How to Scan an Elephant:
Digitize Your Family History from Artifact to Zombie
Presented at RootsTech 2014
Salt Lake City, Utah
Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator
Photographing microfilm on a film reader desk using a wi-fi compact camera connected to my smartphone as a remote shutter release. This review gives information on my setup and equipment.
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My Favorite Digitizing Tools
These are the tools I use for my digitizing projects with a few (very personal) comments noting what I like about the products.
My scanner of choice is the Epson Perfection series. I have used this line of Epson scanner for over ten years with photos, documents, film, slides, and artifacts. The included software is feature rich and allows for batch-scanning, automatic numbering, scanning multiple items at one time, many file formats, and custom resolution (DPI).
This little scanner may be light in weight, but it’s no lightweight when it comes to digitizing documents or photos on research trips. It fits neatly in my computer briefcase and is powered by a single USB cable.
Scanning is a boring and lonely activity. The battery-powered Flip-Pal lets me scan snapshots while watching TV, and capture pages at the local library. Image quality is excellent, with a choice of 300 dpi or 600 dpi. I especially like the Flip-Pal for digitizing oversize items and stitching the images together with the included software.
If you use a pro-sumer or DSLR digital camera, take advantage of the option to add a remote camera shutter release. This small accessory is essential for low-light photography and will speed-up any large digitizing project. Look for the remote designed to work with your make and model digital camera; wired remotes are less expensive than wireless models. I use the inexpensive Satechi Wired Remote Shutter Release with my Canon Powershot G11.
My favorite new tool for fast, sharp digitizing is an inexpensive little wifi wonder, the Samsung WF350 14.5 megapixel digital camera. It produces clear sharp photos in low light conditions, but it really shines when the camera is mounted on a tripod and paired via wifi with a smartphone used as a remote shutter release. The Samsung App allows zooming right from the smartphone and lets you release the camera shutter without risk of camera shake. Read my review and equipment set-up for photographing microfilm in my blog article From Microfilm to Megapixels.
This small tripod will hold your compact camera (or smartphone with a smartphone mount) steady on a table, a fence, post, or almost anywhere you can wrap the flexible tripod legs. Look for the larger model to hold a DSLR or large camera.
Look for a model that extends at least 60-inches if you plan to mount your camera in order to shoot down on large documents or newspapers. An adjustable ball head and quick release are helpful, along with flip-levers to adjust the legs. Larger DSLR cameras will require a model rated to hold more weight than a small compact camera.
Mobile Scanning Apps
CamScanner - (Android, iOS)
DocScan - (iOS)
Genius Scan - (Android, iOS, Win Phone)
Handy Scanner – (Android)
Prizmo – (Mac, iOS)
Scanner Pro - (iOS)
TurboScan – (iOS, Android coming soon!)
Websites Mentioned in This Presentation
Camera Image Sensor
Technical Specs Comparison for Digital Cameras
Granite in My Blood
Midge Frazel, Gravestone Research and Photography
Scanning and Stitching Oversize Items
FlipPal Mobile Scanner
with included Scan and Stitch Software
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Use PhotoMerge feature to stitch together scans or digital camera images
Learn More About Digitizing Research Materials and Keepsakes
How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick. (Family Tree Books, 2012). Print and ebook. http://www.thefamilycurator.com/archive-family-keepsakes/
The Family Curator Blog and Website http://www.thefamilycurator.com
Disclosure: Product links are included for your convenience and include affiliate links.