Getting good pictures of the stones can be a challenge but here are some tips.  The first thing to remember is to treat the stone very carefully.  Don’t use hard tools or harsh cleaners.  Start with water.  It’s amazing how much that can take care of.  First gather the equipment that will be useful.  Here’s a list of items:

5 gallon pail
1 gallon sprayer, that pumps to pressurize
Garden gloves
Garden trowel
Soft plastic scraper
Stiff but soft bristle brush, not metal
Whisk broom
Shaving cream

If you need to clean the stone, the point is to make the inscription readable.  So, as tempting as it is to clean the stone completely, you will be working for many hours if you have a lot to do.

Use the clippers to clear out the long grass or weeds.  Use the trowel to dig along the front of a vertical stone if you can’t read the bottom or to dig around a flat stone.  You may be able to just use a scrubbie to clean off a little debris from the stone.

If there’s more than is practical to just brush off, spray the stone with water.  It will loosen moss immediately.  Use the soft scraper to remove the moss.  Use the soft brush to get in the grooves or around raised portions.  Use a whisk broom to get the majority off.  Spray again to clean it all off.  You may want to dry it with the towel or even come back later when it has dried.  Try a photo wet and dry to see which is better.

These before and after pictures show what can be done with just water.


Occasionally a stone will be so worn that it is hard to make out what is written.  You can use shaving cream to make the lettering more distinct.  Spray a little on the stone then use the squeegee to spread it around.  The cream will go in the grooves or around letters leaving the inscription clear.  As soon as you have taken a picture rinse the stone so there is minimal reaction of the cream with the stone.






Try to look at the photo right away to make sure there aren’t any problems.

If you have GPS capabilities on your camera make sure it’s on.  It will be easy to find the exact place of the stone in the cemetery.

Take a picture of the front entrance of the cemetery with the sign.  Also take one of the entrance from the stone so you know about where it is.

If there is a family stone take a picture of the whole group.

There are several points to remember when actually taking the picture.

  • Make sure to get the whole stone in the frame.
  • Watch for anything in the background that will end up in the picture.
  • You may need to take a close-up of the inscription.
  • Be careful of shadows and reflections. Cloudy days are better than sunny days to avoid shadows and reflections.
  • If the stone is small enough try to block the sun so the stone is completely in shade.
  • It’s better not to stand too close. Stand back and use the zoom to get the right frame.  You’ll eliminate the reflections.
  • You may need to return at a time that the sun is not shining on the stone.