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Tips on Capturing Pictures of Fingerprints

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/13/2010

We've all stared down at our fingerprints at one time or another and marveled at the detail. But, what about taking pictures of these wonders? It can be rather hard to do. But, there are some easy steps that you can take to help you take pictures of fingerprints.

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    Photographing Copies of Fingerprints

    Have you ever looked down at your fingers and stared at those ridges that line the tips of your fingers? We’ve all done it. Your fingerprints are unique to you and you only. But, while these little lines and swirls may represent you, it’s hard to get a representation of these ridges on film. But, there are some things that you can do to improve your chances of capturing some great pictures of fingerprints.

    Probably the most popular way to capture fingerprints is to do what the police do. Take black ink and put in on the finger tips. Then, press these onto a white sheet, which then transposes the fingerprints onto the paper. From there, you can simply zoom in the fingerprint or pieces of the fingerprint, and shoot.

    You can also photograph a fingerprint via a mirror. You need to position your camera at an angle, and use a wide-angle lens. Do not use the flash as it will reflect off the mirror. To give the fingerprint better depth, sprinkle some powder over it (this will work for both methods) or breathe on it.

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    Capturing the Best Pictures of Fingerprints

    While this may seem easy, there are actually some problems with this method. You are using a secondary source, which isn’t perfect to begin with. Sometimes when transposing the fingerprints, parts become smeared, which means that you don’t have a clear source. Plus, you miss the interesting color contrast of the fingers themselves.

    So, it may be best to go with the original source itself – the fingers! Get an assistant, and experiment with the below steps.

    1. Set up a light source that will fully illuminate the fingers, and set up a cushion or other type of hand rest for your assistant.
    2. Arrange the light so that it brings out the lines in the fingerprint. If necessary, raise the rest so that it’s nearer the light source or pull the light source down towards the hand rest.
    3. Block out any external background clutter. If necessary, hang a black or beige cloth around and under the subject to better display the skin color.
    4. Experiment with camera angles. Since the pads are curved, you may actually get a better fingerprint picture shooting from the side of the finger.
    5. Try not to use your flash. It will more than likely dull or over-expose the picture. If the external light is not enough, try adding an additional source or setting your ISO to a higher setting.
    6. Zoom in on the fingerprints. You should be able to do this with a standard angle since you will probably be shooting either over your assistants shoulder, around the front or side of them.
    7. Shoot!by kevindooley  Take a few pictures, and see how they come out.
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    How to Focus

    While shooting the fingerprints themselves does make for cleaner shots, it also takes a lot of practice. It’s going to be tough to get your auto focus to focus on the finger tips. So, you will have to use manual focus. by fazen 

    If your camera simply refuses to focus on the finger tips, try using a magnifying glass. There are many stand-alone magnifying glasses that will allow you freedom to take pictures without holding it. If you do go with this method, dump the flash. It will only reflect off of the magnifying lens, and try using more light. Some magnifying lens even come with their own light.

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