Best Method to Highlight Headstamp in Photo or Scan?


This is probably an easy question.

What is the best method to use to highlight the headstamp so it is easily visible in a photograph or scan?

I have considered the use of “White Out” or white chalk.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you.





I’ve found chalk to work best. Its not as messy as whiteout, nor as difficult to remove.


I’m with Guy here, chalk works best for me.


Use the powdered chalk meant for carpenters chalk lines rather than blackboard chalk. Much less abrasive. It come in both white and blue and can be bought in any large hardware or Home Depot type store… For B&W photos, blue works best, but white is better for scanners and color photos.


Look at Jon’s latest photos of Israelie headstamps on the thread “Interesting Historical Ammo Article” and you will see that you don’t need to put anything in the headstamp, which can be a mess to remove, and makes the headstamp look funny. Also, any whitening of the headstamp often gets in little imperfections sometimes making things look different, like the headstamp has dots, or dashes, etc. The natural look acquired by simply properly lighting the subject is 100 times better than any headstamp photographed with white-out, etc.


Its that ‘properly lighting the subject’ that most of us have trouble with, and thus, we resort to the chalk, imperfections and all.


It seems my best results have been outside on the picnic table. Any interior lighting has been inferior.


I use a white crayon. It is less messy than chalk and goes only where you want it. If I want to remove the crayon from the headstamp later, I use toothpick to get the majority of it out then a stiff bristle toothbrush to get the rest. I have had great luck with my plain old flat bed scanner for headstamp pics.



Use crosslighting to emphasize details or texture. Use a light source that can be aimed at about a 45 degree angle to the surface of your subject. The idea is that you want to throw shadows that make details stand out. It is easy to use natural sunlight if you have a background setup that can be turned and tilted. Generally I would prefer a nice overcast day for closeup work, but in this case you will want full sun that thows nice crisp shadows. Use Dr. Eastmans old rule with a little modification: “Keep the sun over your shoulder” needs to be changed to “Keep the sun off to one side and a little behind you”. Turn your built in flash unit off. The reason so many collectors use fillers in the headstamp is that your on camera flash gives very flat lighting and wipes out details. You can use your flash if you can move it away from the camera position with a long synch chord or a slave. If you have a digital camera you have no excuse not to experiment. Take lots of shots and take notes so once you find that sweetspot, you can go right back to it. Remember what an old Navy Photographers Mate told me when I was just starting out: Only mad dogs, Englishmen and bad photographers go out in the mid day sun."


Big fan of chalking the headstamps. I shoot my headstamps with either a D70 and a 50mm macro lens or a Sony point and shoot. Depends on how much I feel like setting up that day. I work all day, so most my work is done at night, inside. I use the Quadra-Pod Copy Stand, with warm fluesents providing light. The lights are up and about at 45 degree angles off the headstamp.

Quadra-Pod Copy Stand

Images shot in this manner.

PS) I also will PhotoShop the image for the best results.