Flatbed Scanners for Naturalists by Chris Fitzjohn

Most of us have flatbed scanners, but nowhere has it been written that these are great for naturalists. Your photocopier is simply a camera, located at the base, so you can scan almost anything that fits. Get 3D images of shells, cones, plants, by - - just doing it. Simply place an object in the scanner. You may have to put a sheet of paper on top of the object, otherwise the camera will photograph the cover as well, but that is all.

Twice, we have judged pictures and objects from a scanner, and both times the verdict was 100% from everyone present; the best results were obtained from - - - low resolution settings! So forget all the sales talk, as a rule you do not need high definition, unless you are to crop objects, or really blow them up.

Here are some more useful tips obtained from Chris.


Scanning Tips

What you can use your Scanner for:

The potential of scanners is often underestimated and as a result they are often under used in fact used only for one thing - to scan photos. But they can be used for so much more, just look at the list below to see what you can do with your scanner.

Copy and Preserve Photographs – your scanner can preserve photographs and protect them from further aging.
Capture moments in time – you can scan newspaper articles, kids drawings, concert tickets.
Make the pictures better – you can remove unwanted objects, repair and restore damaged photos.


Make images larger and smaller – enlarging or reducing an image on a scanner always produces superior results to doing the same thing with a software application.

Convert printed text into electronic text (OCR) – by using optical character recognition (OCR) software, your scanner can scan almost any printed document and convert it into text, such as ‘Word’.

Manage your documents once they are scanned – using your scanner you can store such things as receipts/bills and store them as electronic files.

Photocopy your documents and images – most scanners sold today offer the ability to directly scan and print an image placed on the scanner glass.

Fax your documents – most computers include fax capable modems. Nearly every scanner sold today offers the ability to fax.

Scan 3-D objects – a flatbed scanner is essentially a digital camera without a zoom lens. Almost anything you place on a scanner can be successfully scanned and made into a graphic file.

How much resolution do you need?

For scanning photos and other images, you need a lot less resolution than you might imagine. Most images only need to be scanned at 200 or 300dpi. It is commonly believed that increasing the scanning resolution increases the sharpness and clarity of the scanned image, but for most types of scanning it is not true. Increasing the resolution makes the scans take longer and creates huge image files without any visible improvements out of your printer.

So when do you need to scan at a higher resolution? Only scan at a higher resolution if you want to enlarge the photo (double it for instance) or if you are scanning negatives or slides. As a general guide follows these tips - If you want to scan a photo and keep it at its original size then a resolution of 300dpi is more than adequate. If you wish to double the size of the photo then you need to scan at a higher resolution, such as 600dpi.

Now, as an experiment, place your glasses in the scanner, place a sheet of paper over the top, gently close the lid, and you will see an image with 3D effects. Naturalists should have all types of fun and benefits.

Chris Fitzjohn

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