I am using my camera to digitalize some pages of magazines or books. Sometimes I get great results sometimes the page background is not "white enough" on the picture sometimes the page is illuminated completely uneven... In short I am not able to get good, reproducable lighting conditions for this purpose. One problem seems to be that I don't want to zoom to get a higher resolution. So I have to put the camera (on a camera-tripod) fairly close to the page. In this case it seems to be much more difficult to get proper lighting compared to when the camera some distance further away (but I when I have to zoom in). So what are general principles to consider when making a good lighting for this purpose? Especially concerning which light source to choose and how to position it relative to the page and to the camera.

I am using a cheap Rollei dp8300 (8.1MP) for this in text mode.

  • Is there a particular reason you can't use a scanner for these documents? Cheap ones can be quite good these days.
    – mattdm
    Jun 15, 2013 at 13:30
  • 2
    Scanners are slow and break books...
    – Julia
    Jun 15, 2013 at 13:43
  • 2
    what is wrong with zooming? If it is digital zoom, I understand, but optical zoom should be fine. Jun 15, 2013 at 13:55
  • Hm. Perhaps you are right. It's just optical zoom...
    – Julia
    Jun 15, 2013 at 13:59
  • 1
    Have you considered a wand scanner? They are also cheap and would probably produce more consistent results. They also don't require over-extending the binding, thus are book friendly.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 15, 2013 at 14:25

3 Answers 3


The standard solution is to use two (or sometimes four) lights set at about 45 degree angles to the surface you are copying, and at a distance great enough that (a) there isn't a huge degree of falloff or an obvious bright spot from either light; and (b) that the angle of the light at the surface closest to the light is not so high that you get direct reflection off of the paper into the camera. Something like this:

Typical copy stand lighting

Since you are working with books and periodicals, you'll probably find that lighting from the top and bottom of the page, rather than the sides, will provide the fewest deleterious shadows, and that will likely mean shooting from the side of the page. The best orientation for shooting will probably not be the best orientation for reading. You may find that you get most even lighting using a pair of linear-tube fluorescent lamps or "banker" style long-filament incandescent bulbs. (If you are working with very glossy and textured originals, which is likely not the case here, then using polarizing gels on the lights and a polarizing filter in the opposite orientation on the lens will eliminate glare at the cost of significantly longer exposures.)

As for getting the overall exposure right, it depends what exposure controls the camera provides. If you only have automatic exposure at your disposal, there may not be much you can do (apart from post processing) to fix things when the page doesn't meet your camera's expectations. You can try alternate "modes" on problem pages to see if that helps, since "text mode" will be working with some assumptions about how much of the page is covered with ink (typically 15% or so), and if the page is much different from what the camera is expecting (such as having much higher than normal ink coverage due to illustrations, etc.) you will get either overexposure or underexposure. (If you have manual control or some means of accessing exposure compensation, then you should have no problem.)


Try moving your flash farther away and increasing the power and/or zooming in the flash (narrowing the beam). You may also want to position the flash to be more perpendicular to the page (if the page is flat on a table the flash would be straight above it to be perpendicular).

Look into the inverse square law to understand how this works for your situation.


Have you considered getting a macro flash ring? There are a variety of designs, however they attach to the end of the lens, and directly illuminate the subject. Cheaper ones often to not offer any control of lighting direction, however more expensive ones often offer extensive control over flash bulb placement and angle. I think such a device might work well to photograph the pages of a book with good lighting.

Something like the Canon Speedlight Macro Twin Lite MT-24ex would probably do. How you would get such a thing working with the Rollei is beyond me, however...as it does not appear that particular model has a hotshoe.

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