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Over many years of operation, we have developed a diligent approach to imaging for special collections material. This has evolved through the introduction of digital imaging, with the growth of standards for digitisation and through the aggregation of knowledge, skills and techniques for heritage digitisation. Photographers in the Cultural Heritage Imaging Laboratory are active members of AHFAP (Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography). We specialise in providing access to the Library’s content in all its forms and ensuring the best possible service for researchers. We also offer a commercial service in all areas of our expertise. We have a record of developing innovative approaches to heritage photography, and we are open to proposals for collaboration. Below you will learn more about the photographic services we provide.

Archival photography

We deliver preservation quality digital reproductions of Library content. This means following imaging protocols that give the most faithful representation of the item, rather than the most appealing. Such protocols are including technical aspects as well as consistency and quality assessment measures. We deliver uncompressed jpg files, at 600ppi in 1:1 scale with colour depth of 8bit per channel in RGB (Adobe 1998) colour space, unless customers specify otherwise at the point of requesting the copies, 


Product photography

Most traditional studio photography aims to capture a visually attractive image of the items for web display and promotional materials. In the heritage environment, this can be used for exhibitions and publications, and our approach gives eye-catching results, while always ensuring safe handling of the most fragile objects.


Oversized fragile items

We have developed an innovative method to capture extremely high-resolution images of fragile and oversized items. We can digitise paintings, large maps, fold out atlases, scrolls and rolls. We can produce detailed, colour-consistent images up to 150cm x 200cm using our engineered XYZ table. This piece of equipment has been designed with safe handling of the most delicate objects in mind.


Event photography

We offer photography for all activities related to academic life and work, such as presentations, conferences, launches and lectures. These are available for booking on an hourly basis. Please contact us for a detailed quote describing the type of event, dates and expected duration.


Video filming

Video has become an essential means of supporting and documenting research, mainly through short-form ‘YouTube-friendly’ clips, as well as longer documentary pieces. It is a powerful way to communicate your message and provide that all-important impact. We produce short videos in all styles from informative interviews to a documentary shoot. Our Unit provides a professional service from scriptwriting and storyboarding, through shooting and script revision to postproduction and delivery of the final product.


Multispectral imaging (MSI)

Examining documents under different wavelengths of light – visible and invisible – can be a powerful tool to extract information. With off-the-shelf technology, it is easier than ever before to photograph in UV, IR or any other selected light spectrum to learn more about an object, its medium and its writing. The Unit has developed an approach to provide the most accessible multispectral examination of texts, which can help to discover underwriting, visualise faded text or spot otherwise unseen flaws, damage and features in various media. Multispectral imaging is an investigative tool, and as befits an exploratory approach it is often unclear what kind of results may be produced, and it requires more time to probe and deliver the images.


3D photogrammetry

When it comes to photographing 3D objects, we can provide one of the most effective procedures for stunning 3D images with genuine research value. Virtual Reality can provide an in-depth experience quite beyond simple imaging. Hundreds of digital photographs of a three-dimensional object are processed and knit together, covering over a million aspects and allowing a seamless view of an object’s entire surface. The resulting image provides not only a high-resolution 3D realisation of an object, but can also be used for printed 3D reproduction (ie ‘3D printing’). You can see examples of our work on CDL Sketchfab page.


Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)

RTI is a photographic method which involves using different lighting angles to produce interactive rendered images known as Polynomial Texture Maps. It is a type of photogrammetric digital object which gives us the chance to uncover surface features and texture characteristics that would otherwise be investible.  For more inforemation about the method go to Cultural Heritage Imaging


Contact us

Cultural Heritage Imaging Laboratory
Cambridge University Library
West Road

Phone: +44 (0) 1223 765741
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 339684



Request copies or images


Frequently Asked Questions


Audio-visual Services:

  • Imaging of library materials (including theses)
  • Licensing of Library materials
  • Product photography for catalogues, exhibitions etc.
  • Video making – interviews, short films
  • Multispectral photography
  • 3D photogrammetry
  • Advanced investigative imaging of heritage artifacts


Digitisation Services:

  • Support to researchers in planning digitisation projects
  • Support for large-scale imaging projects, including off-site imaging
  • Help and advice on technical issues such as metadata and imaging standards
  • Hosting of digitised collections from other institutions