be photographed and have them ready for image capture. Remember object handling guidelines when handling any items in the collection. There is extensive information on how to handle objects correctly in reCollections.

There are different reasons for photographing objects, including for social media, for the collections database or for inclusion in a catalogue or other publication. When taking basic photographs for collections database or for online sharing, it is useful to include an accession or catalogue number in the photo, so that it can be easily identified and linked to the collection database. This may be in printed form on a piece of paper included in the shot, or written on a small whiteboard so that it can be changed for each item being photographed.

Capture as many sides and angles of the item as possible. Include locations such as the underside of a vase for example, as important manufacturing information can be held in those sorts of places. If it has many images painted around it, capture all sides of the object.

Once photographs have been taken, they need to be uploaded onto a computer. It is recommended that images be saved as RAW files on the camera. A RAW file is an unprocessed file that retains all information captured by the camera. It is then recommended that when digital images are uploaded to a computer, they are saved as TIFF files.

More information

Photographing collection items (video) – Museums Australia Victoria
Digitisation: a simple guide for museums (pages 6-7) – UK Collection Trust