How to use a scanner to create photography without a camera

Jul 13, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to use a scanner to create photography without a camera

Jul 13, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The Koldunov Brothers are always coming up with strange ideas. Mostly they’re to replace photographic accessories with, let’s say, less conventional items. This time, it’s something a little different. They’re not just replacing camera accessories. They’re replacing the camera. With a flatbed scanner.

It’s actually not a bad idea for experimenting with. A flatbed scanner is essentially just a giant, slow, rolling shutter camera. Sure, it has an extremely close focus and a very limited depth of field. The lighting options are also quite limited, too. But it can produce some very neat results.

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I don’t know about you, but other than scanning film, my flatbed scanner hasn’t seen any action in years. It’s so much easier now to just “scan” a document with your phone. So this can help breath some new life into those neglected imaging devices.

Scanning with the top up can serve as a great way to isolate relatively flat subjects on a black background. The scan above resulted in this image.

Or, you can drop the top to get a nice gradient. It almost looks like these paperclips are falling down.

It could even serve as an alternative to a macro lens. Although, I probably wouldn’t try squishing live bugs in there.

It can offer an interesting look that isn’t all that easy to replicate with an actual camera.

If you’re not convinced, but you want to find something else to do with that old flatbed. Well, you could always try turning it into a scanning camera.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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7 responses to “How to use a scanner to create photography without a camera”

  1. Justin Prim Avatar
    Justin Prim

    i have an all in one use it few times a year

  2. Anthony Guerriere Avatar
    Anthony Guerriere

    I did this in college

  3. Tom Robson Avatar
    Tom Robson

    I used one for my latest project :-) http://www.tomrobson.com/trapped

  4. Daniel Strickland Avatar
    Daniel Strickland

    I do. It’s a part of my printer.

  5. Вергунов Сергей Avatar
    Вергунов Сергей

    I have a flatbed scanner. I now use it much more than my cameras.

  6. RamenJunkie Avatar
    RamenJunkie

    Years ago before I had a digital camera this was how I produced photos for reviews online. And now apparently it’s a thing again.

  7. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    I tried this method for some time but seems it does not work with modern scanners (I have one HP and one Canon scanners). The depth of field is so shallow in those that only fits paper scanning and almost nothing else. To do this, you need some of those old scanners with this thick glass (Fresnel? Not sure).