Scanography: Tips for getting started


Ever since seeing the work of a fellow photographer, and an exhibit by a fine artist, I have been fascinated with scanography (the use of a flatbed scanner to create images).  As with most photography, it seemed simple, place a few things on the bed of the scanner and push a button.  I was really wrong.  My skills as a nature photographer were not enough; I didn’t have to worry about focus or exposure, but everything else that is required for a compelling image is even more important when creating a scanography image.As I start on this journey, I’ll share a few things that I am learning, and when I post next I hope to have resources from experts to reference and to show progression in my technique.

Tip 1:  Composition

Its not enough to think in the rule of thirds, or symmetry and balance, you also have to shift your creative vision from 2-D to 3-D.  The image takes on additional dimension with the fine depth-of-field, and I found I needed to be more precise in how things were placed and the 3-D angles that could be viewed.  I also needed to “reverse” the composition in my mind’s eye, because I couldn’t directly see what the scanner was imaging.  It took 20 shots to get 1 that was passable.



Tip 2:  Make sure everything is clean

I can’t state this enough – clean the scanner, clean the background (I tried black velvet and every piece of white lint showed up), make sure your subject (s) is dust free.  Because of the extreme depth of field, the scanner will pick up everything.  If you create an image you like with a black background, you can can select the background in Photoshop and fill it with black.  Make sure to feather the selection so it looks more natural.


Tip 3:  Carefully consider your background

My first few attempts I used a piece of black velvet draped over the scanner.  It added interesting texture, but a lot of work in post-processing to clean up the lint.  My next set of attempts were to try once my room was dark, leave the lid open, and turn off the computer monitor once I started the scan.  This worked better.  Then I noticed the scanner was picking up my hand in the background because I was holding the flower stems so the flowers would be flat on the scanner.  My next try was to place different kinds of fabric on top of the flowers to see if a variation in background created more interest.  I found the light colored tulle and the folds to be distracting, I liked the red tulle better, but not as much as the black background.


Tip 4:  Start with a subject that can sit flat on the scanner

After fussing with these Gerber daisies for days, I finally decided to stop torturing myself, and pick a subject that was easier to compose.  This shell lay flat on the scanner and allowed me to focus on other elements to make the image more successful.


Scanography highlighted the importance of set design; the background must be considered equally as the subject.  My next set of projects will focus on still life arrangements that can be placed flat on the scanner so I can progress in terms of composition and background.


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