Backstage Library Works

Camera Ready, Set, GO!

“Camera ready” is a term used to describe when, as the name suggests, materials are ready to be digitally captured or microfilmed. How do you prepare a jumble of papers, or a collection of books, or a pile of newspapers to be safely captured?

At Backstage, we ask our clients whether their materials are camera ready before beginning a project. Material preparation can be a time-consuming step, but proper care prior to capture makes all the difference in the results of any digitization or microfilming project. Camera readiness extends past page preparedness and includes binding preparedness. In short, consider: is all content on the item visible if you were to snap a photo of it right now? That includes whether the binding keeps you from opening pages fully.

The processes for preparing materials for digitization or microfilming are very similar. The rules that apply to camera readiness for digitization apply to microfilming as well. When preparing for microfilming, however, there’s the additional aspect of collation to consider. Let’s break it down!

Preparing Materials for Digitization

Enclosures: Items should be removed from their enclosures and any staples or clips should be removed.

Items arrive flat: In addition to unrolling things like maps or posters, creases should be flattened, dog-ears unfolded, and newspapers should be laid flat.

Items that obstruct content have been removed: Ephemera such as bookmarks, research notes, flags, and other small items have to be set aside before digitization.

Bindings open with ease and lay flat: If your materials can’t open, or they’re too fragile to turn even a page or two, it may be necessary to cut tight bindings. If you’re not sure if bindings need to be cut, just speak to your account representative or project manager. There may be an alternative solution.

Items can be flattened with glass in a book cradle or on a copy board stand: If your materials are in 3-ring binders, or you have books bound with metal studs or grommets, these will need to be disbound prior to capture.

Duplicates have been removed, or, they have been flagged to alert the digitization vendor not to digitize certain duplicates: It’s always best to dedupe prior to digitization. Camera technicians focus on making sure each photo is high-quality and that material is being handled appropriately; it makes the whole process much simpler if any guess-work has been removed.

Preparing Materials for Microfilming: Collation

Guidelines for efficient and accurate capture of newspapers involves collating materials, adding targets that describe how and when materials have been filmed, and indicating when pages may be missing or misnumbered. Accurate page counts and assessments prior to microfilming helps facilitate reel breaking and ensures clear, intuitive duplication for your researching patrons.

Can Backstage handle material prep? And collation?

Yes! Camera readiness preparation involves stabilizing materials and making sure the final capture is as faithful to the original material as possible. If you opt to have Backstage do the material preparation, we’ll work with you to establish the workflow we’d take with your collection, especially if you aim to bring your collection to a conservator before or after the project. Our material preparation is always non-destructive and leaves materials in the same condition, if not slightly better, than when they arrived.

As for collation, we’re very well acquainted with microfilming guidelines and are happy to take over this step. Our prep department is an integral part of our microfilming and digitization studios.

Contact Us

To learn more about our pricing and how Backstage can help you with your collections, you can call us at 1.800.288.1265, visit us online at, or send an email to

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