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"Bryone-dioique", a still life done on a scanner by French artist Christian Staebler 03-bryone-dioique.jpg
"Bryone-dioique", a still life done on a scanner by French artist Christian Staebler
A magnifying glass and CD-ROM discs placed at an angle to the bed show reflection, refraction, and diffraction effects that can be generated. Cds and lens.jpg
A magnifying glass and CD-ROM discs placed at an angle to the bed show reflection, refraction, and diffraction effects that can be generated.

Scanography (also spelled scannography), more commonly referred to as scanner photography, is the process of capturing digitized images of objects for the purpose of creating printable art using a flatbed "photo" scanner with a CCD (charge-coupled device) array capturing device. Fine art scanography differs from traditional document scanning by using atypical objects, often three-dimensional, as well as from photography, due to the nature of the scanner's operation. [1]

Art Creative work to evoke emotional response

Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

Charge-coupled device device for the movement of electrical charge

A charge-coupled device (CCD) is a device for the movement of electrical charge, usually from within the device to an area where the charge can be manipulated, such as conversion into a digital value. This is achieved by "shifting" the signals between stages within the device one at a time. CCDs move charge between capacitive bins in the device, with the shift allowing for the transfer of charge between bins.



The process of creating art with a scanner can be as simple as arranging objects on the scanner and capturing the resulting image; in fact, some early artists in the field worked with photocopiers to capture and print in a single step, resulting in the field of Xerox art. [2] Artist Sonia Landy Sheridan, artist in residence at 3M and founder of the Generative Systems program at the Art Institute of Chicago was one of the first to exploit this ability in 1968, altering the variables of the photocopying process to produce artwork rather than mere copies. [3] Though the physical process of arranging objects on a glass platen to capture a photogram is shared by both "Xerox" artists and "scanographers", regarding image quality- scanner photography has more in common with large format photography. The process records extremely fine detail with a rather shallow depth of field and produces a digital file (or "digital negative") for printmaking.

Photocopier device for reproducing documents

A photocopier is a machine that makes copies of documents and other visual images onto paper or plastic film quickly and cheaply. Most modern photocopiers use a technology called xerography, a dry process that uses electrostatic charges on a light-sensitive photoreceptor to first attract and then transfer toner particles onto paper in the form of an image. Heat, pressure or a combination of both is then used to fuse the toner onto the paper. Copiers can also use other technologies such as ink jet, but xerography is standard for office copying. Earlier versions included the Gestetner stencil duplicator, invented by David Gestetner in 1887.

Xerox art photography genre

Xerox art is an art form that began in the 1960s. Prints are created by putting objects on the glass, or platen, of a copying machine and by pressing "start" to produce an image. If the object is not flat, or the cover does not totally cover the object, or the object is moved, the resulting image is distorted in some way. The curvature of the object, the amount of light that reaches the image surface, and the distance of the cover from the glass, all affect the final image. Often, with proper manipulation, rather ghostly images can be made. Basic techniques include: Direct Imaging, the copying of items placed on the platen ; Still Life Collage, a variation of direct imaging with items placed on the platen in a collage format focused on what is in the foreground/background; Overprinting, the technique of constructing layers of information, one over the previous, by printing onto the same sheet of paper more than once; Copy Overlay, a technique of working with or interfering in the color separation mechanism of a color copier; Colorizing, vary color density and hue by adjusting the exposure and color balance controls; Degeneration is a copy of a copy degrading the image as successive copies are made; Copy Motion, the creation of effects by moving an item or image on the platen during the scanning process. Each machine also creates different effects.

Sonia Landy Sheridan, is an American artist and academic, who in 1970 founded the Generative Systems research program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is honorary editor of Leonardo, the Journal of the International Society for the Arts Sciences and Technology (Leonardo/ISAST). Sheridan has received awards from numerous institutions, including the Guggenheim Foundation in 1973 for Photography and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Using a computer and a photo editor between the scanning and the printing process provides the artist with a greater level of control, allowing, at a minimum, the ability to "clean" the image by removing specks and other imperfections in the capture. With the increased availability and affordability of flatbed color scanners in the 1990s, photoartists could now purchase a scanner rather than rent this equipment and the technician necessary to operate it, as Darryl Curran did in the early 1990s. Renting studio time at Nash Editions, Curran captured "scannograms" of objects from 1993-97. Harold Feinstein's One Hundred Shell and One Hundred Flower series contained scanned images side by side with traditional large format photography. Joseph Scheer scanned moths in Night Visions: The Secret Designs of Moths. [4] [5] [6]

A computer is a machine that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.

Raster graphics editor computer program to make and change "bitmap" or "raster" graphics images

A raster graphics editor is a computer program that allows users to create and edit images interactively on the computer screen and save them in one of many "bitmap" or "raster" formats such as JPEG, PNG, GIF.

Never manipulating the scan, from 2003 artist Brian Miller pioneered movement, lighting, and background in scanner photo capture [7] while maintaining classical subjects like figures and fruit; work available at Pierogi Gallery, NY. [8] Exhibited 2005 to 2009 Madrid, New York, East Hampton. [9] Published 2005 in La Sexualidad Es Tan Fragil Como el Amor, ISBN   84-609-6225-3, [10] [11] and 2007 Color Elefante, ISSN   1698-9295. [12]

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

International Standard Serial Number unique eight-digit number used to identify a print or electronic periodical publication

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an eight-digit serial number used to uniquely identify a serial publication, such as a magazine. The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same title. ISSN are used in ordering, cataloging, interlibrary loans, and other practices in connection with serial literature.

A 2008 exhibition titled "Scanner as Camera" at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia drew eight artists from across the United States whose subjects ranged from scanned and digitally manipulated historic ambrotype and tintype photographs and drawings to birds and insects found by the artist. [13]

Washington and Lee University United States historic place

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia. Established in 1749, the university is a colonial-era college and the ninth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

Lexington, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Lexington is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 7,042. It is the county seat of Rockbridge County, although the two are separate jurisdictions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Lexington with Rockbridge County for statistical purposes. Lexington is about 57 miles (92 km) east of the West Virginia border and is about 50 miles (80 km) north of Roanoke, Virginia. It was first settled in 1777.

Ambrotype variant of the wet plate collodion process

The ambrotype or amphitype, also known as a collodion positive in the UK, is a positive photograph on glass made by a variant of the wet plate collodion process. Like a print on paper, it is viewed by reflected light. Like the daguerreotype, which it replaced, and like the prints produced by a Polaroid camera, each is a unique original that could only be duplicated by using a camera to copy it.

Capture process

"Self portrait with scanner" shows the effects of the focused lighting and limited depth of field when using a scanner to capture a 3-D object. Fluzwup self portrait.jpg
"Self portrait with scanner" shows the effects of the focused lighting and limited depth of field when using a scanner to capture a 3-D object.

Scanners differ significantly from digital camera in many areas. First, the optical resolution of a flatbed scanner can exceed 5000 pixels per inch (200 pixels per mm). Even at a relatively low resolution of 1200 pixels per inch (47 p/mm) a letter sized image would be 134 megapixels in size.

Digital camera Camera that captures photographs or video in digital format

A digital camera or digicam is a camera that captures photographs in digital memory. Most cameras produced today are digital, and while there are still dedicated digital cameras, many more cameras are now being incorporated into mobile devices, portable touchscreen computers, which can, among many other purposes, use their cameras to initiate live video-telephony and directly edit and upload imagery to others. However, high-end, high-definition dedicated cameras are still commonly used by professionals.

Optical resolution describes the ability of an imaging system to resolve detail in the object that is being imaged.

Letter (paper size) paper size

Letter or ANSI Letter is a paper size commonly used as home or office stationery in the United States, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. It measures 8.5 by 11 inches. US Letter-size paper is a standard defined by the American National Standards Institute, in contrast to A4 paper used by most other countries, and adopted at varying dates, which is defined by the International Organization for Standardization, specifically in ISO 216.

The depth of field of most scanners is very limited, usually no more than half an inch (12 mm), but the built-in light source provides excellent sharpness, color saturation, and unique shadow effects. The time it takes the scanning head to traverse the bed means that scanners can only be used to capture still objects, and common items used are flowers, leaves, and other suitable "still life" subjects. [14]


Using a flatbed scanner to scan items other than paper documents exceeds the original purpose of the scanner, so special care must be taken with the process. The bed of the scanner is typically made of glass, and care needs to be taken that the glass not be scratched or cracked when placing or removing items on the bed. Since the items to be captured are often placed directly on the bed, dust and other particles will often land on the glass, and care must be taken to keep the glass clean. Scanners will also hold only a limited amount of weight, and items that may damage the scanner, such a liquids or items that might scratch the glass, should be placed on a plastic barrier to protect the bed. [15] Alternatively, picture frame glass cut a few inches larger than the scanner housing will protect the platen and the device from weeping botanical specimens, paints, melting ice, burning leaves or whatever the challenge.

There are only two standard flatbed scanner sizes: "document" (slightly larger than a sheet of letterhead size paper and "large format" approximately the size of two sheets of paper side-by-side. Many scanners advertise two resolutions, an optical resolution and a higher resolution that is achieved by interpolation. A higher optical resolution is desirable, since that captures more data, while interpolation can actually result in reduced quality. [15] The higher the resolution (meaning the number of pixels per inch, "ppi"), the larger the print size.

Flatbed scanners typically have a hinged cover that covers the bed, and reflects light back into the scan head. This cover is usually removed or propped open when scanning 3-D objects, to prevent damage or compression of the subject. Removal of the cover also allows the artist to use additional light sources positioned above the bed, which can be used to enhance the depth captured by the scanner. [15]

Scanners can also be modified to provide additional capture abilities. For example, the scanner, with the illumination removed or disabled, can be used as a giant CCD replacement, producing a large format digital camera back at a fraction of the cost of professional large format systems. [16] [17]


An external light source and a moving subject produce different effects in this image. Waving goodbye.jpg
An external light source and a moving subject produce different effects in this image.

The simplest use of the scanner, which also most closely matches its use for document capture, is as a specialized tool for macro photography. As long as the subject can be placed on the scanner bed, the scanner is excellent for capturing very high resolution images, within its limitations. [1] This also has a very practical application, as it can be used to make images of items being sold on auction sites such as eBay which are too small to be easily photographed with consumer level digital cameras.

A common artistic use of the scanner is to capture collages of objects. The objects are arranged by the artist on the scanner bed, and then captured. Since the artist is working from the back of the image, it can be difficult to get the desired arrangement. Scanning software with the ability to generate a low resolution preview scan can help in obtaining the desired arrangement before the final, high resolution scan is made. [15]

Since the subjects are often placed in contact with the scanner, there is a high potential for damage to the scanner from objects scratching or cracking the surface of the bed, or from liquids that might seep from the subject into the interior of the scanner. These risks can be mitigated by placing a layer of transparent protective material, such as clear plastic film, onto the scanner bed. Another approach is to invert the scanner, so the bed is above the subject and not quite in contact with it. [18]

Capturing a moving subject with the scanner can be viewed as a problem, or as an opportunity for artistic effect. As the subject moves during the scan, distortions are caused along the axis of the scan head's movement, as it captures different periods of the subject's movement line by line in a manner similar to slit-scan photography; these are forms of strip photography. The artist can use this by aligning the direction of the scan head's movement to deliberately caused the desired distortion. [19]

Stereoscopic scanning

Stereo image
Right frame 
Favosites fossil imaged using this technique.
A piece of amber imaged with this technique. Looking at such an image on a high resolution screen or printout allows studying fine details in a way not otherwise possible. Anaglyph, Red left. Halamber.jpg
A piece of amber imaged with this technique. Looking at such an image on a high resolution screen or printout allows studying fine details in a way not otherwise possible. Anaglyph, Red left.

A variation of macrophotography involves using the scanner to produce stereoscopic or "3D" images of small objects. This is made possible because of the optical system of a typical scanner, which uses prisms to put the sensor at an optical distance from the glass of 3 to 4 feet, allowing a small sensor to cover the entire width of the bed, while keeping the bed physically shallow. This also gives better than expected depth of field, and introduces a certain amount of parallax when the same object appears at different positions on the bed. This allows the generation of stereo pairs, much like the "shift" technique where a single camera is shifted to produce right and left views of a still life scene.

This technique probably goes back to the earliest days of flatbed scanners and was mentioned on the photo-3D mail list by Bob Wier on December 14, 1995, though he makes vague reference to earlier experiments by others. [20] Though it could be described as a trivial application of a centuries-old technique to a new device, the concept is not widely known, even among stereo photography enthusiasts. This may be due to the common misconception that the typical flatbed scanner uses an imager that spans the width of the bed, thus leading to the assumption that shifting objects would not produce parallax.

The most basic version of this technique involves simply placing the object upside down on the scanner and moving it by hand, but this leads to irregularities between the two images. Better results can be obtained by placing the object in a glass front display box and sliding the box against a straight edge. Smaller objects such as seeds can be placed on a microscope slide and secured using small adhesive labels. Another, more involved technique is to remove the lid and turn the scanner upside down, then move the scanner rather than the subject. This allows the imaging of extremely flexible objects as well as objects such as small plants which cannot be turned upside down. A variation of this method was used in a patented system which involved mechanically moving an inverted scanner to generate multiple views to produce 3D lenticular artwork. This was marketed briefly as a "lenticular starter kit." The product has since been discontinued but the inventor continues to use it to produce his own artwork. [21]

Images generated this way can be edited with stereo imaging software and viewed as traditional stereo pairs or can be converted to any of a number of formats, including anaglyphs, which are viewed using common bicolor 3D glasses, such as those often used with 3D TV and printed materials. Anaglyphs can be printed with normal printers and used as 3D posters.

The high resolution of consumer level flatbed scanners allows taking stereoscopic images of objects that would otherwise be possible only through a stereo microscope, with similar limitations involving depth of field. The scanner, of course, does not feature adjustable focus, so the sharpest focus will always be closest to the glass.

A wide variety of objects have been stereographed in this fashion, including figurines, [22] [23] fulgurites, [24] fossils, [25] mineral specimens [26] seeds, [27] and coins. [28]

Further manipulation

While the result of a scanner capture provides a work of digital art, just as a digital photograph does, further manipulation of the captured image is possible as well. [1] This may be as simple as flattening the background to enhance the "floating" effect provided by the scanner to complete reworking of the image/photograph. [1] [14]

Related Research Articles

Stereoscopy Technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image

Stereoscopy is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by means of stereopsis for binocular vision. The word stereoscopy derives from Greek στερεός (stereos), meaning 'firm, solid', and σκοπέω (skopeō), meaning 'to look, to see'. Any stereoscopic image is called a stereogram. Originally, stereogram referred to a pair of stereo images which could be viewed using a stereoscope.

Image scanner device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting, or an object, and converts it to a digital image

An image scanner—often abbreviated to just scanner, is a device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting or an object and converts it to a digital image. Commonly used in offices are variations of the desktop flatbed scanner where the document is placed on a glass window for scanning. Hand-held scanners, where the device is moved by hand, have evolved from text scanning "wands" to 3D scanners used for industrial design, reverse engineering, test and measurement, orthotics, gaming and other applications. Mechanically driven scanners that move the document are typically used for large-format documents, where a flatbed design would be impractical.

Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with horizontally elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio, like the familiar letterbox format in wide-screen video.

Samples per inch (SPI) is a measurement of the resolution of an image scanner, in particular the number of individual samples that are taken in the space of one linear inch. It is sometimes misreferred to as dots per inch, though that term more accurately refers to printing resolution. Generally, the greater the SPI of a scanner, the more detailed its reproduction of the scanned object.

Digital camera back device that attaches to the back of a camera

A digital camera back is a device that attaches to the back of a camera in place of the traditional negative film holder and contains an electronic image sensor. This lets cameras that were designed to use film take digital photographs. These camera backs are generally expensive by consumer standards and are primarily built to be attached on medium- and large-format cameras used by professional photographers.

Computational photography Computational Photography

Computational photography refers to digital image capture and processing techniques that use digital computation instead of optical processes. Computational photography can improve the capabilities of a camera, or introduce features that were not possible at all with film based photography, or reduce the cost or size of camera elements. Examples of computational photography include in-camera computation of digital panoramas, high-dynamic-range images, and light field cameras. Light field cameras use novel optical elements to capture three dimensional scene information which can then be used to produce 3D images, enhanced depth-of-field, and selective de-focusing. Enhanced depth-of-field reduces the need for mechanical focusing systems. All of these features use computational imaging techniques.

Stereo camera camera with two or more lenses for capturing stereo views

A stereo camera is a type of camera with two or more lenses with a separate image sensor or film frame for each lens. This allows the camera to simulate human binocular vision, and therefore gives it the ability to capture three-dimensional images, a process known as stereo photography. Stereo cameras may be used for making stereoviews and 3D pictures for movies, or for range imaging. The distance between the lenses in a typical stereo camera is about the distance between one's eyes and is about 6.35 cm, though a longer base line produces more extreme 3-dimensionality.

3D scanning device that analyses real-world objects or environments to collect data on their shape and possibly their appearance

3D scanning is the process of analyzing a real-world object or environment to collect data on its shape and possibly its appearance. The collected data can then be used to construct digital 3D models.

A planetary scanner is a type of image scanner for making scans of rare books and other easily damaged documents. In essence, such a scanner is a mounted camera taking photos of a well-lit environment. Originally, such scanners were expensive and could only be found in archives and museums, but with the availability of cheap, high-resolution digital cameras, DIY planetary scanners have become affordable, and for instance are being used by volunteer scan providers for Project Gutenberg.

Light-field camera

A light field camera, also known as plenoptic camera, captures information about the light field emanating from a scene; that is, the intensity of light in a scene, and also the direction that the light rays are traveling in space. This contrasts with a conventional camera, which records only light intensity.

A motion picture film scanner is a device used in digital filmmaking to scan original film for storage as high-resolution digital intermediate files.

The following are common definitions related to the machine vision field.

A structured-light 3D scanner is a 3D scanning device for measuring the three-dimensional shape of an object using projected light patterns and a camera system.

Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D digital camera model

The Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W series is a line of consumer-grade digital cameras designed to capture stereoscopic images that recreate the perception of 3D depth, having both still and video formats while retaining standard 2D still image and video modes. The cameras feature a pair of lenses, and an autostereoscopic display which directs pixels of the two offset images to the user's left and right eyes simultaneously. Methods are included for extending or contracting the stereoscopic baseline, albeit with an asynchronous timer or manually depressing the shutter twice. The dual-lens architecture also enables novel modes such as simultaneous near and far zoom capture of a 2D image. The remainder of the camera is similar to other compact digital cameras.

An office camera is a digital camera device that performs tasks in offices such as document scanning, physical object imaging, video presentation and web conferencing. It is similar to the document camera, which is normally used on podiums in classrooms and meeting rooms for presentations.

Nokia 808 PureView smartphone by Nokia

The Nokia 808 PureView is a Symbian-powered smartphone first unveiled on 27 February 2012 at the Mobile World Congress. It is the first smartphone to feature Nokia's PureView Pro technology, a pixel oversampling technique that reduces an image taken at full resolution into a lower resolution picture, thus achieving higher definition and light sensitivity, and enables lossless zoom. It was one of the most advanced camera phones at the time of its release in May 2012.

Strip photography

Strip photography is a photographic technique of capturing a 2-dimensional image as a sequence of 1-dimensional images over time, rather than a single 2-dimensional at one point in time. As one moves across, one moves in time in addition to moving in space. The image can be loosely interpreted as a collection of thin vertical or horizontal strips patched together, hence the name. This is correct if the strips are discrete, as in a digital sensor that captures one line at a time, but in film photography, the image is produced continuously, and thus the "strips" are infinitesimal – a smooth gradation.

Stereo photography techniques

Stereo photography techniques are methods to produce stereoscopic images, videos and films. This is done with a variety of equipment including special built stereo cameras, single cameras with or without special attachments, and paired cameras. This involves traditional film cameras as well as, tape and modern digital cameras. A number of specialized techniques are employed to produce different kinds of stereo images.

The imaging of cultural heritage is a necessary part of long term preservation of cultural heritage. While the physical conditions of objects will change over time, imaging serves as a way to document and represent heritage in a moment in time of the life of the item. Different methods of imaging produce results that are applicable in various circumstances. Not every method is appropriate for every object, and not every object needs to be imaged by multiple methods. In addition to preservation and conservation related concerns, imaging can also serve to enhance research and study of cultural heritage.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Joseph Meehan (2006). The Magic of Digital Photography: Close-up. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN   978-1-57990-652-8.
  2. "Ellen Hoverkamp". East Coast Artisan. May–June 2006.
  3. David Liss (December 1995). "Photocopy Art: Who Were the Pioneers". Artfocus Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-03-19.
  4. James A. Cotter (July/August/September 2003). "Joseph Scheer: Confessions of a Moth Man". Photo Insider.Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. Harold Feinstein (March 1, 2000). One Hundred Flowers. Bulfinch. ISBN   978-0-8212-2665-0.
  6. Harold Feinstein (September 22, 2005). One Hundred Seashells. Bulfinch. ISBN   978-0-8212-6206-1.
  7. Artist Brian Miller's Spatial Distortion Pictures. "
  8. Brian Miller's Spatial Distortion Pictures available at Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn, NY.
  9. Articles about Spatial Distortion Picture exhibitions
  10. Book published by Lola group, in conjunction with Carmen de la Guerra gallery exhibition.
  11. Library listing for "La Sexualidad Es Tan Fragil Como el Amor"
  12. Miller's art featured in Color Elefante art journal
  13. ""Scanner as Camera" Opens at Staniar Gallery".
  14. 1 2 West Coast Imaging. "Dale Hoopingarner". Archived from the original on 2008-09-19.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Meehan (2006), Chapter 6, "Using the scanner as a close-up camera", by Ruth Adams
  16. Mike Golembewski. "Earlier Models".
  17. Mike Golembewski. "My Current Camera".
  18. Samuel W. Kochansky. Digital Art Workflow: Or how to Avoid Immeasurable Progress. Xlibris. p. 39. ISBN   1-4134-2774-X.[ self-published source ]
  19. Mike Golembewski. "The Scanner Photography Project".
  20. Christmas bear (aka 3D bear)
  21. Berlin 3D Art
  22. Kamac's anaglyphs
  23. Amaranth
  24. 3D fulgurites
  25. 3D fossils
  26. Mineral kit
  27. stereoscopic seeds
  28. Honest Abe

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