Photographing Stamps

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Chris Brooks, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Chris Brooks

    Chris Brooks Guest


    I'm about to start a new project that involves taking relatively high
    resolution macro shots of old stamps. Thought I would cast a general line
    out asking for advice - problems people have run into, innovative solutions
    dreamed up, and links to galleries anyone might have created.

    Thanks always,

    Chris Brooks, Jul 27, 2005
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  2. Chris Brooks

    Colin D Guest

    What camera? For top-quality work, you will probably want a proper macro
    lens, not a zoom-macro, as these might focus closely enough, but almost
    invariably show curvature of field, meaning the stamp edges will not be
    too sharp, and (usually) barrel distortion, bulging out the edges of the
    stamps. If the stamps are loose some means of holding them flat, like a
    small vacuum table would be needed. Some form of bilateral 45-degree
    lighting is preferable to a ring flash, to avoid flare from smooth or
    semi-glossy paper some stamps are printed on. A vertical column that
    can carry the camera, like an adapted enlarger column, so the camera can
    be raised or lowered to suit while maintaining verticality. A focusing
    rack so the entire camera can be racked for fine focus would be nice, a
    much easier method than lens focusing when you are at about 1:1 repro

    That'll do for starters.

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Jul 27, 2005
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  3. Wouldn't a scanner do a better job?
    David Dyer-Bennet, Jul 27, 2005
  4. Chris Brooks

    Bob Williams Guest

    Forget about a camera.
    Use your Flatbed Scanner at its highest OPTICAL resolution.
    You can scan a whole bunch of stamps at once and get superb image quality.
    I did that with a $20 bill and I could read the Microprinting!!!
    Try it ....You will like it
    Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Jul 27, 2005
  5. Chris Brooks

    Diverse Art Guest

    If you invest in a macro lens for this, choose a longer focus one - eg,
    105mm rather than 55mm. With such small items, that will allow you to stay
    a little further back which will make lighting easier.
    Diverse Art, Jul 27, 2005
  6. Chris Brooks

    Diverse Art Guest

    Depends what kind of resolution/quality the OP wants. Photographing with a
    decent macro lens will out-resolve most, if not all, mainstream scanners
    (given that many of them achieve their claimed resolutions through
    interpolation) and will also allow for more precisely focused images.
    Diverse Art, Jul 27, 2005
  7. Chris Brooks

    Scumbag Guest

    If you're looking for better quality than you can get with a scanner, this
    would certainly involve a copy stand, macro, etc.

    One easy way to get into macro is by using extension tubes and turning
    around a lens, like a 50mm. Using a 50mm lens, it's possible to get a 1:1
    ratio without too much extension. For flat work, you will need a copy stand
    though, and some decent lights. One way to do it on the cheap is to buy a
    couple of flourescent desk lamps and use daylight bulbs in them. You can
    vary your lighting ratios by moving them closer or farther away.

    If money is not an obstacle, but a good copy stand with good lights included
    and a macro lens.

    Here's an example of a picture I took many years ago with a copy stand,
    flourescent lights as mentioned above, and a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 with extension
    tubes. I can't remember if this picture is 1:1, but I think it is.
    Scumbag, Jul 27, 2005
  8. Chris Brooks

    Scumbag Guest

    Most likely he has already tried the scanner route and is looking for
    something better. A scanner will do a good job if your only objective is to
    publish to the web or such, but if you're looking for something really high
    quality that you can hang on your wall, you can do a much better job with a
    camera. A scanner will always have a piece of glass between the CCD and the
    subject which is not good for high resolution work. Another problem with a
    scanner is you always have light coming from one direction. Believe it or
    not, even a stamp is a 3 dimensional thing. You'll never be able to bring
    out offset lighting sources and subtle shading effects with a scanner.
    Scumbag, Jul 27, 2005
  9. Chris Brooks

    Peconic Guest

    This is exactly the thing I'm trying to figure out. I photograph coins.
    Have a look at the images in the URL above: your single coin itself is
    wonderful. But on your circuit board, look how much less clearly R26
    reads than R31. The macro setting focuses a very narrow field. So, one
    coin, one stamp - great. Once you're taking 10 or 20 at once, how do
    you get each one to be just as clear as the rest?

    I don't know how many stamps the OP wants in each image, but this
    points to something I'm trying to figure out. What it seems to me is
    that the camera needs a wider aperture to get the larger surface area
    into focus.

    With that in mind, are digital cameras available that have manual
    settings for projects like this -- to change aperture, shutter speed,
    and focus, yet still be able to revert to automatic settings?

    I think the images above highlight very well the problem with the macro
    feature (and I in no way intend that as an insult; you just happened to
    post a perfect example of something I am trying to figure my way

    Regarding a scanner - in my experience, no. The way the light moves
    across the glass renders the lighting of the small, detailed image
    uneven and not true to its real-life appearance. Again, its more
    difficult with multiple, say stamps, than one, and while it may be
    easier, the three-dimensional feel is lost, the sense of the
    stamp-in-hand is just not there.
    Peconic, Jul 27, 2005
  10. Chris Brooks

    Hans S Guest

    Are you implying that with a camera there is no glass beween the
    subject and the CCD?
    Hans S, Jul 27, 2005
  11. Chris Brooks

    Scumbag Guest

    Yes, it's called a lens. The scanner has one also. The glass in the lenses
    on both are not in the focal range. The glass on a flatbed scanner is. Big
    Scumbag, Jul 27, 2005
  12. Chris Brooks

    phos45 Guest

    SCANNER SETTINGS: there are different filters for various objects ...
    magazine or artwork as examples ... b/w

    from scanner menu select "artwork 175dpi" ... fine for most needs and
    not dense for the net.

    professional archivists use 600-1200 dpi : only needed if
    mega-enlargement is required later date ...
    phos45, Jul 27, 2005
  13. Chris Brooks

    Owamanga Guest

    A pinhole camera perhaps? Hardly known for its quality though is it?
    Owamanga, Jul 27, 2005
  14. Chris Brooks

    Peconic Guest

    It probably depends on the scanner as well. I truly don't know about
    scanning stamps, but with the two scanners I have, I can't get a proper
    image of a coin (I agree w/your settings, btw). However, my father, who
    is photography collector and dealer has an amazing scanner, images from
    which he uses when travelling to show inventory he doesn't have with
    him. Though you hadn't replied to me, I stand corrected; if a scanner
    can accurately scan million $ photos, no doubt it can do a stamp.
    Depends on the scanner, I guess.
    Peconic, Jul 27, 2005
  15. What flatbed scanner are you talking about? The HP flatbed scanner I
    have got does not get even close to a good macro shot using a
    Micro-Nikkor lens. If he wants something better than a macro lens he
    must use a slide scanner (such as the Minolta Scan Elite 5400 dpi 35mm
    slide scanner). David Walker (Editor from Micscape Magazine, UK) used
    it to scan microsope slides with excellent results (if interested see

    Gregor.Overney, Jul 27, 2005
  16. The problem is only, his stamps are most likely not transparent :-(

    Gregor.Overney, Jul 27, 2005
  17. Chris Brooks

    Owamanga Guest

    I doubt a scan of a back-lit stamp will look that good at any
    resolution and certainly wouldn't be very useful.

    Whatever method is used, it needs to be front-lit.
    Owamanga, Jul 27, 2005
  18. Too bad. Maybe someone will come out with an episcopic illumination for
    a "slide" scanner that allows people to scan non-transparent samples,
    such as stamps and coins.

    So, how good are the best flatbed scanners these days?

    Gregor.Overney, Jul 27, 2005
  19. Was this a US$20 ? Did you notice any changes due to anti-copying measures?
    A lot of the notes here in Australia (plastic) have fine lines and close
    colour shades that are meant to be difficult or impossible to copy accurately.
    Also note that copying notes is in many countries illegal, so be discreet! :)

    Andrew Walker, Jul 28, 2005
  20. Chris Brooks

    Eric Bustad Guest

    What exactly is there? All I get is a empty page. And looking at the
    page source, that is all that is there. Now, if I append index.html
    onto the end of the URL, then I get something. Perhaps some config
    file on the server has been messed up.

    = Eric

    = Eric
    Eric Bustad, Jul 28, 2005
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