Too big for my scanner...
January 2, 2010 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Where to get a large format picture scanned? I have eight 14" x 22" posters from all of the plays I was in during my high school years in the mid-80's. I would like to have them all scanned, front and back, into images I can post on the web. I took them to FedEx-Kinko's, and they wanted $8 per side to scan them. I am nostalgic, but not $128 worth of nostalgic. Is there a less expensive way I can turn these memories into digital artifacts?
posted by Lokheed to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could try shooting them with a digital camera. A DSLR with a 50mm prime lens, placed on a tripod sideways about 3-4 metres away will frame the poster comfortably. Set the ISO to 100 or 200, light the room evenly, and use appropriate slow shutter with a remote or use the "5-second" timer.

With today's 10megapixel cameras, the snapshot will have high enough resolution to be zoomed/cropped and will be easier to manage as the file size will be significantly smaller (scanning a poster can be upwards of 500MB, a digital photo can be around 20-30MB)

Please note that this is how many museums and archives do digital artifacts
posted by Khazk at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

For easy even lighting--photograph outdoors in blue-sky sunlight on a non-windy day.
If the pictures are framed with glass, you must remove them from the frames.
Even without glass, look carefully for reflections before photographing.
You still need a tripod.
Everyone needs a tripod (lesson #1 from great photographer I took a course from)
posted by hexatron at 6:07 PM on January 2, 2010

There seem to be a lot of print shops in your area. Most of them should have large format scanners, especially ones that cater to engineering/drafting. The smaller ones are probably more likely to give you a lump sum for all of them if you are not in a rush and they can scan them on their spare time.
posted by Yorrick at 6:40 PM on January 2, 2010

Easy. If you only need them for the web (i.e., you don't need super-high resolution), just go to FexEx-Kinko's, reduce them to 9x12 or so (on a photocopier), then scan them at home (or on a friend's scanner/whatevs). Voila!
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2010

Response by poster: But... the thing that would scan it to reduce it is the thing that they wanted to charge me $8 per copy for...
posted by Lokheed at 7:11 PM on January 2, 2010

If you can find someone with a legal-size flatbed scanner you can scan them in multiple passes and stitch then together. It can be a little tedious but it works; I've done it for gatefold record sleeves. Legal-size flatbeds are scarcer than they used to be but some of the more recent all-in-ones have them.

It'll be difficult to get decent results with just a camera. Consistent focus across the entire poster will be a problem, as will barrel distortion...and even under absolutely perfect conditions (with tack-sharp focus throughout the entire image) a 10MP photo of a 22"x14" original will result only in the equivalent of a 165dpi scan. Museums do it but they do it with copy stands and pro lighting rigs, not by sending a guy out into the gallery with a DSLR and a tripod.
posted by Lazlo at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2010

At those measurements it would take only four scans on a basic scanner to do one poster. There are open source programs to do image stitching (aligning the separate scans to make one image.) One example is called Hugin and is quite popular on Sourceforge.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:44 PM on January 2, 2010

I'd scan in multiple parts and stitch the results. Using a camera is going to be difficult because getting uniform lighting with no shadows and perfect focus is challenging. Stitching, by contrast, is pretty easy. Photoshop can do this though you might need to find someone who knows what they are doing; or you can try to learn Hugin.
posted by chairface at 10:23 PM on January 2, 2010

Maybe I'm not explaining it well. Go to someplace that has self-serve copiers and fiddle around with the 'reduce' setting until the whole image comes out on letter-sized sheets, which will fit on your home scanner. Work out the reduction settings on a black and white machine at a few cents/copy before going to the color. If the posters are all the same size you should only have one or two test/wasted copies.

I know I've done this with at least 11x17 art, and I *think* 13x19. Unless 14x22 is really too big for a normal photocopier (like you'd find in an office)? Crazy. They seem bigger than would be necessary for most things.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 12:41 AM on January 3, 2010

You may also want to check a local library or university graphic department. They may also have a large format scanner.
posted by Yorrick at 1:49 AM on January 3, 2010

I'd scan in multiple chunks on a standard size scanner and stitch if I didn't have access to a decent digital camera.

I agree with Khazk and hexatron though. Do you have a friend with a good enough camera/lens combo if you don't own this stuff yourself?
posted by imjustsaying at 3:45 AM on January 3, 2010

Best answer: If you can take a digital photo of them, you can tweak them in PhotoShop to take out the barrel distrotion pretty easily. To take the picture, it's helpful to set them up on the floor under bright light reflected off the ceiling. Stand on a chair and, while avoiding your own shadow, zoom into the poster so that it almost fills the frame. Orient the frame to the picture so you get as much in as possible, but leave a little room on the sides.

If you don't have PhotoShop, mefi mail me and I'll do it for you.

I've done this a lot and the results are fine for the web, especially if the final image isn't going to be full-size to begin with.
posted by qwip at 5:09 AM on January 3, 2010

Best answer: Another vote here for photographic reproduction with a digital camera (preferably a digital SLR) on a tripod. Any decent-quality lens of 50mm focal length of greater should be fine. Consistent focus across the poster should not be a problem at f/8 or so, and this is generally right in most lens' sweet spot for sharpness. Any remaining spherical or chromatic aberrations or vignetting is easily fixed with any popular image-editing software package (including the GIMP, which is free).

This kind of job doesn't even require expensive lights - just careful placement. There's a great discussion of how to do the lighting for these kinds of jobs in the book "Light: Science & Magic".
posted by kcds at 10:03 AM on January 3, 2010

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