12 inch vinyl covers are too big for any scanner. So I have to photograph them. I was trying to find a cheap all-in-one desk solution.
Falcon Eyes Copy Stand CS-730 - € 150-200
Reproduction table 40x40 cm base, main pole height 72 cm (to the mounting screw), moveable lighting arms, sockets for E27 lightbulbs (not included).
Two lightbulbs - € 2-10
Can be any (even LED), but should be at least 800 lm. The quality depends more on the camera than on the light source.
SONY Alpha 6000 + 16-50/3,5-5,6OSS PZ - € 400-500
Mirrorless camera, 6000x4000 pixels APS-C, with interchangeable lens. The included zoom lens is sufficient, but could be replaced by a better one. Focus and aperture can be set manually.
Handmade diffuser screen → see below
- Reflections from the light source are no problem at all. The lighting rods, which can be moved in all directions, allow the light sources to be positioned appropriately.
- Uniform illumination is given for normal covers - gatefold covers would benefit from a third light source.
"Glossy cover" reflections are the biggest problem. Pole and camera are mirrored on reflecting surfaces. In a professional setting, this is less of a problem as you are shooting from a greater height and the camera stand is farther away (it’s a much bigger table). For the highest quality, a white cage is used through which only the camera lens peeks.
In order to live with the low height and the nearby pillar, I made a cardboard shield and covered the pole with it (one side black for black glossy covers, other side white for the rest).
I didn’t find a suitable solution for the camera, because a black background shield (to make everything dark) would have to be at least one meter in diameter to darken the whole area from behind the camera. Alternatively, I could paint the ceiling of my room black.
- Display of the smallest details is possible. 50 mm from full height does not capture the cover in a format-filling manner. But it is sufficient, even if a smaller focal length has to be chosen (lower resolution) to avoid reflections from the camera (moving the cover away from the centre).
Colours and white balance mainly depend on the camera, but are also subjective. Printed colours are the reflected part of the current light source. White appears always as white, in the warm light of living room lighting and in the cold light in the shadow on a clear day. Your eye does the white balancing.
5500K would be the colour temperature of studio lighting, but the camera’s white balance works well enough for acceptable results, even at other colour temperatures.
- Distortions are aceptable, but they increase significantly the closer the camera is to the object. From full height with a proper lens - no problem!
Conclusion: It’s not perfect, but sufficient for my needs. Professional equipment is considerably more expensive and requires a completely different amount of space. Without my own photo studio I will get by with this solution.