How to rig up a cheap system to photograph book pages
December 16, 2007 10:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm after online resources about photographing a book. It may be that recommended sites photograph other objects but have systems readily adaptable for books. (Resources should preferably have images of the set-up and be aimed at say, an enthusiast but not a professional)

I was reading a post on Bibliophile Bullpen and found that I was trawling up dreck when I went searching. I don't have a scanner and have had occasion in the past where I wanted to get a fairly decent image of an open book double page but essentially had numerous problems from glare, shadows, page warping and camera movement so I guess this question ranges over things like lighting, easy-to-make stand, securing of the book plus any other tips anyone has to offer. Suggestions that aim towards the less spendy end of the continuum would be most appreciated.
posted by peacay to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Try these RedFerret(.net) links: Hardware. Software.
posted by krisjohn at 11:09 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

What you want is called a copy stand. You can get a basic idea of the setup from the pictures or by doing a general search for that term. Here's an overview about the basics of cameras and lighting that references some do-it-yourself resources and a couple magazine articles to check out for building your own copy stand. My college library used to have copy stands in the basement that students could reserve for shooting slides. You might see if your local library has something similar.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:44 PM on December 16, 2007

Copy Stand is a good solution, but they are tend to be pretty expensive.

If you look at the images that Jeff Howard liked to you can get the basic idea of what you need to do. You will need two of the same lights coming from fairly low angle from each side of the book. This light source can be a cheap desk lamp. You can soften the light source with some tracing paper, but be careful with the heat. You will need to get a tripod for the camera though.

If you are interested in this DIY solution I could write you some more details and draw some diagrams.
posted by A! at 6:21 AM on December 17, 2007

Check out Strobist, an absolutely fantastic reference for understanding how to photograph using lights. It has a—pardon the pun—focus on using cheap, DIY solutions to produce photos essentially identical to those produced with lighting gear worth thousands of dollars.

If you are only shooting one double page, and want a down and dirty solution, then simply head outside on an overcast day. This will give you lots of even light, so you won't get glare and shadows, and will be bright enough that you will have a fast shutter-speed, and hence should be able to get blur-free photos.

If you want a slightly more controlled environment to shoot multiple pages then this page is probably the best place to start reading. It's not strictly concerned with photographing books, but the relevance should be clear. I'll let David explain the rest ...
posted by puffmoike at 7:04 AM on December 17, 2007

There are any number of tripods that allow you to point the camera straight down, like this one; this will allow you to get the camera parallel to the book and hold it steady enough to take a long exposure using available light, thus avoiding glare that is likely coming from your flash.
posted by TedW at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2007

Get yourself a $25 scanner off Craigslist and don't look back. The copy stand advice above is accurate in every respect insofar as it covers the expense and complication of going the route you're considering. Scanning a book is also faster, and image quality is better.
posted by gum at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2007

gum, the 11,948 kilometre distance might be a problem. Also: I'm not interested in a scanner. And with respect to your last point - image quality is better - got links for that assertion??
posted by peacay at 10:05 AM on December 17, 2007

Apologies for my previous post, peacay: I should have checked out your initial link before I spilled forth.

That said, Strobist is still an excellent resource, and after reading up a bit you'll be able to reach your own conclusions about what you can try to get the lighting aspect right.

To elicit some better answers you might like to tell us what level of photographer you are, and what equipment you already have.

In particular, I assume from the tone of your post that you're not likely to go out and buy a camera or lenses specifically for the task. If that is the case, and you don't have suitable gear, then Gum's suggestion to use a scanner might still be your best option. At least with a scanner everything will be flat, evenly lit, relatively noise-free and lacking geometric distortion.

Perhaps you could also post a link to the sort of result you are hoping to achieve: are you aiming for an evocative photo or a faithful reproduction? This might give the photographers of the Hive who don't specialise in copying books an opportunity to give you some useful advice.
posted by puffmoike at 12:59 AM on December 18, 2007

Sorry for my tardiness. The question was prompted by that blog post - I didn't have a specific idea in mind, I just thought I'd go fishing (and I shall check all the links out thanks).

I've got a (relatively speaking) old Minolta dimage 5.0 (upgraded software) with the salient features being bulky size (so my minitripod is an unworkable tool basically) and a very very sensitive sshhaakkee algorithm making a tripod of great importance.
I guess I hope to be able to shoot the odd pic of illustrations from books/mags with a much better quality than the usual crap on ebay. I've not done much closeup work and it's only going to be for my blog or personal use but still, I want good pics.

If I'm going to spend any $$, I'd rather it was on a tripod than a scanner. And in my not so humble opinion, good photography is much much much more likely to produce a superior image file --- I spend my life looking at these things on line (book/art/illustrations).
posted by peacay at 7:37 AM on December 19, 2007

That Runeberg piece was good thanks.
posted by peacay at 6:21 AM on January 2, 2008

« Older Oh baby i'm gonna...   |   Advice for sleep apnea please. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.