• Donald Simpson

Scannography - An Introduction

Updated: Feb 27

Scanners used to be used only for making copies, faxing, creating PDFs, scanning slides, photos and photo negatives. But not any more. They can now be used to create beautiful art with resolution and print sizes well beyond the size of the scanner. Perhaps even as large as a wall in your home. There is no other equipment to purchase or set up then take down making it easy to create this art within minutes of conceiving an idea. You are limited only by your imagination.

Texas Sage & Knockout Rose

What do you need to get started?

  • CCD Scanner is best (Epson 500, 550, 600, etc.)

  • USB (Peripheral end) to connect scanner to your computer

  • Scanning Software (e.g. Epson Scan)

  • You may find it helpful to have scissors, glue gun, masking tape, helping hands (for people who solder), mono filament line.

Scanner Settings

Here the settings I use as a starting point:

  • Mode: If there is something like this on your scanner software please select Professional Mode. This will open up all of the options in your scanner software.

  • Make Document Type = Reflective

  • Make Document Source = Document Table

  • Make Exposure Type = Photo

  • If you have 16-bit as an option with your editor choose an Image Type = 48-bit Color; that is 16 bits per color channel (Red, Green, Blue); if not then choose 24-bit Color or 8 bits per channel

  • I am not going to get into a full blown discussion here but you should decide just how large you want the resulting photo to be and at what resolution if printing. This is the HUGE value of scanning because you can create files capable of much larger print size while maintaining quality.

  1. You could use Resolution and make it as large as you need and then adjust the photo size and resolution in Post Processing. This would allow you to scan say at 600 dpi and then in post processing you could lower the dpi to allow you to increase the size of the output. OR

  2. You could use Target Size as a percent of the selected photo size. Target size alludes to the actual dimensions of the photo and resolution. For example you could decide you want your output file to remain at 300 dpi but you want the Width and Height made a different size. Say your original scan value is the size of the scanner bed (8.5" x 11.70" in my case). You could change the Target Size to say 400%. The resulting file will have width and height dimensions 4 times as large as what you scanned while keeping resolution at 300 dpi.

  • There are a number of other adjustments you could make during the scan process. They include Unsharp masking, Descreening, Color restoration, Backlight correction, Dust Removal. You can also adjust the auto exposure level and the display gamma. You can see and change values seen on your histogram for RGB as well as each channel and look at Tone curves.

Creating a Composition

  • It is best if you can create your composition the way you want the photo to look on a table next to the scanner. Because from this point forward you need to think about this composition as a mirror image.

  • Then take each piece of the composition, one at a time, and turn it upside down and place it on the opposite left-right position than you took it from your desk. Hence, the mirror image. Remember the reason for this is because the camera is actually underneath your composition so in effect seeing everything opposite of you.

  • Be very careful placing objects on the scanner glass flatbed so you do not scratch or break the glass.

  • We do not use the scanner cover so either take it off, if that is an option, or open it all the way and leave it there.

  • Now it is time to determine what you want the background color to be. It is generally best for it to be black and then you can easily switch the background to anything else in post processing.

  • There are three ways to accomplish that:

  1. If you are in a reasonably dark room just scan the object because the light falls off pretty quickly leaving you a dark background.

  2. You can use a black, non-reflective, cloth (e.g.velvet or material that you can create some wrinkles) to create texture. Lay this over the top of the composition.

  3. Build a cardboard box (3 to 4 inches deep) that will fit over the complete glass dimension. Then paint the inside of that box matte black. When this is turned over on your composition it shuts out all external light because it is black on the inside which leaves you a pretty nice black background.

  4. NOTE: no matter how well you clean your glass there will be some dust on it and the dust spots will need to be removed in post processing.

Previewing a Composition

  • Note: you already set the scanner up with the settings you wish to use.

  • But during this step we will use a preview function that will basically not pay any attention to those settings. It just does a very quick low resolution scan so you can view your composition.

  • Your scanner will most likely have a preview mode that is activated from the software.

  • Press the preview button and review the results on your computer screen.

  • Make any adjustments necessary and repeat the preview function.

  • Do this as many times as necessary until your composition is what you wanted.

  • Then you can use your software to outline your composition to remove any part of the preview scan you do not want in the picture. Will also speed up the time it takes for the production scan and also make the saved file much smaller.

  • You are now ready to take the production scan.

Finishing and Editing (e.g. Photoshop)

  • Press the scan button you see in the software on your computer screen.

  • It will now scan the photo based on all of your settings you already made.

  • You will need to pick a location on your computer where you wish to place the finished scan, give it a file name and determine what type of output you want (PDF, JPG or TIFF). For large images I suggest TIFF.

  • Examine your finished product and re-do with any changes you see are necessary and repeat above steps.

  • You may have an option to scan directly into Photoshop or if not, it will save it on your computer where you designated to place it with that filename and extension.

  • The intent of this Blog is not to teach post processing as most photographers already have their techniques they use. There are some things that can speed the process but I am not providing that here.

  • Voila!!! You are now a Scannographer!


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