What if…

all photographs of archaeological artefacts were done in the same way – then everything could be presented as one image. This is the idea behind PHOTARCH.

Archaeological artefacts are treasures in its original sense of the word. These objects are ours. They are part of our cultural heritage. Museums are the custodian. They take care of our heritage. Whilst not everything is on display, everything is organized and kept safe in storage. Along with every artefact registration a photograph is made. There are many schools on how this photo is best taken. This is one of them.

There's a problem within Archaeology...


When every institution have their own way of photographing, everything will differ in looks. 

Solution: By having a simple, accessible method of photographing we can agree upon a standard of the look in order for the images to be as useful as possible.


When a photograph is made of an artefact, that photo is protected by copyright, even though the object it is portraying is not. That copyright allows the holder to charge a license fee for usage, adding expenses to scientific research and making it inaccessible to the public.

Solution: With an objective method with zero creative incentive, a copyright is not necessary. Set them free.

What is it?

A method for keeping the look of our cultural heritage consistent.

– A method?

It’s rather three principles that together direct the look of photographs taken of archaeological artefacts. Those are: 1. always shoot against a 100% white background. 2. Never use more than one key light (i.e. no light boxes). 3. Always use the same angel on that keylight.

Why is that?

Following the three principles allows for an easy, accessible set-up that delivers the same results, no matter what equipment is used.

Not only that, we preserve the shadows.

– Why shadows?

There is much information about the object to be gained from the shadow. Not only does the angle of the shadow tells us of the direction of the object (see more below), it can tell us about the shape of the object. Is it laying flat against the surface? Is it wobbly? Is it round? Is it thin? It can also tell us if the object is transparent. Can we see the light shining through the object, grabbing its color and transferring it to the surface? Is the light stopping or is it shining though parts, telling us that there are gaps within the object? These are just a few bits of information hidden in the shadows.

A neutral grey background is begging the editor of an article or a website to have it removed in order to match the surface it is displayed against, more often than not a white background. And in so doing removing the shadows as well. By shooting on white there is no need to crop the image and we get to keep the shadows: win–win.

What is it good for?

“Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory: nothing can come of nothing: he who has laid up no materials can produce no combinations.”

Sir Joshua Reynolds.December 11, 1769

New knowledge comes from adding to previously known parts, seeing a connection where there was none. PHOTARCH makes it easier to make those connections.

– That’s nice, but how?

As mentioned in the top; these artefacts are treasures. We need to do them justice when making images of them. There is no creative aspect in the making of these images, thus the photographers name is irrelevant. Everything is shot on 100% white because that is the only tone that we can all agree upon by keeping things simple. A X0% neutral grey will always differ from case to case. 100% evenly lit will always by pushing them to the end of the scale. Both cameras and software have markings clearly notifying when highlights are blown.

Having one keylight allows for a natural look that has been appreciated since the renaissance. By having that light at a constant angle we decide the direction of the object, making it grounded to the surface and do not interrupt the over all impression when one image is placed next to another.

What's the use?

Use freely 🙌 No copyright © Always credit the museum 👍

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