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The original drawing of the local school logo is lost forever and I need to get one for a website. All that now exists is one on a floor tile (low-res version attached) taken with a Panasonic DMC-FX07.

Can I get some advice from people here on the optimal setup for a camera to get the best quality shot possible? Also, any advice re post-processing would be gratefully accepted. I have (or rather my wife has) a Canon EOS 20D with an assortment of lenses and a flash if that helps any.

enter image description here

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6  
To be honest, that logo is extremely simple and anyone half proficient with Illustrator or Inkscape would be able to recreate it in about 20 minutes. The results will be much better than a photograph. –  ElendilTheTall Jan 29 '13 at 15:02
    
@ElendilTheTall I am inclined to agree with you on the graphic designer suggestion. Because it's on a floor it has worn unevenly and discoloured in areas. Also the base floor tile is mottled which makes removing it just a bit harder. Thanks for your input - I really appreciate it. –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 15:28
    
But I too agree with ElendilTheTall - either using a vector or raster editor it's extremely simple to reproduce this logo... –  Omne Jan 29 '13 at 15:35
    
@mattdm Thanks for the title and body edits - much appreciated –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 16:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

This particular logo is easy, because:

  • It's only three colors
  • It's relatively simple vector art
  • there's a simple outline around the shapes
  • The goal is reconstruction, not preservation of a masterpiece

That means you don't need to light it very well and you don't need to worry too much about noise. Take a photograph straight down, and notice any sources of glare and shade them. Have someone hold a coat or a blanket. Don't worry about cranking up ISO to get the right exposure, and shoot wide open.

You could have someone trace this by hand (not really that hard), or you can do it semi-automatically, like this:

Take your image into Photoshop and Gimp. If the image isn't exactly straight-on, use the perspective correction tools to fix it. You can do this adjustment by eye — make sure the three arrows look balanced all around.

Then, push up the curves so you lose the unwanted detail (noise and dirt!) in the white, and maybe increase contrast overall. Like this:

step 1

Then, use the fill bucket tool with a wide threshold for similar colors to make the white area all perfectly white. You may need to use the eraser to get some leftover pixels, but overall should be pretty easy:

step 2

Same for the green. (This may work better if you select the green channel for matching in the bucket tool; I don't remember how that works in Photoshop offhand but it's easy in Gimp.) You could preserve the green color, but for this image I thought it easier to just go to black and white. (In fact, I converted to grayscale, but only after the cleanup, as the color channels make that work easier.)

step 3

You'd really want to clean that up better, but this will show you the approach. It would be much easier with a higher-resolution image, of course.

Now, for the next step, I switch to vector-editing program Inkscape (which is free and open source). Save your work as PNG (or JPG — it doesn't really matter), and Import... the image into a new document. Then, from the Path menu, choose Trace Bitmap. You can play with the options there; here, I chose "Brightness Cutoff" of 0.8. That gave me this result:

"final" result

Which is very rough, but that's because I'm starting with a "0.05 megapixel" image, and because I put very little effort into choosing the tracing parameters. Starting from the Canon 20D's 8 megapixel images will allow you to get a nice, smooth result mimicking the original very closely. You can add the green back, of course.

And, since the result is a vector image, not a photograph, it's a tiny file which can be reproduced at any size without blockiness.

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+1 - But... in Ps, first correct the perspective, then start using the pen tool... –  Omne Jan 29 '13 at 15:48
    
Yeah, I casually mentioned "take the photograph straight on", but if that's not possible, correct that first of all. –  mattdm Jan 29 '13 at 15:50
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Wow - I am speechless! Thanks a million :-D –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 16:17
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It is great that mattdm showed such a simple way to get some results. The perspective can be done in illustrator, look up "envelope distort" to get instructions. I would recommend that the logo be traced by hand. Estimate: Identify fonts, 10 min. Layout arrows, 10 min. Trace people, 40 min to an hour. If you don't know illustrator, and the logo is important to the school a new original could be had for ~2 hours of a contractor's time, or 20 to 120 usd depending on who you hire. –  Phil Jan 29 '13 at 16:50

To get a good photo to work with you would want:

  • A long focal length (i.e. taken as far up as possible, not a wide angle closeup).
  • As close as possible from right above.
  • As even lighting as possible.

Normally a good light source (i.e. not fluorescent light) is needed to get a full range of colour, but in this case it's not so important as the logo only has three colors.

For post processing you would correct the perspective if you couldn't take the photo from right above. Then you could use a filter like posterise to reduce the colors.

Here is a quick test from the image that you posted:

enter image description here

With an original photo with more even lighting, you could easily get a better result.

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Thanks for the hint re no flourescent –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 16:13
    
If your assortment of lenses contains a tilt-shift lens, you could use that to correct the perspective (rather than postprocess it) if you don't shoot from straight above. That way you could shoot hand held, and not need to worry about tripod legs. –  Jeroen Kransen Jul 18 at 5:36

Actually all you have to do is a perspective correction, your current photo is just fine to reproduce the logo, you just need a wider crop. just use any tool you have, such as Photoshop or GIMP to make the image look flat, then you can create your logo by tracing over that.

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In GIMP (I don't have PS) is there a plugin or menu option to do what you describe? –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 15:33
    
Sorry I don't have GIMP but I'm sure it's as easy as Photoshop to fix the perspective... –  Omne Jan 29 '13 at 15:40
    
Just google "fixing perspective in GIMP" –  Omne Jan 29 '13 at 15:41
1  
And it is - I apologise for the n00b question! In GIMP click on Tools > Transform tools > Perspective –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 15:48

You basically have two options: (hint: I think option 2 is far superior, but not nearly as fun)

Option 1 - technically difficult, time consuming and requires equipment and some expertise

The camera must be parallel to the floor, above the center of the logo, you will need a fancy tripod that can hold the camera steady pointing strait down without it seeing the tripod's legs.

Use a lens/zoom setting so that the logo covers a big part of the frame but does not go all the way to the edge (because distortion is worse near the edges of the frame).

Use a big soft light (softbox or umbrella) the is place to the side of the camera so that the light's reflection does not appear in the image, don't place the light too close so there wouldn't be any visible change in light power between the sides of the logo.

Fiddle with the image in Photoshop/GIMP/etc. to remove the background

Option 2 - simple and easy but takes a little bit of money (or a volunteer graphic designer)

Send the full size file of the image you put in the question to any competent graphic designer and get back a scalable vector image file you can use to create the web site logo (or any other version of the logo at any size for any medium).

You can also trace the image yourself but it's a tedious work and you'll get better results if someone who knows how to use

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3  
Or just ask on Reddit, you'll get about 50 versions to choose from. –  ElendilTheTall Jan 29 '13 at 15:06
    
@ElendilTheTall versions == options? –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 15:30
    
@noonand -- no, he means that the replies will include about 50 versions of the logo. It's like posting an abstract code problem in a forum; the egos in the forum will force people to try to solve it. Not all will be successful (see any "FizzBuzz" discussion). –  user2719 Jan 29 '13 at 15:47
    
@StanRogers thanks for the clarification, that's worth asking then I guess. Is there any etiquette I should be aware of prior to posting something like this? FWIW it is on a volunteer basis I'm doing the site... –  noonand Jan 29 '13 at 16:06
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In general if you post a really terrible attempt, you will encourage people to show how much better they are. :) –  mattdm Jan 29 '13 at 16:20

Incorporating a standard gray card in the exposure will also help you correct the color for the ambient lighting later if color accuracy is also important.

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