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01-12-2023, 02:33 PM   #1
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Photographing pages in a book - any resources?

Hi all,

A few days ago, I had an idea about taking macro photos of pages in books - showing the texture of paper, closeups of the text, views of the spine or cover, and so on. However, when I searched the web for ideas, using "photographing books", "photographing pages up close" etc., almost all the search results were oriented towards photography books!

Does anyone have ideas on where to search for ideas on this topic? I'd like to try my copy stand and macro lens, but also I had imagined taking perspective shots with my new Godox ring-light that I bought to capture pages up close, or even with my light table for back-lighting.


I don't seem to find much on the web other than stock photos that sort of look like I'm visualizing, so I may just have to experiment and see what I get. Does anyone have suggestions on where I could read about this technique?

01-12-2023, 02:56 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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A 50/4 macro was usually used for booking copying back in the film days, as it was sharp from corner to corner.

Attached is an old copy stand manual that will give you some tips.

Phil.
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01-12-2023, 03:51 PM   #3
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A copy of the Focal Guide "All About Copying" may prove beneficial.
From the '50's, it's film orientated inevitably, but the basic considerations and techniques are still valid.
Frequently available on eBay UK for very little money
01-12-2023, 03:52 PM   #4
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Make notes on what you want to achieve with sketches incl distances/positions/etc shoot bracketed series - 1 series changing shutter/exposure and 1 for aperture for sharpness & DoF. Process minimally and review. Differences in papers, inks, printing process will change outcomes. Digital makes it relatively easy and quick.

01-12-2023, 03:54 PM - 2 Likes   #5
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I once spent a miserable wet day looking to see how close I could get to ordinary things using some reverse adapters, etc.

I'd suggest simply having a play.
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01-12-2023, 03:59 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I did a bit of this sort of thing on a blog I once ran, which is still online. Sometimes I made sets for books to be photographed in; there's one on a "beach" (I used builder's sand and gravel) and there's another with a faked up Royal Air Force navigator's map. The blog was called Roger the Reader
01-12-2023, 04:24 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by schaste Quote
Hi all,

A few days ago, I had an idea about taking macro photos of pages in books - showing the texture of paper, closeups of the text, views of the spine or cover, and so on. However, when I searched the web for ideas, using "photographing books", "photographing pages up close" etc., almost all the search results were oriented towards photography books!

Does anyone have ideas on where to search for ideas on this topic? I'd like to try my copy stand and macro lens, but also I had imagined taking perspective shots with my new Godox ring-light that I bought to capture pages up close, or even with my light table for back-lighting.


I don't seem to find much on the web other than stock photos that sort of look like I'm visualizing, so I may just have to experiment and see what I get. Does anyone have suggestions on where I could read about this technique?
Itís macro photography but have to worry less about depth of field, pages are flat...., so forget about focus stacking.
Light source and sideways low angle of light source might be used to reveal textures...

01-12-2023, 04:29 PM - 1 Like   #8
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You might get some ideas from:

guide to technical photography old manuscripts - Google Search

Off-axis lighting might help bring out the texture of the paper and avoid reflections directly off the paper, ink, or embossing on the spine.
01-12-2023, 04:36 PM   #9
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I sell antiquarian books online for a charity so I photograph lots of them, but they are rough and ready product shots rather than anything artistic. To get the best results you need to use a light tent, and 6500K balanced floods are better than flash because you can see any hotspot reflections more easily.

Late 18th and early 19th century calf leather bindings are the worst for trying to get an even spread of light without any bright reflections, and it's really just trial and error getting the lights positioned for any particular book. For photos of the spine you need a key light illuminating the spine itself, but if you've got any of the front board visible in a sort of three quarter view then it will need a surprisingly strong fill light to stop it looking too dark relative to the spine. And if the spine has got gilt lettering and decorations then you really have to blast a lot of light at the darn thing to bring out the details. Morocco goatskin bindings are much easier to light because it's textured and less reflective, but vellum can be a nightmare of uncontrollable reflected light.

I photograph the title page as a whole because that's what my buyers want to see. Oblique lighting with an even spread across the page works best to bring out the contrast in the text. If you use full frontal bright lighting then the highly reflective white paper overwhelms the printed text. And always take a manual white balance off a calibrated card.

As I say, my goal is product shots with no artistic intent at all so I'm not sure if this will be much help to you.
01-12-2023, 04:53 PM   #10
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Oh, and also use either an external monitor or keep checking the image playback on your camera because that's the only way to be certain that you haven't got any lighting hotspots. What looks like nothing to the eye can turn out to be a glaring hotspot in the actual photo. A couple of days ago I ended up almost tearing my hair out trying to photograph an 1802 set of Hume's History of England in insanely reflective calf boards.
01-12-2023, 05:39 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
Oh, and also use either an external monitor or keep checking the image playback on your camera because that's the only way to be certain that you haven't got any lighting hotspots. What looks like nothing to the eye can turn out to be a glaring hotspot in the actual photo. A couple of days ago I ended up almost tearing my hair out trying to photograph an 1802 set of Hume's History of England in insanely reflective calf boards.

Have tried polarizing the lights; sometimes amazing what that helps clear up.
01-12-2023, 07:34 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnMc Quote
Have tried polarizing the lights; sometimes amazing what that helps clear up.
A good idea. I shot all the art work for two local museums, and for the second, I used polarizors - much better.

As other have noted, use oblique lighting. I've shot a lot of music for my score recognition program, and uniform lighting is critical. No hot spots, if possible!

Depending on binding, your pages may not really be flat, so some ability to deal with depth of focus is critical. Use some kind of jig or whatever, to make sure all the pages are in the same place. Use ambient lighting, make sure you've got the white balance correct, use 2 second mirror lockup, and don't worry about how long an exposure you need (it took me a while to realize that with digital imaging, tjhere are no reciprocity exposure problems (you youthful guys who never used film, look that up!!)). Use f/8 or f/11 for best performance from your lens. Macro lenses are better, for flat field uniformity.
01-13-2023, 01:50 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by JohnMc Quote
Have tried polarizing the lights; sometimes amazing what that helps clear up.

I use a polariser on the lens but I've never tried polarising the lights too. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to get hold of some polarising gels.
01-13-2023, 07:41 AM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
I'll have to get hold of some polarising gels.
You can buy plastic polarizing sheets on Ebay.
01-13-2023, 08:02 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dartmoor Dave Quote
I use a polariser on the lens but I've never tried polarising the lights too. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to get hold of some polarising gels.

Remember though that too much crossing makes for neutral density - aka a non electronic dimmer - which may or may not be desired. Ideally they need to be held flat and are able to rotate in front of the not too hot of a light. FWIW is: Understanding Polarizing Filters - The American Society of Cinematographers (en-US) - mostly because they have some book cover examples
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