Week 1: Flatbed Scanner

« Previous | Next »

This week we will use a flatbed scanner to create images. This is all about experimentation, so have some fun, and see what you can come up with.


Unique capabilities of flatbed scanners, resolutions, backgrounds, 3D objects

What You'll Need

  • Your device or object (see criteria below) that you will be using throughout the entire course
  • Flatbed scanner with the capacity to set resolution (DPI=dots per inch) and frame dimensions. (Note: If you cannot find access to this kind of scanner, see the "Alternate Assignment" below.)
  • Paper, cloth, or other materials for backgrounds

As a reminder, here are the criteria for choosing your device or object, which we will start using this week:

  • Pick something that you will not tire of—you'll be working with this object or device throughout the course.
  • It should be between 1 cm and 10 cm; no one dimension of the device should be bigger than 10 cm.
  • It should have details, texture (it should not be smooth); although not required, reflective surfaces and moving elements will assist the photographic challenges.
  • We encourage you to use what you are working with in the laboratory, but household items will also work (examples: Watch mechanics, coin, key).

Course Videos

Video 1: Using a Flatbed Scanner

Video 2: Placing Objects on the Scanner

Video 3: Transmitted and Reflected Light

Video 4: Enhancing the Scanned Image


This week you will create scanned image of your object / device. Be aware of your settings and choices. For example:

Using the "preview mode" on your scanner software, tighten the frame close to your object and scan that at 300 DPI in order to obtain a rich level of detail. The higher the DPI, the more information, giving you options for zooming, cropping, and exploring your image. Refer to the How-To-Do-It tutorial "Set Your Scanner" for more detail about DPI. When creating your image, take note of the default scanner settings and uncheck all color corrections.

Consider the orientation of your image (landscape or portrait).

As for the scanner lid, we encourage you to observe differences in the image when you open the lid completely or close the lid (depending on your object and your preference).

  • Scan your object in the reflective mode (some scanners only offer reflective mode). Capture your images as TIFFs (not JPGs).
  • Find an interesting detail in your resulting scan, zoom in on it and crop (using photo editing software) to create a new, detailed photo.
  • Scan your object, using two different overlays (backgrounds).
  • Comment on the results. Be sure to note any technical or layout challenges you experienced and how you overcame them.

Alternate Assignment

If you do not have access to the appropriate scanner needed for this assignment, then use a less sophisticated version, for example a multi-purpose scanner / copier. You will not get high resolution results, but the exercise will give you a feeling for a high quality scanner's potential.

Visual Index

This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.Week 1 Visual Index (PDF)

Summing Up

Week 1 Summary (PDF)

« Previous | Next »