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Newspaper material: Why is it hard to deal with?

  1. It can be quite fragile: Take time to gauge a page or clipping's condition, be careful when handling or manipulating it, and don't hesitate to skip it if it's not readable or too brittle.
  2. It can be weird sizes and shapes: Survey the newspaper material you need to scan and determine what camera setup is best. Unless it's all small items, use the 5D Mk III or the freestanding 7D.

Newspapers can be fragile

To capture or not to capture

Err on the side of caution.

  • If just trying to pick it up makes it fall apart, don't scan it
  • If more of the text is obscured than not (because you can't unfold it or it's wrinkled), don't scan it
  • If most of the text is readable, go for it


Be more careful than you normally would be. As you pick up an item, get a sense for the condition of the paper. Paper that feels like it would crack or break probably will if you bend it, potentially if you unbend (unfold/unwrinkle) it

  • Good: floppy newsprint; treat like you would a thin piece of typing paper or carbon copy
  • Fair: crisp newsprint; unfolding may threaten breakage but can be done; will probably tolerate fold being bent backward
  • Brittle: crisp newsprint; unfolding will threaten breakage but can be done if cautiously; do not bend fold backward
  • Super Brittle: crisp newsprint; handling causes giblets (little bits of paper) to flake or fall off – DO NOT CAPTURE


  • Should I unfold corners? Unless text is obscured or the newspaper is in Good or Fair condition, don't bother – if something's going to break off a newspaper page or clipping, it'll be a stupid little folded corner
  • Can I bend the fold back on itself to make the page/clipping lie flat? No, if Brittle or Super Brittle; otherwise, yes with caution

Plastic clips

  • If you find a metal paperclip, replace it with a plastic clip
  • Plastic clips, however, are not your friends
    • They will try to get hung in your paper
    • They will attempt to take chunks of the paper with them
    • The super skinny, oval ones are more problematic than the triangular ones

Other Notes

  • Some breakage will happen; we're just trying to minimize the danger and the damage
  • If something breaks in half, plastic clip the pieces together before returning it to the folder
  • If a giblet falls off that has readable information on it, attach it to the page with a plastic clip before returning it to the folder

Newspapers can come in weird sizes and shapes

To capture or not to capture

  • Do I capture little pieces of paper with newspaper title and date on them? Nope. That info is in the metadata.
  • Do I capture and crop to a whole page, just for a one-column article? Yes. You wouldn't crop another kind of content away from the page it appears on. Be careful that they don't get lost -- it's easy to lay them aside and forget to reattach them.
  • Do I capture and crop to a whole spread or newspaper, just for one article?
    • Yes. Sometimes this will be especially clear because the newspaper name is mentioned in the title field but not an article. This shows that April probably couldn't tell why the spread or paper had been kept but we're scanning it anyway.
    • Exception: If metadata gives explicit title and number of pages for the article, not the whole, capture just those page.
      • Example: a 3-page article, named in the title field, is found among 6 pages of material. It starts on page 1, which says it continues on pages 4 and 5. Capture just pages 1, 4, and 5.
  • What if there are multiple copies of the same thing? From among the complete ones, choose the one that is the most readable.
  • What if it's all wrinkly? If it's more readable than not, and it's not Brittle or Super Brittle, go ahead and capture it. Use glass to press it flat.
  • What if it's in multiple pieces? If you can lay them together nicely and fairly closely, count them as one page; if not, take separate captures and count each.


Err on the side of making the clipping look straight to the eye, unless it throws the text completely out of whack.

What do I align to? In priority order:

  1. mounting, if present
  2. square created by page or clipping (use non-clipped edge(s))
  3. text block (bottom of headline or left margin of text)
  4. horizontal or vertical rule

Cameras and Lenses

It works best to shoot large quantities of newspaper material on the 5D Mk III, since it makes such good quality captures (old newspapers can be hard to read) and you can move the camera. Use the 100mm lens unless you're dealing with large pieces, in which case use the 50mm lens. The 6D produces similar quality but is more limited in size.

Newspaper material can be shot with the 7Ds, too. The desktop setup (with 50mm lens) will only work for small pieces. The freestanding setup will work for any size, but using the 14mm wide angle lens might lead to loss of readability; stick to the 50mm and move the camera up.