Camera Photocopying

February 8th, 2007 by shane

I don’t need to do much photocopying these days, as my trips to the library are rather infrequent. However, if do venture that way I bring along my compact digital camera. I used to have a 3 megapixel camera phone, but darn it, lost it, so its my trusty casio instead, and avoid those long photocopying queues. Rather than photocopying chapters or journal articles, I now just photograph them. Its free of charge, its quicker, I don’t have to find a photocopier, and I end up with a digital copy which I can read on my computer. print, or even run OCR if I was so inclined. 

 I set the camera to 2 megapixel resolution, which is 1600×1200 pixels. You might want to try lower that if you are concerned about storage space. Find yourself a well lit area, and switch off flash. My camera has a “best shot” text mode, but if yours doesn’t you might be able to simulate it by increasing the contrast, but you can manage without it. You might want to use black and white if you don’t need to capture colour diagrams and photos. Switch on macro mode or use autofocus. Switching off flash and using manual focus/macro mode means it is much quicker to take pictures. Try to be consistent with the distance you hold the camera above what you are copying. I use my fingers at the bottom of the book spine to keep the pages held down and reasonably flat. It means that a depending how you frame the shot you end up with photos with fingers at the bottom but I can live with that. Take a test shot and use the zoom mode to preview the text to make sure it is clear and not blurry. Then, shoot away.  Once you get into a rhythm of page turning and camera shuttering you can do this quite quickly.

I then upload the photos to a folder on my computer with the name of the book, and do a batch rename of the jpegs. If you have Adobe Writer (and perhaps other software does this) you can combine the photos together into a single PDF.

If I have a library book at home I can use a tripod to get a more stable consistent shot, and the process becomes even quicker.

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13 Responses to “Camera Photocopying”

  1. TimothéeNo Gravatar Says:

    I thought of doing it few monthes ago, but are they no Intellectual Property issues with “camera-copying” a book?

  2. ShaneNo Gravatar Says:

    Photocopying by any means is subject to “fair use”, which in the UK means in general, you must not photocopy more than 5% in total of any publication, but may copy one chapter from a book or one article from a single issue of a journal.
    The method I suggest means you could copy an entire book relatively quickly, in about 5 or 10 minutes, which would be breaking copyright unless you own that book. But its fine for just getting copies of old journal articles which aren’t online or chapter from edited books.

  3. markNo Gravatar Says:

    have you actually tested ocr? I found that even with a tripod, scanned images produce better results in OCR.

  4. ShaneNo Gravatar Says:

    I haven’t used OCR for a while, as for me generally the hassle of doing it outweighs my need for the results. I would imagine the results would depend on factors like the quality of the lens, the resolution and lighting. Scanners have bright xenon bulbs, high res, and save to uncompressed picture files, so would think they would always have an advantage over cameras, but since digital cameras are constantly improving in quality and resolution, I would guess that you could get good results with a nice high res modern camera tripod mounted with bright lighting (I shine a desk lamp onto the pages when I do it).

    I haven’t tried this, but you can also use your camera phone for OCR:

  5. : Blog Archive : links for 2007-04-20 Says:

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  6. John GarrigusNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks for this terrific idea. do you have a solution for annotating the JPEG files? I just downloaded Fototagger but thought you might have already found a better solution.

  7. shaneNo Gravatar Says:

    I don’t have any systematic method of annotating JPEGs. I had a look at Fototagger, and it seems ideal for this purpose, so thanks for suggesting it.

  8. Macro lenserNo Gravatar Says:

    Has anyone else started using a digital camera to make quick copies of
    articles or book chapters? This has saved me a lot of time waiting to
    use the departmental photocopier when the inter-library loan book
    absolutely has to be returned this afternoon.
    With a 5M pixel camera the resolution is excellent and I don’t have
    all the paper to file. So much faster than my old scanner!
    The question I have is — how can I make notes right on the image? I
    just downloaded Fototagger and will try that, but i thought there
    might be some other standard out there that I haven’t discovered yet.
    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  9. timNo Gravatar Says:

    I wish camera photocopying was around when I was working on my ph.d. the number of hours photocopying is simply mind boggling. I assume now everything is available as a pdf?

  10. DanNo Gravatar Says:

    Never considered it from this perspective but it will work. Thank you for bringing it up! Now, I just hope I don’t come off looking like Bond (James Bond) when in the midst of other visitors, “photocopying” my favorites!

  11. JimNo Gravatar Says:

    Wow, what a great idea. I’m long out of school, and wished I had a digital camera back then.

  12. Camera guyNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m in love with the idea of camera photocopying, is such a simple idea. Great stuff.

  13. OstraliaNo Gravatar Says:

    Funny, how such an amazing idea, can be so simple and easy. Wicked.

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