In transcribing images for BillionGraves as well as other genealogical records, I have been extremely frustrated in trying to decipher blurry, obscured, or faded records. I feel personally responsible when I can’t correctly transcribe an image because I know that means it won’t be accessible for anyone to search for later on. And that’s the whole goal of our project, right?
So I’ve compiled 7 ways you—as as a photographer of these valuable, fading records—can improve every image you take and therefore make both transcribers and genealogists love you forever (and I mean forever)!
1. Frame your photo well.
The headstone you are photographing should fill up as much of the frame as possible without cutting off any of the headstone.
2. Take pictures at the right angle.
The more straight-on your picture is, the better. Taking pictures from any angle besides straight on can distort the words on the headstone and make it nearly impossible to transcribe. For upright monuments, bend down to get a better angle for the picture.
3. Link images correctly.
Some headstones are either too large or are actually made up of two connected headstones. If this is the case, take a picture of the WHOLE headstone first, then take close ups on the different sections of the stone.
MAKE SURE the little chain link in the bottom left corner of your screen is highlighted in blue before taking the close ups!
4. Avoid taking blurry images.
Allow your camera to focus before clicking the green picture button. It’s very tempting to rush through the picture taking process in order to capture more images, but make sure you’re not forfeiting your images because you’re going too fast.
5. Clear off any debris before you take the picture.
Make sure you set aside any decorations and remove any of the debris/growth that is covering up any part of the headstone (you might want to take some grass clippers with you).
And don’t forget to move your feet out of the picture!
6. Make sure the lighting is right.
The best time to take pictures is when the sky is slightly overcast. Different times of the day are better for taking pictures of certain kinds of headstones. In any case, pay attention to how light or dark your picture is. Schedule your trips to the cemetery when the lighting is right and beware of shadows—including your own!
Helpful hint: Consider taking an umbrella, flashlight, mirror, or grab the sunshade from your car to either block out the harsh sunlight or to reflect some light on the back side of headstones that are in the shadows.
7. View your images before you leave the cemetery.
Don’t forget to make sure they turned out okay! This is the equivalent of checking your answers before you turn in your test: go back and review your photos so every record on BillionGraves will get an A for Accuracy!
What things have you found make the best pictures? Anything I missed? I’d love to hear from both photographers AND transcribers!
To take photos for BillionGraves, all you really need is you phone, right? True, but you won’t regret having a few extra items with you to make your trip to the cemetery as smooth as silk. We’ve compiled a list of suggestions for you to pack in a light backpack or bag. As long as you have your BillionGraves backpack, you’ll never have to leave the cemetery!
What to pack in your BillionGraves backpack (besides your phone, of course):
- Water for drinking
- Water for wetting down old stones for readability
- A hat
- Phone charger for your car (and be sure your phone is fully charged, too!)
- Work gloves for cleaning off headstones
- Small pad and pen, in case you want to note a hard-to-read stone and write down the transcription
- Broom and dustpan set for cleaning off headstones
- A sheet or umbrella to create shade over headstones
Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments!
We’re halfway through the month! Right now, we have over 100,000 images that need to be transcribed. Because many headstones have multiple individuals’ records on them, those 100,000 images could translate to 150,000 or 200,000 new records for our database. Transcribing these records will bring us so much closer to our goal!
Thanks for all the transcriptions you’ve done so far. For all you super-transcribers, check out our transcribing shortcuts to help you get through even more records faster.
Many people are interested in completing transcriptions for the photos they upload—did you know you can do that? Here’s how:
From your dashboard on BillionGraves.com, click on Images Uploaded. Click on one of the albums containing your photos (these are usually grouped by date). Then click on a photo you want to transcribe. Clicking next at the top of the page will take you to the next image in that album, so you can easily continue to transcribe all of the photos in your album. For a more detailed description, read our blog post on the subject.
What if a headstone was transcribed incorrectly? That’s OK. You can edit transcriptions and make improvements to them. From any headstone’s Record View, there is a blue button that says Edit on the right next to the name on the record. If you click Edit, you can make any changes you’d like to the record.
We are so grateful for everyone’s volunteer efforts here at BillionGraves. Keep up the good work! Just under two weeks left to reach our goal of 1,000,000 new records!
Remember, to reach our goal of 1,000,000 new records this month, we just need two thousand users to take 500 pictures each.
What if one of the headstones you come across has important information on the back? Or what if it’s an obelisk and has information on all four sides of the memorial? Remember, you can link images of the same headstone together while you are taking pictures with the BillionGraves app. Tap the link icon in the corner of the camera view in between each shot of the headstone you want linked together. So if you take a picture of all four sides of an obelisk, you will tap the link icon three times—in between each picture you take. Then, when the images are transcribed, all four images will be available on one screen for the transcriber to see. That way all the information for one headstone can stay together.