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Old 23rd of December 2006 (Sat)   #1
RedCarpet
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Default What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

I want to save time and still get color accuracy and perfectly perpendicular pictures, i.e., as good as regular scans. What's your best method?

TIA,

R/C
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #2
fslshooter
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

Use a fast sharp lens and shoot outside in the shade like on the porch or shade of the house not under a tree where brighter light might creep in. Either place the document flat on the ground or prop it up at an angle then make sure the focal plane of the camera is parallel to the document -- place the document between your feet and shoot straight down or mount the camera on a tripod. Use an aperture that insures corners of the document are still in the DoF range, a shutter speed of 350 or so if hand holding and an ISO that will allow these settings. Fill the frame with the document, use center single point one shot auto focus, focus on the center of the document and take the picture. If there's glare or shadows in the image then reposition the document and try again until you get no glare or shadows.

You won't save any time shooting the document vs scanning though especially when you include post processing time. It's the method I use when a document is too big for my scanner and I don't want to stitch several scans together or like now when my scanner died -- yup I need a new one .
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #3
TMR Design
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

I use a homemade lightbox with (believe it or not) my A620 mounted to the top, shooting through a hole in the top and I shoot invoices, receipts, comic books, baseball cards and almost any flat paperwork or periodical. It works great and it was cheap to make. depending on what I'm shooting I make a quick template or 'jig' so that the document sits in the same place every time and I can just shoot away. I did this while listing 2500 trading cards on ebay and every shot was perfect. It allowed me to use a crop action in PS to crop and resize with consistency. Shooting a lot of documents is fast and easy.
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #4
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

Robert -

Now that's a good idea and should not only yield better results than my method but also save time when more than a few documents are involved. I'm gonna give it a try myself -- heck, I might not need to replace my scanner after all. Thanks!
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #5
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

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Originally Posted by fslshooter View Post
Robert -

Now that's a good idea and should not only yield better results than my method but also save time when more than a few documents are involved. I'm gonna give it a try myself -- heck, I might not need to replace my scanner after all. Thanks!
You should give it a try. It was simple and I get better results with my P&S and the lightbox than I see from others using more advanced methods.
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #6
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

That's an excellent idea! It just so happens that I needed to scan some things. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #7
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Default Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

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That's an excellent idea! It just so happens that I needed to scan some things. Thanks for the tip.
Beats a scanner in my opinion. I just set a custom white balance, stop down to f/8 (smallest I can go on the P&S), ISO 100, sine the camera is mounted I can use slow shutter speeds and if I'm concerned the box will vibrate or move I just use the 2 second self timer. When I run it though my crop and resize action I add in Auto Levels and presto magico. Perfect every time.

In my opinion setting up more complex lighting or using flash would take longer, be a more technical process and uneccesarily add time and work to the process.
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Old 24th of December 2006 (Sun)   #8
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Lightbulb Re: What's the best way to photograph documents (instead of using a flatbed scanner)?

Same for shooting slides and negatives. I use a backlit light box with very clean results. Beats a scanner attachment or the gadget that you can couple to the front of a lens.
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