Scanner "Photography": Use a Flatbed Scanner to Image Objects in High Resolution

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The images below were created using a 1998 Hewlett-Packard 5100cse flatbed scanner. This is an old, 24-bit scanner with a maximum resolution of 600dpi x 600dpi and a Gray Depth of 8-Bit (256 Gray Levels). It was a was a mid-range scanner in its day, costing around $300.00. Today, one can achieve better results using a $70.00 scanner.

Why scanner photography?

In certain cases, it is capable of dramatically higher resolution than most lens-based cameras.

What are the drawbacks?

  • One can only work with objects the size of the flatbed's platform dimensions.
  • The object (or the area one wishes to image) should not have too much depth -- the "deep" areas, which are farther away from the flatbed glass platform -- will image out of focus.

What are some practical or artistic uses of scanner photography or imaging?

  • For macro-photography of small objects.
  • For purely artistic reasons.
  • For cataloging or analysis of objects in high-resolution detail.
  • For Biometrics: fingerprints, palm-prints, even foot-prints.

Who is doing it?

  • Biometric scanners -- similar to consumer flatbed models, but capable of significantly higher performance -- are used by governments and law-enforcement agencies
  • One artist -- Katinka Matson -- has led and pioneered techniques in the area of artistic scanner-photography.

scanned seashells -- one to two inches long
above: Various seashells. These are the real small kind, often not much bigger than 1 - 2 inches, giving some idea of the type of resolution scanner imaging is capable of. Remember: this image is scaled down several orders of magnitude for Internet use. The actual image is huge.

small apple not more than 1.5 inches

above: An apple, this is one of the small varieties -- the type you get in a bag-o'-apples for $1.99. The image above covers an area no bigger than 1.5 inches. As with the seashells, the scanner resolution makes it look big. Our next scanner project: small animals (arachnids, insects and worms) and flowers.

Olympus OM-2N scan-imaged on Hewlett-Packard flatbed

above: A twist of ironies. A staple of manual film photography -- the Olympus OM-2N, imaged here w/o lens -- has met it's match when it comes to macro-photography. Actually, for images like this, 35mm film photography doesn't even come close. Click here for orig. size.

Home > Photography: Introduction | Mistakes and Corrections | Color Photography | Scanner Photography | Astronomy photos