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Old Dec 18, 2008, 6:14 PM   #1
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I am trying to take pictures of the pages of books. I don't have a very powerful camera so I'm trying to figure out ways of getting the best quality with what I have. What suggestions can you give for capturing fine details like text? Also what kind of image processing techniques are the best for improving somewhat low quality pictures?
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Old Dec 18, 2008, 7:14 PM   #2
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Get a tripod. There are specalized units that incorporate lights and a stand for the book. If you really have a lot (at least several hundred) of books to deal with, get a tripod that has an extendable arm like the Gitzo Explorer. A remote shutter release is very good, or use the self timer so any shake you introduce hitting the shutter has a chance to damp out - 2 sec is just fine for this, 10 sec is the time it takes you to run over and join the group.

Try to get the page flat even if the opposite page sticks straight up in the air. A small aperature (larger f/number) will help with pages that are not quite flat at the expense of longer shutter speeds. With a tripod and a remote shutter release you should be able to work at something like 1 to 1/4 sec easily.

You want to hold the camera steady and in the same place each time so you know where to put the book. So use a tripod.

Get uniform light on the page and make sure there are no shadows across the page. Experiment a whole bunch and find out what works best. An EXIF reader (likely one came with your camera) will help

In case I didn't mention it: GET A TRIPOD . Heavy ones are cheaper and more stable so don't go for the expensive ultra light units.
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Old Dec 19, 2008, 6:51 AM   #3
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I have photographed books before. One trick I found to be usefu was this. If the pages are not reasonably flat, part of the pages will be out of focus. You can prevent this by covering the opened book with a sheet of plexiglas cut to size, or even a piece of plate glass. I go to a nearby Lowes and search their glass-cutting waste bin for scrap plexiglass and glass. They give the waste to me free.It will help too if the edges of the plexiglas are weighted to more firmly depress the pages. The Plexiglas can be drilled for wiring pieces of metal on the edges for weighting.

The plexiglas and any lighting must be positioned so there are no reflections directed at the camera lens..

It might help to use a tripod, but I got good results simply handholding the camera. Using a tripod will let you avoid handshake, but,depending on the camera lens and light, handholding may be sufficient. Try it and see before spending extra for more equipment.

Good luck in your effort.

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Old Dec 19, 2008, 9:59 AM   #4
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dmehling wrote:
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I am trying to take pictures of the pages of books. I don't have a very powerful camera so I'm trying to figure out ways of getting the best quality with what I have..........
It would help us to advise you if you told us what camera& equipment you have.

I have modest equipment myself, and I often photograph pages of text, because it's quicker and easier than a scanner. It may well give adequate results, even hand-held.

Hints...

1. Get a bright light. I usually do it under a 40W fluorescent tube on the kitchen table.

2. Ensure that you focus carefully, probably using the 'macro' or 'close-up'mode.

3. Try it with and without the built-in flash.

4. Try and get a fast shutter speed somehow to avoid camera shake. 'Sports' mode may well do this.

5. If it's still shaky, turn up the ISO, if your camera will allow it. This will give you a faster shutter speed.

6. Take lots of shots of each page, and throw away all but the best one.

Good luck!


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Old Dec 19, 2008, 10:15 AM   #5
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Spend $50 on a scanner. That will be cheaper than any other suggestion you've received here, and you'll get better results.

If you really want to use your camera for this, remember that P&S digicam lenses get soft at the edges and suffer from vignetting, so you should compose your shots so the page(s) are entirely within that portion of the image that will give the best image quality. That means, basically, throwing away about half the resolution your camera has to offer.

So, unless the books are rare and/or fragile and you want to handle them as little as posible, a cheap scanner will give you better results than an expensive camera.
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Old Dec 19, 2008, 2:55 PM   #6
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I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'm using a 1.3 megapixel web camera, with essentially no options for calibrating it. I am using it for a number of reasons. I think it will work because the pictures I've taken so far are almost adequate. I am just wanting a few tips on getting the best image with the lowest quality camera. I have the camera mounted on a special book holding cradle which will provide the necessary stability. I also need some tips on image processing methods to enhance the image once I have taken it. I would like to use a program that could batch process the images.
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Old Dec 19, 2008, 7:49 PM   #7
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dmehling wrote:
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... the pictures I've taken so far are almost adequate. ...
No matter what camera or equipment you have, that will always be the result :-) Good excuse to get more toys.

Sounds like you have the basic problem of camera stability dealt with, and I don't hear you complaining about color casts or some other easily dealt with problem. So just what about your current pictures keeps them from being adequate? My guess is that it really will come down to the limitations of your camera.

For batch processing on the cheap (and good), try Irfanview. Not likely to solve this problem, but a program worth having.
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Old Dec 19, 2008, 8:53 PM   #8
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One big question- Is your camera able to store in .tiff format? If so, you should be able to use OCR software to convert the photo to text. With a reasonable input image, OCR will turn it into editable, printable text (with a certain amount of proofing, of course)

As to using a scanner, there aren't many available (cheap) which allow you to scan bound books, as the focal range of a scanner is too short to give good results. There are hand-held scanners with OCR software built in that are made for doing what you want, but I don't think $50 will get you one.

My own experience with this went fairly well, but I used a book holder and mounted my camera to the quill of a milling machine. (it's what I had)

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Old Dec 20, 2008, 6:34 PM   #9
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As a professsional lecturer, I often have to create PowerPoint slides where the reference material comes from a published book.

Here are a few things to consider:

I prefer to use a digital camera (3mp or more, please) rather than a scanner.

Use software that provides some perspective control so you don't get it skinny at the top and way wide at the bottom.

Use natural light near a window. That way you will not have any big WB problems.

However, you must be sure to select the the appropiate WB and I usually use at least EV +0.3 to get the proper exposure.

If you camera is IS equipped, I often shoot hand held, because sometimes I am in a library. A tripod is nice but not vital if you can perspective correct.

An extra pair of hands sure come in handy to hold your subject book flat. My husband is always willing to help.

If the material you want to photograph is on line, invest in an inexpensive "grab" program and now you have no holding the book falt problems.

If you use somebody else's material, you must reference the book title and the author to your audience. You could end up in an expensive legal battle if you don't give the proper credits, or if you attempt to make it look like your stuff.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 21, 2008, 1:18 PM   #10
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There is really nothing I can do to improve the picture taking quality of my camera. It has no adjustments I can make. The only real problem I have is that some text comes out fairly faint, especially at the edges because of the curvature of the page. I can see 99% of all words if I zoom in enough. And this is only the situation with a few books. Most come out better. So I'm just trying to figure out other factors that can improve the quality such as better lighting and flattening the page more. I was just wondering what other factors along these lines I need to consider. Also, I'm interested in any postprocessing techniques for making the text clearer.
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