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Using a Copy Stand - Or Faking It

An alternative to using the scanner is to use a copy stand.  I have a Nikon Coolpix 950, which I use for copying photos (the photo in Case 1 was copied by this method).  The setup ready for copying the photo (other than turning on the lights) is shown below.

My wife has gotten a Sony CD1000 camera (which she absolutely loves), which was used to take the picture of this setup including the camera.  Several things should be noted about the setup.

1) the stand provides a sturdy setting to hold the camera above the photo.  The camera has been set so that the visual axis through the lens is perpendicular to the base, so that the photo is viewed "straight on" and there is no warping effect from photographing the old photo from an angle.

2) There are strong light sources (in this case, 4 - 150W incadescent bulbs) providing light from an angle to the side (i.e. not straight on the visual axis of the lens).   The angling of the light sources reduces glare (while I would avoid it if I could, you can use an angled source  to photograph through glass, eg. a picture in a glass covered frame - the angled light avoids reflection of the light straight back into the lens).

3)  I'm using a 2 mega-pixel camera for making the image.  Obviously, the higher the resolution of the camera, the higher the resolution of the image.

4)  The table on which the copy stand resides is even messier than when I took an image of it for the main digital photo page.  I'm willing to trade tutoring in digital photo editing in exchange for light housekeeping. . .

I set the camera to take an uncompressed TIF image to avoid JPEG compression artifacts; the down side is that the uncompressed files are over 5 MB, so I only get 5 images per 32 MB compact flash card.  I've been using auto exposure and autofocus, as this has been working well with this camera.  The zoom was set to maximum, to avoid distortion from a wide-angle effect.  Turn your flash off before you take the photo.   Scroll down the page to see why.  I used the self-timer to avoid camera shake when pushing the shutter button (since the 950 does not have an easy mechanism for attaching a cable release).  Using these settings, the image below was taken.

This photo was taken with auto white balance.  Since I was not real happy with the color of it compared to the original, I tried using manual white balance (in which you provide a sample of something white for the camera under the current lighting situation), seen below.

Still not perfect, but a little better.  I'll show you how to cheat on the color correction by borrowing the color from the scanned image on this page.

This image, if not perfect in color balance (which is fixable in software), has a much smoother appearance than the scanned image - we've gotten rid of the glare from the laminate.  The downside is the resolution.  The above photo about filled the frame of my camera, so the photo is approximately 1600 pixels wide and 1200 pixels high (note: the image for the web has been resized downward to reduce download time).  The scanned image, however, is roughly 3000 pixels by 2400 pixels.  Here are close-ups of the scanned image (left) and photographed image (right) for comparison.


While the right-hand image is less grainy appearing, it has less detail.  I did not realize in right-hand image that there was a person leaning on the fence to the extreme left until I cropped the same image on the scanned version (left-hand image).

If I did not have the scanner, this would be perfectly adequate, but I'm going to try to improve the scanned image so that I can save the higher resolution version.

Do you need a copy stand?  It is helpful, and we bought it especially because we have a number of photos in albums which cannot be removed from the albums (and these cannot be placed on the scanner without damaging the albums).  For us, it was a worthwhile investment.  However, here are some cheats (the first two I picked up from, source unkown):

- Some enlargers (for you darkroom fans) have a removable head allowing mounting of a camera and use of the enlarger as a camera stand.

- You can put the camera on a tripod, and hold the photo against a wall.

- Some tripods allow you to flip the tripod head mount, so that you can actually have the camera between the legs of the tripod, pointing at the floor, and the photo on the floor.

- If the light is bright enough for a short exposure time, you can hand-hold the camera above the photo.  Here it is helpful to have a camera with a swivel LCD so that you can comfortably see that the camera is well-positioned over the photo.  I've seen reasonable reproductions made by hand-held camera using a table-lamp or two off to the side for lighting. A little more on this can be found here.

- Don't have a digital camera?  Can always use an old fashioned film camera, and either scan the negatives, or have a PhotoCD (preferably PhotoCD Professional) made while the film is being processed.

- If anyone has other hints to pass along, let me know.  I'm happy to credit those with the ideas.

Why should your lighting be angled from the side, as opposed to overhead (i.e. along the axis of view of the lens)?  This reduces glare reflecting back into the lens.   The following photo was taken using the camera's built-in flash, and shows why you want to turn the flash off, and why you don't want the light source near the lens.

The glare is severe enough here that the center portion of the image is essentially unusable.

Next, we'll talk (very) briefly about using a slide/negative scanner.

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