A Guide
to Documenting Your Misprints

Part 1: You can do this right now
Decent documentation with zero budget, using your phone
Setting Up Your Device

1.

Before you start documenting, change your device's camera settings to so that the camera is saving photos using the highest resolution it can.  On an Iphone, this setting is controlled under Settings->Camera->Formats.  You want to select 'Most Compatible'. On most non-apple devices, the image resolution is controlled from within the camera application itself. On the Samsung below, you would open the camera app and activate pro mode.  This will automatically change the file format to most compatible and will give you other manual options you will want to use. If your device is different, just search up your devices camera settings in your favorite browser.

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2.

If your device allows for it, reduce the ISO setting to it's lowest numerical option. The lowest most devices will allow for is 100 ISO, but some may go as low as 50.  The lower the ISO the clearer and cleaner your photograph will be.  If the scene is very dark while you are using an low ISO, than you need to improve the lighting, not change the ISO.

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3.

Turn off the camera flash.

This might be something you do from within the camera application, or from within the phone settings. The location of where you take the photo will determine the light source.  You never want to use the on camera's on board flash as the glare from the light will detract from the misprint and color.

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An example of the effect using a camera flash will have.

Easy Lighting

Two very import items of note:

  1. Harsh light is bad and soft defused light is good.
  2. Avoid light from directly overhead.  This will cause glares and shadows.
Option 1, Use a window

Pros: No cost, easy to recreate.
Cons: Limited by time of day and natural weather conditions.

Natural light is great way to go about documenting your cards. Make sure your blinds or curtains are clear of the window. Place your card as close to the window as needed to get the desired density of light. Ideal conditions for this set up are overcast days or on the shadow side of the structure so that the sunlight is not directly entering the window onto the card. You want to avoid harsh light.

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Setup
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Result
Option 2, Use a lamp or clamp light

Pros: Little to no cost. Easy to set up, easier to control the density of light.
Cons: Quality of light is harder to control. Risk mixing light color.

This set up is also pretty easy and a lot of people will just have these items already laying around the house. In addition to the lamp or clamp light, you will need oven safe kitchen parchment paper and some tape. What you want to look out for is competing sources of light. Once your light source is in position, you should turn off all other lights in the room and keep the setup clear of windows during the day. This is especially important if your light sources are a different color. If you are using incandescent light then incandescent should be the only kind of light in the room at the time of documenting. Same for any type of light source. Mixing light types will result in inaccurate color representation within the photograph.

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Setup
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Result
Composing Your photos
Avoid Keystoning and Image Skew

Examples of what not to do

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Avoid wide angle and digital zoom
Digital zoom automatically occurs once you zoom in beyond the limits of the camera's lens optical zoom.  This usually occurs after 2x zoom, but could vary depending on device. Digital zoom decreases image quality and detail greatly.
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If the edges of the card are bowing out-word than you need to zoom in until the card is square. It should also go without saying, make sure your image is in focus.
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Keep the Card square and parallel to the camera

The camera lens on the phone should be parallel to the card and pointed directly at the center. 

In terms of zoom/focal length, the human eye sees the world somewhere between 35mm and 50mm.  What this means for a smart device is that you probably want to zoom in a little to ensure there is no distortion to the dimensions of the card.  On my Iphone I zoom to about 1.5x-2x. You want the card to appear perfectly square within the frame.

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Inexpensive add-ons

Clip on Microscope

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Pros: Inexpensive and gets the job done.
Cons: Impossible to remove the circle of the lens without using digital zoom.  Hard to use with a phone case on. Pretty flimsy device and I only recommend this if a stand alone USB microscope isn't an option for you.

Part 2: Details

Additional Tools for detail, and exceptions to composition