Scanning photo albums with a DSLR and copy stand?


macrumors 68030
Original poster
Jun 20, 2005
Hi folks,

I have a client who wants their photo albums digitized. The first 2 albums weren't too bad as I was able to remove the pages and scan each image.

But now the albums are from the early 1970s and if you're familiar with that time period in photographic nostaglia - I'm into the sticky pages with clear plastic on top. It's near impossible to remove the photos and I've been pulling the plastic back and flipping each page onto the scanner and scanning without issue.

Aside from longer processing time from the extra steps, my main concern is whether or not I can achieve better or similar results from a DSLR setup?

Because of the sticky back which is lined like old school paper, photos on the adjacent pages have small lines through them (from impacting the plastic which impacts the photos). They are by no means in terrible condition, but when they are scanned, everything shows up of course.

I've seen where people can use an actual copy stand or something like this with a tripod.

Just wondering if anyone has had any success?

I've been scanning in at 600 DPI. These are older photographs so any higher isn't worth it. That's what got me thinking about using my Pentax. I have a 50mm 1.7 lens, plus a few others. If the quality is the same, I'm sure the workflow could be speedier.

Again, my main concern is outputting a quality scan or image for my client. If a DSLR won't work as well then I'll continue scanning. They realize the photos are old and won't be pristine, but it's about their memories.



macrumors 601
Jun 13, 2007
This will probably come across as obvious, but you will need heavily defused lighting to really get accurate results, scanning would definitely yield the best results, but if you risk damaging the photos in trying to scan them, just take the time and use the DSLR.


Moderator emeritus
Jul 24, 2002
I suppose you don't have access to the negatives? I've just started shooting film (yes, really) and scanning negatives can result in pretty good results.

Apple Key

macrumors 6502a
Jan 4, 2012
Scanning should yield a much higher quality result compared to photographing them individually and it should be a lot faster. Besides spending time getting the lighting just right, you will need to work quite a bit to get the photographs cropped perfectly, adjust the color and ensure that the photographs don't have any lens distortion. Also, unless you have a super high quality SLR, 600dpi scans should be higher resolution.


macrumors 603
Oct 22, 2007
An Island in the Salish Sea
In theory, you can get "good enough" results by using a DSLR on a copy stand. By 'good enough' - prints that are similar in quality in the originals. Maybe a little less resolution, but you can colour correct somewhat any fading and colour shifting.

You may need a different lense though. A slightly longer lense gives you more room to work with (prints to lense distance). It needs to be sharp, and you need to work in a middle aperture value for maximum sharpness.

The 1st shot is going to take you hours to get right. After that it's just a matter of moving a new print into place. Because the album will get thicker or thinner as you turn pages re-focusing often may be needed.

If you have LR, you can automate a bunch of tasks. LR has a 30 day trial, which should be enough to do all the post-production. LR will allow you to set the WB for the entire album after you have shot everything. Include a grey card on occasion in a frame. LR can also adjust for lense distortions (pin cushion, barrelling). So... take a photo of a grid pattern on while paper, and the LR controls to "square it up", and then apply to the entire collection. There are some off-square distortions that are not easy to fix in LR, so ensure that your camera is as close to 90º to the print as possible.



macrumors 68030
Original poster
Jun 20, 2005
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm going to keep scanning. I asked if they had any negatives and they're checking. I normally ask for those as I have a Coolscan 5000 which does a super job. Plus the negatives are still usually left in the original plastic pouch and untouched so usually pristine.


macrumors 6502
Dec 3, 2009
Yeah good idea to stick with the scanning. :)

I tried using a DSLR in a pinch once and it was a bit of a pain. especially when dealing with lighting/glare and the lens distortion.
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