coloured bedfordshire lace

Taking digital photos of lace

“You have your compact digital camera and the piece of lace that interests you – what do you do next?” It may be that you have just purchased a digital camera, or been given one, and you are not sure what to do, or how to get the best results from it. Many people select the “Auto” function and leave the camera to do the rest, but I would like to venture a little further into some features available on most cameras.

If we first consider the lace itself – is it a piece you made yourself and you want to send pictures of it to lacemaking friends or is it a piece that fascinates you and you aspire to attempting some of the design elements you have observed in it? In either instance the key to success will be clarity of the image. Good lighting will always help, and it is usually better to take the picture without a flash (since you won’t get background shadows where the lace is not lying completely flat, or affecting the lace itself) and on a contrasting background with little or no self-pattern. I find a colour sheet of paper is better than cloth, as the camera will pick up the weave. By choosing a higher definition setting (a higher number of megapixels) you will be able to use the camera or computer zoom feature more effectively when you view you image after – particularly useful if you want to refer to the way the threads are weaving through the pattern. Also, if the lace has a straight edge, try to make the edge of the image parallel to the edge of the lace, and that your camera lens is square to the lace to avoid the image appearing tapered.

A useful feature on many cameras is the “macro” or “super macro” setting, often shown as a tulip head for selection. The macro sets the camera to a shorter focal length and allows better close up images to be produced. [This can be more effective than just using the camera zoom feature and having to be very still when capturing the image] If you cannot get close to the lace, for instance in a museum, where it may be behind glass, it may be better (if lighting allows) to place the lens against the glass and zoom in to the level you need. This should reduce reflection, but you may need to clean the glass in front of the lens before taking the photo, and in this case you do not use the macro feature.bedfordshire lace in white

If you are prepared to experiment and move from “Auto” to the “Manual” setting on the camera, you can then make changes to help optimise your results, such as: setting the speed of the “film” to ISO_400, which is an average for general use; setting the shutter speed to 1/125th of a second (if you have a steady hand you may be able to get away with 1/60th); changing the aperture setting to F3.4 – F5.6 for close up pictures which can allow more light into the image.

There are often many other features that can help you, but hopefully by experimenting with these few, you will get what you need from the image long after you and the lace itself have parted.

Claire Bazeley