Jun 13, 2010

Photos of Photos

Scanning old family photos is time consuming and a general pain. When you have large prints as your only source, it can get even more problematic..

One easy solution is to set up your camera as your scanner. A tripod, flat surface, piece of glass and some light will do the trick.
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This particular tripod (Manfrotto 055xproB) makes it even easier because the column goes sideways so that you can work on the floor, but anything that will hold your camera steady can work.

Use your sharpest lens, and set a medium aperture (f8 is usually good) to get the most sharpness possible. With a tripod, shutter speed won't be a problem, so also use a good, low ISO.

Lighting, as always, is key. You have to make sure that the light is very even, and coming from the sides. In this case, I am using a large window and a white poster board. Any lights close to the angle of the camera will cause reflections and hot spots. You should be able to spot any light problems quickly.

Using a piece of glass (Clean, of course) will flatten out the prints to keep focus and shadow problems away. Just be sure to watch out for reflections.

If you look closely at this wonderful old picture of my mom as a youth, you can see the reflection of the ceiling and silhouette of the camera and tripod.
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Black fabric can block reflected light.. in this case, the print was on thick flat cardboard, so I just shot it without the glass.
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Another thing to watch for is bad white balance.

This is what the camera did on its own, set to Auto WB.
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And this is corrected in LightRoom, the original is straight black and white, not that strange blue.

Either set the white balance for the light source you are using (Flourescent, daylight, tungsten, etc.), or use Raw and shoot a gray card and correct it in post.

Of course, photos aren't the only thing you will want... it is good to get a digital record of all kinds of art... in this case my beautiful grandmother.
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It is a fun trip down memory lane to pull out the memories, and if you only have one print, it is good to get some back-up anyway....
What a great frog shirt!
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I don't know the specific details about copyright issues that come with digitizing old prints. The original photographer is unknown, so I'm looking into what happens there.

Quick Recap..
Use a tripod
Fill the frame as much as possible
Use a remote release or the self-timer to avoid shake.
Light from the side, and eliminate anything reflecting (it may be you!)

Have a great weekend everyone,

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