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The do's and don'ts of successful digital photo copying

Added on Thursday 8th of September 2011 03:57 am EST

The do’s and don’ts of successful digital photo copying
by Jim Whitcomb
Operating Systems:
remove os for print

Scanners are great for copying standard sized images but what if what you’re copying doesn’t fit the norm? Follow these tips and you can’t go wrong!

To make digital duplicates, we’ll:

  • Look at a few copy setups, both fixed and temporary.
  • Talk about how to square your copy work to avoid the keystone effect.
  • Go over proper copy stand lighting.
  • Demonstrate using a polarizing filter to reduce unwanted specular reflections in your copied photos.


Photographers and photo technicians have always needed to make copies. They’ve copied everything from documents, artifacts, and evidence, to antique photos, as shown in Figure A. But though the kinds of items they copied may have varied, the objective has always been the same: to create a photo that’s as visually true to the original as possible. Nowadays, most people use a digital scanner for copy work. They usually do a fine job, mostly thanks to software that allows the user to adjust the image-capture properties.
But, there are times when you just can’t use a scanner, especially to copy large or very heavy objects. For those times, the tried-and-true copy method is still a very practical technique to use. Though you may now use a digital camera instead of a traditional camera for copy work, the mechanics have remained the same. Let’s now take a look at a few copying do’s and don’ts you should follow to aid you with your work.


Copy setup techniques
Before digital scanners, there were two fixed-type copy setups, which still are widely used: reproduction cameras and copy stands. Reproduction cameras, a.k.a. repro cameras, are mainly used by the commercial printing industry to make halftones and copy large negatives of two-dimensional subjects.
On the other hand, copy stands, as shown in Figure B, are used to make smaller copy negatives and copy slides of both two- and three-dimensional pieces. Repro cameras are large, expensive, built-in affairs, and are utilized by businesses for doing large-volume copy work. Copy stands are much smaller, and are used typically by photo studios and document conservators such as libraries and facsimile service providers.    


A third temporary type of stand, the tripod, is also commonly used. The tripod is handy for occasional copy work, especially when used with the elevator column in an inverted position, as shown in Figure C.


As you can see, copy setups come in a variety of sizes, for a variety of purposes. But, regardless of which setup you use or have access to, the techniques for taking copy shots are the same, which we’ll now address.

A copy primer
Making copies of three-dimensional objects aside, the vast majority of copy work is for duplicating two-dimensional documents, such as photographs, artwork, and publications. The goal, as we mentioned earlier, is to create a copy that’s as visually similar to the original as possible. By taking the time beforehand to properly set up your copying equipment, you’ll save yourself hours of retouching work with Adobe Photoshop.

Aligning your copy work to the optical axis of your camera 
The C...


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