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Scanning leaves - a creative scanner guide

Scanning leaves - a creative scanner guide - How to use a flatbed scanner more creatively.

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Flatbed Scanners

Words and pictures Peter Bargh

You can buy a decent flatbed scanner for around 70 which, as well as being useful for scanning documents and photographs, can also be used creatively to make digital photos of objects.
The scanner uses a CCD to record data. The CCD is driven over the surface of the subject and uses a fluorescent tube to illuminate the path it travels over. By placing objects on the glass you can create interesting photos of any surfaces that touch the glass. The CCD's lens also offers enough depth-of-field to ensure a limited amount of a three-dimensional object will appear in focus. Bear in mind though, the further away the object is from the glass the softer the image and also darker the exposure.
I've tried scanning various things including leaves, jewellery, body parts (calm down...hands, feet and face), rocks, cameras and have come up with some interesting results. Leaves are a current favourite because you can pick up all the individual patterns and textures and use these as backdrops to pages, or collages.

Let's take a look at how you do it.
First ensure the glass bed is spotlessly clean, then carefully arrange the item to be scanned on the glass.

If the item is hard, or has sharp edges, make sure you are extremely careful when positioning it to prevent scratching the glass plate. 
If the item is flat close the lid if 3D cover with black cloth and then open the scanning software on you computer.

This brings up a dialogue box with a preview button. Clicking the preview button makes the scanner scan the area quickly and show a low-resolution version of the entire glass plate. You then use the marquee or crop tool to draw just around the object you're scanning and use the preview to adjust colour, sharpness and contrast.

When you've adjusted the settings and the size you want the image to appear, click on scan and wait a minute or so for the full scan to finish. Now view the image in your image-editing program and make any final adjustments to contrast, colour or sharpness.

At this stage you may want to clone in bits that are missing. Using other parts of the leaf.


You can also use the leaf scans o make interesting photographs. Try enlarging a section to magnify the pattern then use that as a background by blurring it and lightening the colour.

When scanning leaves you can either use reflective (lit from front) or transparent (lit from behind) modes (providing you have a transparency adaptor, and each will delivers a very different result.

Try scanning both sides of the leaf each gives a slightly different texture and pattern.

Leaves can be scanned when new or old. New ones are moist and need extra care when arranging on the glass to avoid creases, Old ones are quite brittle so care should be taken that the don't break also look out for ones that don't have bug bites because you'll have more work retouching these later.

When you've scanned a leaf try making interesting crops which could be used as a reduced opacity border, header or footer on letter headed paper, or as a part of a collage.

Peter Bargh is publisher of ePHOTOzine the new online magazine for photographers. www.ephotozine.com


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