My studio clean up has bought a focus on sorting out the mess, and throwing out a lot of it. However it also got me interested in how to organize my diverse works, store them and most importantly start keep a catalogue of my works. In the process after a little web searching I came across the CALL (Creating a Living Legacy) project, Which does lay down the important steps in what they term Career Documentation, involving creating a viable archive including photographing your work. Its a good read and guide.
Whilst small flat works (watercolour sketches etc, photographic prints, many of them old family photos) could be scanned on one of my two multi-function printers I have. I also have an old and “cheap” slide & negative scanner that is so old It not longer has a driver and can only work with an old XP laptop (I have keep for compatibility with some old devices like this). Larger art works (and I have some BIG ones) had to be photographed. Which is easy enough. However I also do a lot of more sculptural small things as well. I figured an old fashion copy stand was what I needed. Even if someone still made copy stands I doubt I could justify the expense to photograph a few items.
Clearing out some of my father’s untouched storage I came across our first enlarger (in a poor state). It was missing the globe housing and lens. I soon realized it could be easily converted to a perfect copy stand. I just had to unbolt the enlarger bellows unit, to give me a perfect mounting position, roughly over the centre of the base). I also found an old bracket for an old and broken off-camera flash bracket and figured it would be perfect to connect the camera. A little experimentation and I found I needed a small piece if rubber (cut from an old kids play mat) as a way to really tightened the connection. With its slot mounted vertically I had considerably flexibility when I attached the camera by the base screw tripod connector (no elaborate quick release mechanism here).
Using the stand is simple. Place the piece on the base, rack the camera up or down till the piece largely fill the viewfinder and focus. A macro lens if you have one is great also. I haven’t built any special lights for the stand (yet) and have used it both outdoors in the shade and indoors in my studio away from direct sunlight without needing extra lighting. Rather than trigger the camera manually I do have a remote shutter release but have found the 2 second self-timer just as good. Set up like this I have found making copies is even faster than scanning. Position the object (after a bit of practise there is no need even to check the viewfinder if the items being photographed are roughly the same size). Next half press the shutter (to focus), when the whirring stops (if it starts at all) fully press the shutter and stand back. Beep beep click, its done. Position the next object. Its just as fast when taking photos of old prints.
With an extended table and the the camera cranked as high as I safely can get it, and un-zoomed to 28 (the widest I dare to avoid undue distortion) I can easily photograph to 40 by 25cm (approx. 18”” by 10””), not quite A3. With the stand turned around so the camera overhangs the back of the base and the stand protruding off the edge of a table (securely weighed down on the based) I can photograph items on the floor up to 90 by 59cm which is roughly A1. With this configuration it is hard to focus through the viewfinder but that’s when I find connecting the camera to my computer comes into its own (my Canon T3i tethered to lightroom is perfect).You have a very remote control and can zoom in to get the focus perfect.
I’m proud of my repurposing, Further I can now strongly recommend a copy stand over a scanner for any artist as a way to record their art.