The Copy Stand
Think of a copy stand as a very specialized tripod, and
think of copystand work as specialized macrophotography of still
things. Once you've done that, copy stand use is simple.
The primary use of a copy stand is to photograph pages of
books, photographs, and other rather small, flat objects. Of course,
much of this work is being done these days by using a copy machine or a scanner.
Still, there is a role for the copy stand even in this digital
world. For instance, even if you could copy a page from a rare
manuscript on a scanner, if your final presentation will be made using
35mm slides it is better to photograph it in the first place, rather than
digitize it and print a slide on a film
At the basic level, a copy stand consists of a few
parts. There is a base, a column, and some sort of camera attachment
on the column. There may or may not be lights. That's pretty
Copy stands vary in price depending on their size and
features. You can spend anywhere from $40 to over $1,000. If you
don't do much copy stand work, you can often get away with a tripod, a
table, and some ingenuity. If you decide to get a copy stand, look
for these features:
- Solid base and column.
- Camera support that will accept your camera.
- Overall design strong enough to support your camera and the lenses you
will be using.
- Smooth/easy column movement - this is your focus control.
- A grid on the base to help align objects.
- Some way to hold curved papers flat:
|Non-reflective glass plates|
A set of lights for the copy stand is a very useful accessory. Look
for these features:
- 4 lights.
- Adjustable arms so that you can aim the lights to minimize glare
You can get a number of different bulbs for use with the copy stand; some are
color-balanced so that you can use them with normal (daylight) film, others will
require you to use tungsten film.
- Lights get hot, so you will need to position your copy stand where there
is adequate ventilation.
- To reduce glare from other sources, you need to be able to control the
room lights and/or light coming in from windows.
- Good copy work can often be done with light from a nearby window,
preferably one that is north facing (south facing for you austral
types). Be sure you can block the window light, however.
- The copy stand should be mounted on a low table so that the camera
controls and eyepiece are at a comfortable height.
Some useful copy stand acessories:
- Gray card for metering (it is
particularly difficult to meter printed pages; a gray card helps).
- Angle adapter for camera
- Macro slider for
- Reflectors to fill in
shadows or alter the color of the light.
- Diffusers to soften harsh light.
- A macro lens.
- Ring flash.
- Grid-type focusing
- Remote shutter release.
- Automatic (motor-driven) film advance.
- Auto exposure bracketing.
Lenses for the copy stand:
While many lenses will work on the copy stand, macro lenses are perhaps the
best. This is because they are sharp and have good close-focusing
abilities. Any lens which can focus closer than the length of the copy
stand column (minus the height of the object being photographed) will work,
however. Zoom lenses with a "macro" feature may be particularly
useful because the zoom feature allows you to frame the subject without moving
the camera. Wide-angle lenses capable of close-focusing may also be
useful. For small objects, you may need a macro lens + extension tubes or
a bellows in order to get the required magnification.
|Camera Mounting Detail for the Bogen Copystand. Yellow Arrow -
camera mounting screw. Blue Arrow - camera alignment plate
screw. Green Arrow - camera mount locking handle. Red Arrow
- camera mounting height adjustment knob.
Using the copy stand:
- First, mount the camera securely on the column using the tripod mount on
the bottom of the camera (see figure above). Many copy stand mounts have some sort of
device to make sure that the camera is aligned pointing straight down (see
figure to right). If
so, use it, if not, take particular care to endure the camera is pointing
straight down and not off to either side. Tighten all fasteners.
- Next, attach the lens, remote shutter release, and other accessories to
the camera. If possible, you may want to remove the camera strap to
ensure that it does not get in the way or cast a shadow. Set the camera to
manual. If mirror lockup is an option, turn it on to reduce camera
- Place the subject on the base and align it with respect to the grid.
If there is no grid, try to align it so that it will appear level in the
camera. If necessary, cover the subject with glass to hold it flat.
- Looking through the viewfinder, align and frame the image. You will
have to focus first, then move the camera up and down using the height
adjustment knob on the column. On most copystands, there is some sort
of locking device to make sure the camera doesn't move accidentally (see
figure at right); you will need to release this before moving the camera and
tighten it when the camera is in position. Moving the camera will
change both the image size and the focus; you will need to refocus each time
you move the camera.
- Check to make sure that the subject is lined up properly, and that nothing
is intruding into the frame.
- Turn on the lights. Check to make sure that the illumination is
even, that all deep shadows are filled (use a reflector or adjust a light)
and that there is no glare from the lights.
- Place a gray card on the subject and take a meter reading. Set the
camera manually to this exposure (if you leave the camera on automatic, it
will change the exposure reading when you remove the gray card. Be
sure to use at least f/8 if possible, f/16 or better if you
can without getting really slow shutter speeds (try to keep shutter speeds
above 1/4 second).
- Remove the gray card and take a final look through the viewfinder.
Check the image and focus.
- Step away from the camera and copy stand. Make sure that no part of
your body is touching the copy stand or its support. Be sure that all
cords are out of the way of the lens and the lights.
- Snap the picture using a remote; if no remote is available use the
camera's self timer.
- Bracket the exposure 1/2 to 1/3 stop above and below. Change the shutter
speed rather than the aperture.
- Whenever you recompose the shot, or move to a different subject, turn off
the lights to avoid burns and keep the temperature down. You don't
want to cook your camera.