Volunteer Ken Stephenson offers these photo taking tips:
I have only done 4-5 cemeteries, an absolute expert I am not, and I got the mirror idea off another internet site. When I do take photos in a cemetery my priority is to be careful and respectful.
In cemeteries many times you will encounter stones that are buried or covered in growth. There is the question whether to unearth stones that are flat with the ground (and over the years have had mother earth reclaim them) or to do any cleaning on a stone, where organic growth is quite thick. Some people may say you should leave well enough alone. I have cleaned and uncovered to be able to photograph a stone (am I right or wrong?)
To uncover a stone I use a utility knife (like you can buy at any hardware store, the brand I use is OLFA), a small white nylon scrub brush, old used paint brush, a small dust pan I made out of aluminum, and a common water bucket. By feeling around in the ground for the edge of the stone I follow the square around and remove the earth and grass into the pail. Then using the old paint brush and the small dust pan I remove the left over dirt.
For cleaning a stone I only use water and a small nylon brush. I wet the stone then splash it off, and let dry. Quite often this makes it a lot easier to read. Again should a person doing photos for this site ever clean a stone in that way? I have (tell me if I am wrong). Now if a stone was really old and I thought I would damage it in any way then I would not touch it. I try to be very careful.
I also use a mirror to reflect light onto a stone. The only problem I have with the mirror – which is 16 by 24 inches – is that if a stone is quite big with lettering covering the whole surface that size of mirror will not light up the whole area. In that case I will take two photos, one lighting up the top and then the bottom. Where it works good is if one side of a stone is in full sunlight but there is also lettering on the other side in the shade – with the mirror it can also be put in the light.
Do you have cemetery photo taking tips? Please share!