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Cameras as Research Tools: A guide to tools & techniques: Home

General Information

A digital camera, whether it is a high-end DSLR, palm-sized point & shoot, or iPhone, can be used as a personal handheld scanner. And it can save you a lot of time and expense, especially if you do research in rare book collections and archives. This guide covers the issues that camera-wielding researchers might encounter in using cameras as research tools, either in a library or archives or in the field.

Other Guides

Other helpful guides:

The librarians at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a very nice guide for the Digital Historian Series on using digital cameras in archival research. It presents excellent information on desired camera features, picture taking techniques, file organization strategies, backup practices, computer software, articles, and links to further information.


Digital workflows for the Archives is a recent article from ProfHacker that walks you through the workflow of a researcher who chose to use his iphone and a scanner app rather than a SLR camera.

, , , and "Taking a Byte Out of the Archives: Making Technology Work for You" Perspectives (American Historical Association) Jan. 2005.



If you are using a camera, it might be worth your effort to tether  to your computer for easier storage and organization, as well as to get a clearer idea of the readability of your photos. It also eliminates the need to transfer from a memory card onto your computer. Tethering requires software, which can be expensive.