Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Perfect Setup for Photographing Layouts

This story begins with me sitting in a boring meeting at work. Not that we ever have exciting meetings at work, but this one was particularly bad because a) it went about three times as long as it should have and b) it was on my birthday.

Somewhere in the middle of the meeting I received an email from Darren (during such meetings my iPhone is often the only thing that keeps me from falling asleep) saying that he had a Bogen copy stand and wondering if I wanted it. I emailed him back and asked what the heck a copy stand was. I'm intrigued (as he knew I would be) by anything made by Bogen (I have one of their Manfrotto tripods and love it, and the Rotatrim paper cutter I'm eying is also a Bogen product).

It turns out that a copy stand is one of these:


As an aside, Darren purchased this particular copy stand at a surplus auction several years ago, and it's been sitting in our garage all this time. Once upon a long time ago (when we were both in college), he sort of accidentally started his own business selling used technical and test equipment (that in and of itself is a whole other story), and this was one of the pieces he still had left after closing the business down. And he'd paid a jaw-dropping $12 for it, including the light arms. I only had to add $10 worth of new light bulbs.

The camera mounts on the rear arm in much the same way that it mounts to a tripod, except instead of pointing out, the lens points straight down. And I mean straight down, perfectly perpendicular to the table. As soon as he explained to me what one was, I knew it was the perfect setup for photographing scrapbook pages (it's made specifically for photographing documents).

I've always struggled with taking decent pictures of my layouts to share here on the blog, but this setup is soooo easy. After a little trial and error, we were able to determine how the layout needed to be positioned to be perfectly straight in the photograph (it makes cropping much easier), and Darren marked off the table surface with electrical tape. Now all I have to do is turn on the lights and camera, line up the scrapbook page, grab the remote shutter release (it's one of the cable draped over the light arm in the photo above) and snap the picture. The other cable is the USB cable for transferring photos to my laptop.


Isn't it a sweet setup? And the lighting is perfect. The two arms each hold two bulbs (I use 100W equivalent CFs in the daylight spectrum) at an angle to the paper so there's no glare and no shadows.

I had to do a little creative rearranging to fit the new baby into the scrap room (the base is 20x27 inches, so it takes up some space), and I literally spent hours Saturday playing furniture Tetris in my head while painting and several more hours on Sunday while cleaning until I finally hit upon the two things that helped me fit it in. First, I moved the bookcase that used to stand next to the Expedit behind the door of my scrap room, where it fits perfectly (you can see where the bookcase used to live in this post). Second. I pulled the table that the copy stand sits on into my scrap room from the dining room. This is actually the table that used to sit in the entry way of our old house, and since we moved to the new/old house it hasn't really had a good home...until it came to live in my scrap room. :)


I'm surprised, but having the table next to the bed instead of the taller bookcase has actually made the room feel more open, as well as adding more storage space (this table has tons of cabinet space). I finished it up with some knobs from Anthropologie that match the ones I used on my dresser re-do last fall.

So, that's the extraordinarily long story of my new layout photography setup. Oh, and it's great for photographing my scrappy purchases, as well. :) Next week I'll try to write up a post or two on how I prep photos for posting once I've copied them off of the camera.