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19 April 2016

Tombstone Tuesday Tip: Solving Uneven Shadows on Stones

Gravestone Photography Tip: Block the Trees



Have you ever had a photo from a cemetery that looks like this?

Photo by Devon Lee
Louise Gramlich
Green Lawn Cemetery
Find A Grave Memorial #75114324
It's a mixture of shadows and bright lights falling unevenly on your stone. Why?

Because the stone is situated under a tree and I visited the cemetery in less than ideal photography conditions. Most genealogists face this exact scenario.

There's a simple fix where you can capture a nice picture.


First, plan ahead. Expect to encounter less than ideal situations. Have a piece of white foam board, readily available at most craft stores very inexpensively. Purchase a board that is at least 3 feet long by 2 feet wide. Then take this to the cemetery.

Second slow down before you press the camera shutter release button on your dSLR or your smart phone. Look at the way light is falling upon the stone you are attempting to photograph. If it looks mottled, like the photo above, you need to have a way to block out the sun so that an even light surrounds the stone.

Then, simply hold the foam board above the stone so as to block out the sunlight. When you have the board's rectangular shadow completely falling on the stone, you're ready to take the picture.

Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom. You solve the troublesome trees casting spotty shadows on your stone.

Try it and let me know how it works for you on your next cemetery photography session.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent tip. I'm heading to a fairly local cemetery this Sunday and still haven't found the best time to visit.

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    1. The best time is always changing, at least that's what I've found. 10 am and 3 pm are the most commonly recommended times, but I've found it all depends. I strive to be prepared no matter what (well, except when it's raining). That's why I like having a piece of foam board to use as a reflector.

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  2. Hi. Many times I have also read the opposite approach when it comes to reading a difficult to read inscription on a gravestone. That is to use a mirror to shine light on the marker via an angle with the sun. Also, using an LED light on the stone. The different light conditions affect how a stone appears and the inscription and motifs with light and shadows. I find for myself that going around noon to a cemetery has been about the best time for lighting in open air areas without trees in the areas. A person just should go prepared with the 'tricks of the trade' and be ready to adapt to the sunlight or shadow conditions before taking the photo.

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    1. Linda thanks for these tips. I haven't tried to use an LED light before. That's something to investigate for sure. As for using a mirror, I had less success with that approach than using piece of white foam board as a reflector or to block out light. Not sure what I was doing that wasn't having similar results as others who use that trick. It just goes to show that there are many ways to accomplish the same result, so try them all and see what works. Thanks so much!

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