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Using a digital camera as a Scanner

Digital cameras with over 1M pixel sensors can capture a page of text from a book or magazine. They can also capture newspaper articles very well and much more quickly than a scanner. Another application is to capture white boards in meetings.

In all cases you should a high-resolution capture mode in your camera. To capture documents try to ensure the lighting on the document is even and there are no shadows falling on the paper. A table lamp positioned at 45 degrees to the subject will avoid specular reflections from the surface of shiny paper. Select close-up mode if your camera offers it, the button sometimes has a picture of a small flower on it. Hold the camera straight and directly above the document and use a medium zoom setting, not wide angle or telephoto, to minimize distortion. Note that some camera optical viewfinders do not work very well for close-ups, use the LCD display on the camera to do the setup if you can. When setting up try to get the paper to fill the viewfinder, to take advantage of the resolution of the camera.

Photographs of white boards can save a lot of note taking in meetings. It is usually best to turn off the flash in the camera and use available room lighting or daylight. The surface of white boards is shiny and you will not be able to see any writing in the area where the flash bounces directly off the board. Most meeting rooms have florescent lights that are strong enough for the camera to take a good picture, just hold the camera steady. Again, try to align the camera with the board and use the LCD viewfinder if possible to ensure the shot is lined up properly. Make sure the white board fills the viewfinder.

After you take the picture use the Background to White function in Photo Explorer to clean up the shots. In a scanner the illumination is very even and flat, but special processing is needed to flatten the background of digital camera 'scans'.

If you want to e-mail scans of documents you will find they compress much better after you have applied the remove background function, even if you use the same file format. This is because unwanted noisy detail has been removed from the background. For monochrome subjects further compression can be achieved by converting to a two level (black and white) image and saving to a GIF file, the size difference will be dramatic and save a lot of transmission time (this is actually how a fax machine processes documents for small size).

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