Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 16

University of Exeter

Archaeological Photography Field Guide

Interpreting Sites and Landscapes (ARC1000A)
2 University of Exeter

Photography Field Guide

Contents -
Introduction -
1. Equipment -
Compact Camera
2. Composing Your Shots -
3. Establishing and General Shots -
White Balance
- Autofocus
- Manual Focus
4. Capturing Detail (Close Ups) -
5. Lighting -
- Using a Flash
- Using a Tripod
- Lights

6. Exposure -
- Depth of Field
Shutter Speed
7. Depth of Field -

3 University of Exeter


Digital cameras are readily available and cheap. Most of us have mobile devices such as smart phones,
iPods and tablets that have excellent quality lenses and image resolution. These provide a great ease of use
and as you almost always have one of these on you, you are never far from a camera. However, dont
assume that because you may have a good camera you can take good photographs. You will find that many
cheaper digital cameras or the camera on your phone may have limited flexibility to achieve the best
This guide has been designed to help you take better photographs of archaeological contexts, features and
artefacts. You should use it as an accompaniment to the Historic Exeter Project which has asked you to
produce a piece of independent research (a fieldwork project) that results in a group presentation. This
provides important preparation for your 2nd year assessed work and, in particular, the Fieldwork Project.
The presentation will account for 40% of the overall mark for this module.

4 University of Exeter

1. Equipment
You need to think about what equipment you have available and the results that are achievable from the
different devices.
The majority of compact cameras, smartphones, iPods and tablets have excellent quality lenses and image
resolution, but they may lack the functionality of a Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. For example:
can you adjust the zoom, the focus, the aperture or shutter speed? Are you able to use a tripod with your
The following is an overview of various devices you can choose from.

Smart Devices (Smartphones, Tablets, MP3 players etc)
For many situations having a Smartphone camera will be most practical as you will almost always
have one with you and they dont require you to have to pack any extra equipment or need lengthy
setup times. As we move further into the future these devices will only get better, and already
offering over 8 megapixels the results are very usable almost across the board.

There are also a number of Apps available, and many of them free, from the various mobile stores
which can improve the functionality of your mobile camera from giving you manual control over
various features from exposure to manual focus.
Having said that, will your trip require more? Will you have to deal with changing, or difficult,
lighting conditions? Will you need to zoom in on distant objects? Will you need to capture large
images to focus on fine detail at a later date? The main restriction with Smartphones and other
devices is the lack of manual controls, even though the automatic features are very good,
sometimes you may need more control.

5 University of Exeter

Digital Cameras (Point and Shoot pocket cameras)
A digital camera, otherwise known as a Point and Shoot camera, is normally the go-to device for
field photographers..
Many compact digital cameras can be used as almost fully manual (control over exposure and focus
etc) as well as automatic modes which now carry their own individual settings for different
The digital cameras low cost, ease of use and compact size make it an essential piece of equipment
for your field photography.

DSLR Cameras (Professional cameras)
DSLR cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex) are a more professional choice, and a choice that will
provide the best results. These cameras do require an amount of setting up though and will mean
that you, or someone close to you, will need to carry around a pack containing the sizeable camera
as well as the various additions you may need (from tripods to extra lenses).
DSLRs offer the highest level of manual control allowing you to fine tune everything from Focus,
Aperture and Shutter Speed (see Exposure section in this guide) to ISO (see exposure - ISO) and
White Balance (see General Shots White Balance). With control over these elements, and the
quality of the camera, you will be able to capture everything you need from your field photography.

6 University of Exeter

2. Composing Your Shots
Composition is not just an artistic term used in galleries it actually has relevance.
Composition covers everything visible in your shot as well as the arrangement of those objects.
E.g. youre taking a picture of a church ruin and you want all of it in the shot to show the whole area. Do you
also want that tree in the shot? What about that car? Perhaps if you take a few steps to either side you can
get a shot of the ruin without distracting objects in view.

The composition of your shots may be more important than you think. Aside from the obvious mistakes
that can be made, such as the crooked photo, there are a number of things to remember that can visually
improve your shots.
Is your image straight? (Use the horizon as a guide, everything else is perspective. If that isnt
visible use another horizontal line flat to the camera, or for angled shots use a reliable vertical line
e.g. the side of a building etc).
Do you have distracting objects in the shot?
Can you see the whole object?
Do you NEED to see the whole object?
Can you see the detail you want to show?

The site in this photo is barely visible
and the horizon line is not straight.
Taking a moment to frame your shot
should eliminate errors like these and
give you a very useable picture of your

1. Composition example - Bad
7 University of Exeter

3. Establishing and General Shots
When referring to an establishing shot in a filmic sense, it is what is used to introduce people to a new area
before showing a scene within that area. For a practical application you may wish to use it to show an
overview of an archaeological site before showing specific contexts, features or artefacts. When taking
even the most basic of shots there are a few things which you should bear in mind so you can get the best
results from your photos. Aside from the composition of your shot you should be able to focus the shot
correctly as well as understanding what can go wrong if the White Balance is set up wrong.

This establishing shot clearly frames the central building as
well as showing a little of the surrounding area.
You will notice that in this example the vertical lines have
been kept straight and the horizontal lines follow the
perspective of the image.

This is an example of a bad establishing
The building is not clearly the subject of
the image, confusing the audience, and
there are numerous distracting objects
cluttering the frame.

2. Establishing shot example - Good
3. Establishing shot example - Bad
8 University of Exeter

a. Focus
Being able to focus your shots is one of the most important parts of archaeological photography, if the
photos youve taken are not in focus and do not show the detail clearly then they will probably be
unusable. It is important to test the focus capabilities of your camera before you go out on location so you
know what the best method will be when you are there.
Autofocus - All cameras will have an automatic focus setting built in to the camera, and for some digital
cameras this may be the only way of focusing. This is a quick and reliable way to ensure that your photos
are in focus, however the camera may decide to focus on an object closer or further away than what you
intend. If this happens you may want to move yourself to avoid the object affecting the focus, or try a
different angle altogether.
Manual focus If your camera has a manual focus it is often in the form of a ring around the lens, this can
be rotated to focus on an object closer or further away from you. As it is manual you will have to make sure
that the object is correctly in focus by reviewing your photo as you have taken it, then perhaps deleting the
image, adjusting the focus and trying again. If your camera doesnt have a focus ring, it may have manual
focus in another form on the camera.
Important Note - There can be issues with manual focus if you wear glasses or contact lenses. If you
happen to wear glasses/contacts you will have to adjust your viewfinder to account for that. There are
many tutorials and how-to guides for this online. This will ensure that what you see is actually what you get,
however using autofocus will often be a quick way to work around this.
Focusing tip It can sometimes be hard to judge whether your image is in focus or not, but there are some
tricks that can help you achieve a good focus. Reflective surfaces such as peoples eyes, water and glass will
have light glare and reflections in them, so it is often good practice to focus on these points of light. If they
are in good focus, the rest of the object will be too.
Aside from light and reflections you can also rely on texture to let you know whether the object is in focus
or not.
A tripod can also be useful to consider as it will stop any shaking that will occur when holding the camera
freehand and therefore keep the photo free of unnecessary blurring not caused by soft focus.

The clear focus on the statue draws the
audience to it, leaving the blurred
background as an interesting extra.

4. Focus example - Good
9 University of Exeter

Although the framing is emphasizing
the statue, the focus has dropped to
the background confusing the
This kind of image will not show the
points you may be trying to illustrate.

b. White Balance
White Balance is a setting which tells the camera what colour white is; it gives the camera a reference point
to measure all of the other colours against. E.g. taking a photo outside in bright sunlight produces
completely different colours from taking a photo inside with tungsten lights and the camera needs to be
able to account for that otherwise you may find that your photos are blue.
Light is measured as a temperature on the Kelvin scale with the increasing temperature range running in
unison with the colour spectrum.
E.g. the red-yellow low end of the light temperature (Kelvin) scale at around 1,000-1,500 is the equivalent
of a match or a candle flame, running through sunrise/sunset (2,000), direct sunlight (5,000) right through
to twilight which is blue around 12,000.
Almost all cameras have a built in automatic White Balance so you will probably never have to worry about
setting it yourself, however, there may be times where setting it yourself would be beneficial. This is easily
done by using the menu on your digital camera or DSLR, selecting the White Balance menu and choosing
between the helpful preset options

Tungsten symbolised by a light bulb, this setting is for shooting indoors.
Fluorescent symbolised by a long rectangle, this setting can be used under street lights
and fluorescent strip lights.
Daylight / Sunny symbolised by a sun, this setting should be used outside on a clear day.
Cloudy symbolised by a cloud, this setting should be used outside when it is overcast or
Flash symbolised by a lightning bolt, this can be used to compensate for using your flash.
Auto often symbolised by an A or AWB (Auto White Balance), a reliable preset that will
do all of the work for you and get it right 99% of the time.
Custom depending on the camera you are using you can also store numerous custom
modes that you may have found useful for certain situations not covered by the preset

5. Focus example - Bad
10 University of Exeter

The automatic white balance (AWB) on
DSLR cameras is very accurate. Many
tests have been done to compare it to
custom white balance often with the
AWB showing marginally better
You can see here how the colours in
the image look true to life.

6. Auto white balance
This example was taken using the
tungsten (artificial lighting) setting.
You can clearly see how the colouring
is much bluer than it should be.

Without paying close attention to
which white balance setting you have
selected your images could end up like

7. Tungsten
This is another example of how the
colouring can change with various
white balance settings. This was taken
on the fluorescent lighting setting.
Although this setting has produced a
subtler outcome than the one above,
the colours are not true to life.

8. Fluorescent
11 University of Exeter

4. Capturing Detail (Close Ups)
You may have to photograph the fine detail of artefacts during your time on this course and you will need
to ask yourself a couple of questions: what is the point of interest? What part of this object best illustrates
my point? Do I need to show the entire object?
The composition of close photography, or Macro photography, is as important as it is for any other type of
shot. You may need the photo to show the entire object within the frame (a key for example), or you may
want to only show the point of interest. The important thing to remember is to give the viewer the best
image to illustrate your point e.g. if you want to show a particular style of metal work on an artefact you
will want that detail you are trying to illustrate to fill the frame and not be cut off at the edges or too far
away to show detail.

This example clearly shows the metal
section of the sword hilt and its
design, as well as the texture of a
portion of the handle.

The intention of this photo is to show
the daisies, however the focus is on
the ground behind them. This can be a
common mistake which you may only
notice when reviewing photos.
To help avoid this, check your focus
and make sure your camera is not too
close to your subject.

10. Close up example - Bad
9. Close up example - Good
12 University of Exeter

5. Lighting
Although not the easiest thing to control without some previous planning and equipment, lighting is very
important for photography. Many of the places you will visit may be dark (for example a tomb, or a trench)
and taking pictures in dark environments can be tricky, however there are many ways to get great results
even in the darkest of locations.
Important Note When taking photos in dark environments you will almost always need to use a tripod.
Using the Flash The obvious lighting device for many people would be the flash, and your camera may
well automatically activate the flash when taking photos in dark environments. There are a few things to
consider here though; will the flash bounce off of the object (e.g. is it made up of metal, glass or other
reflective substances)? Will the flash cast unnecessary shadows over other important areas? Will the light
from the flash lose colour detail from the object (e.g. will you still be able to clearly see painted patterns
etc)? You can force the flash on or off by either pressing the flash button (indicated by a lightning bolt
symbol) or going in to your cameras settings menu.

This image shows the flash on a DSLR
in its upright (active) position. In its
down position it will be folded into the
camera, and will only pop up when
activated manually, or when the
camera senses that the image is too
dark (if the flash is set to automatic).

11. Using the flash

Using a Tripod A tripod is a very handy tool and has many uses. For example: in certain situations it may
be used instead of a flash, or any other lighting, as long as it is accompanied by a slow Shutter Speed (see
Exposure Shutter Speed) because the open shutter will let more light in. This method will make your
images much lighter without the need of a flash but can only be used with a tripod as the camera needs to
be kept perfectly still with a slow shutter speed.
Lights In some situations it may be possible to hire lighting for your shoot; either large standing lights for
location shoots or smaller lights for artefact photography. Having lights will make a difference but will not
always be possible or practical.
Larger freestanding lights can be very useful when documenting very dark areas for a long period of time.
Lighting for smaller artefacts can be much more practical as it will most likely take place in a closed
13 University of Exeter

environment (e.g. a laboratory or an office) as well as being on a much smaller scale, allowing you to utilise
much smaller lights and even office lamps if they suit the purpose.
There will be some occasions where the lighting may be more difficult than just being too dark. In some
situations you may find that the object you are trying to photograph will be backlit by the sun, bright sky
or interior lighting which will make your subject far too dark. If you cannot reposition yourself or the object,
you will need to compensate for this by either forcing the flash to fire (by selecting flash on your cameras
settings or menu) or alternatively by adjusting the exposure manually (see Exposure).

6. Exposure
Exposure, simply, is what dictates whether an image is too dark or too bright.
You can control the exposure of an image by adjusting the ISO, the Aperture and Shutter Speed. These
three elements affect the amount of light which enters the camera which in turn effects whether the image
will be under, or over, exposed (too light or too dark).
This image shows an example of a
good exposure. Exposures will rarely
be perfect, and many people will
dispute a good exposure, but if you
can see the intended detail in an
image and the lighting looks correct it
is probably well exposed.
The best method is to try and expose
the image so it matches what your
eyes see.

This example shows how an image can
be under-exposed. The lightest parts
of the building are visible (although
dim) but the rest of the building is far
too dark.
For this example you would want to
open the aperture or alternatively (if
the room is very dark) you may
consider using a flash.

12. Exposure example - Good
13. Exposure example - Bad
14 University of Exeter

a. ISO
International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO, strangely not IOS) is a default setting which improves
the brightness of your images by adding gain. The automatic ISO setting will determine whether the scene
is too dark and will then digitally increase the brightness before you take the picture, almost like a kind of
night vision mode.
Although the ISO is there as a setting to help you, the downside is that when it is being used, it adds a slight
grain (or noise) to your images. The higher the ISO level, the more grain you will get.
It is advisable to keep the ISO level below 400 to keep the noise to a minimum.

b. Aperture
The aperture is essentially the open end of the cameras lens controlled by a series of blades which open
and close in a circular motion. The purpose of the aperture is to control the amount of light let in to the
camera, which in turn will affect the exposure of your images.
Aperture is measured in F-stops with a lower the F-stop value (e.g. F/1.4) meaning a wider opening of the
aperture (therefore letting in more light), and a higher F-stop value (e.g. F/3.6) meaning a more closed
opening (letting in less light).
There are various tricks you can do with aperture which can create some desirable effects, see Depth of
How Aperture can be adjusted in different ways depending on the camera you are using. Cameras will
have different preset modes you can select and a few of these offer you some manual control over the
settings. Aperture is normally symbolised by an A or Av; once selected you can adjust the aperture using a
scroll wheel or buttons (depending on the camera). The other settings (shutter speed etc) will adjust
accordingly to ensure you get the best exposure for your selection.
You can also use the manual (M) setting to adjust the aperture as well as the shutter speed.
The selection dial on a DSLR camera
showing the various modes that are
available to you.

14. Mode selection dial

15 University of Exeter

c. Shutter Speed
Shutter Speed in its filmic sense is the amount of time between the shutter opening and closing. When
filming with a digital camera the shutter does not actually open and close but instead mimics the results of
old analogue cameras exposing the film to less, or more, light.
The faster the shutter speed the less light there will be to expose your image and the darker it will be,
equally, the slower the shutter speed, the brighter the image. So you will need to adjust other settings to
compensate for this (aperture and ISO, see Exposure)
Shutter speed is measured in seconds and fractions of seconds, here are some of the more commonly used
1 second, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500
With the shutter speed set at a fast speed such as 1/500, meaning that the shutter will be open for a very
short amount of time (one 500
of a second), you will capture a very short amount of time in the photo.
This will achieve a freeze frame style of shot where you might have objects frozen in time such as water
droplets, for example. With a slow shutter speed set at 1 second, for example (even up to 30 seconds in
extreme cases), the shutter will stay open for a longer time. This will create a blur of motion for anything
that is moving; a falling object, a person running etc.
You can create many desirable effects by adjusting the shutter speed times, many of which take advantage
of the shutters main purpose of letting in more light.
Using a tripod (which is necessary for anything other than a fast shutter speed), you can leave the shutter
open long enough to capture images in low light conditions such as in a trench or tomb.
How Shutter speed can be adjusted by selecting the appropriate control on the camera you are using.
DSLRs and many digital cameras will have a Tv (Canon) or S (Nikon) selection which will allow you to
manually control the shutter speed while the camera will automatically adjust other setting to optimise
exposure. Check your cameras manual for your shutter settings.
You can also use the manual (M) setting to adjust the aperture, as well as the shutter speed.
Important Note When using a slow shutter speed you will need to use a tripod to ensure that your
images are not blurred.
This image shows the upper portion of
the screen on a DSLR camera. You can
see that the ISO is set to automatic, to
the left of that the aperture value is
shown, and to the left of that you can
see the shutter speed.

15. Shutter speed selection
16 University of Exeter

7. Depth of Field
You will have seen that some photos have areas which are blurry; for example, a lot of portrait
photography or artistic photography has blurred backgrounds (or other parts of the image). This is
essentially to remove the background and to bring the focus to the main subject of the image. With a
narrow depth of field you should notice that the plane of focus (the area in focus) is extremely narrow,
allowing you to focus on smaller objects whilst leaving the rest of the image blurry.
How - To achieve this effect to its highest potential, you should open the aperture as wide as your camera
will allow (to the smallest F-stop number you can e.g. F/1.8 instead of F/2.4 etc). With the aperture at its
lowest setting you should bring the focus to your point of interest. Notice that the plane of focus is now
very narrow. You can increase this effect by getting closer to the object you are photographing as the
background will be pushed right to the back of the focal range.
You can also use this method in reverse by having a larger F/stop number (F/18, F/36 etc) to ensure that
the entire image is in focus, this will prove useful when attempting to take photos of larger areas e.g.
landscape photography or archaeological dig sites etc.
This image shows a good use of depth
of field. The background is blurred
which helps to draw the audience to
the subject which is in focus.

16. Depth of Field example