scanner for digitizing photo album

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    • #132197
      Russell Pfau

      Our museum has a very old photo album that is fragile.  Photos are attached to the pages.  We are wanting to digitize the photos, but flipping the fragile album upside down on a scanner will most likely damage it.  I’ve tried using a camera, but many of the photos have some acid? damage that causes a severe reflection on parts of the photos.

      We need high resolution so they can be enlarged for a photo exhibit.  Can anyone recommend a method?  I’ve seen wand scanners but not sure how well they work for enlarging photos.


    • #132212

      Hello –

      Do you have access to a camera with high megapixel imaging, and a copystand (or a volunteer who would rig you up a copystand, or an institution to borrow one from, or an institution like a local university or college where you could use one in their media lab?   You could support the photo album in a cradle or other supportive and appropriate means, open it to each page, one at a time, hold the page in place with lightweight and carefully chosen small weights (protectively wrapped to not damage the paper) and record each photograph in the album digitally that way, as well as the entire page with photos in situ.

      Pat Keller,

      Curator and Collections Management Consultant

      Berrett Conservation Studio

    • #132211
      Russell Pfau

      I did try using a good camera.  the only problem is with the shiny spots on the photos.  Parts of the photos that made contact with the facing page are shiny (acid? damage) and no matter where I positioned the light source there was a reflection from these shiny spots.

    • #132210

      I see.  Hmmm.  Have you worked with bounced diffused light and a camera?  For example, if you have a large sheet of white Foamcore  direct the lighting on that, aiming to “bounce” the reflected and somewhat diffused “bounced” light on the photograph you wish to image.  This may require a clamp and a stand, or a partner to hold the white reflective board (I’ve even used white Styrofoam packing material or insulating board) in the right position.

      Pat Keller


    • #132209

      Hi. Photographers have a simple trick for photographing reflective objects. Set up a black screen with a small hole to poke the camera lens through in front of the object. Position the lights at a 45 degree angle to the right and the left of the object so they are not reflected, and the item is evenly lit with no glare spots. This way all that is reflected is a black void. Black cotton velvet works great, but black foam-core would also work.
      If you need to diffuse the light for a household, incandescent bulb, I’ve found a piece of parchment paper (the type used for baking) held in place with WOODEN clothes pin (won’t melt like plastic) clipped to the front of the lamp is a cheap, low-tech system. The parchment paper should not touch the bulb, of course! If using fluorescent bulbs or LEDs there is little heat so you can use plain old paper or sheer cloth as a diffuser. Hope this helps.

    • #132208
      Katherine Collett

      Another solution would be to get a FlipPal scanner (, as long as the individual photographs are no larger than 4″x6″.  Because you can turn the scanner upside down and use it directly on the photos, it shouldn’t damage the album.  I haven’t had a problem with reflection on anything I’ve scanned so far.  The maximum resolution is 600 dpi, if that’s high enough.  I would probably also use a camera to take reference photographs of the whole pages as well, as suggested.

    • #132207
      Susan Panak

      I have used the FlipPal scanner to scan oversized quilt blocks — it stitched together the photos nicely.  I have not enlarged the photos.  But FlipPal has been a welcome addition to my archival tools.

    • #132206
      Kaia Landon

      You’ve gotten a number of good suggestions, but I’ve got one more. Someone – I want to say a branch of the Smithsonian – took apart a scanner so as to situate things so the scanner could sit above the item to be scanned (they also rigged a system to raise and lower the object ).

      Does anyone remember seeing this? It was on a video online. I thought it was a C2C webinar, but looking at the archives I can’t find it, and I’m apparently not googling the right thing.

      If you encounter this situation often, this might be worth the time to rig.

    • #132205

      You may also want to check out this option.  You wouldn’t have to flip the photo albulms over.  Just lay it under the scanner and hit a button.  It can scan color at 600 dpi.  We are looking at using this to scan some fragile material we have in our archives.  I’ve tested it out a little and the scans are very good quality.


    • #132204
      Mary Danielsen

      I would definitely try using a Flip-Pal scanner.  The company’s website has a number of fantastic how-to videos showing you how to scan photos in albums and frames. It’s also a great addition to your tool kit.  I just completed a similar project where the images were elevated. The scanner has a 1/4″ depth of field. I took the lid off and flipped it to scan. I used two black microfiber cleaning cloths to block out light on either side of the scanner (just in case). Did the trick.

    • #132203
      Russell Pfau

      Thanks everyone!!!!!!

    • #132202

      @klandon Kaia, is this what you are thinking of? at 1:27.
      see also
      They are using the Internet Archive’s custom-built Scribe Station.

    • #132201
      Kaia Landon

      @abigail-kabaker, no, that’s not what I was thinking of, but would serve a similar purpose. It looks much more involved to rig than what I was thinking of – but still can’t find!

    • #132200
      Russell Pfau

      This looks similar….but probably not it either.

      I tried flipping my Canon scanner upside down to scan and it made horrible noises.  Evidently not all of them can be flipped!

    • #132199

      Agree with the use of DSLR but some knowledge on photometry and colorimetry is needed. Fujitsu Scan and DIY large format DIY scanner need some color management too. The comment of Russell is true, not all can be flipped.

      The necessary trend of digitizing gives some headache to the staff involved if they are not photographers. Better to attend some seminars on photography and reproducing art.

    • #132198

      If you know anyone who is tech savvy this website is fantastic.

      Most of the users tend to be individuals rather than museums or institutions, but it seems that many of the scanners that have been built and discussed in the forums can be modified for museum/ archival quality standards.

      They also sell a kit to build one, but it does not come with the actual scanner mechanism or software.

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