Photographing a collection of large size architectural plans & drawings

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by PeterL, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. PeterL

    PeterL TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    Hello, I'm new here.

    I am trying to figure out the best way to photograph a collection of architectural drawings that I own. I have several thousand pages of important Los Angeles historic plans that I want to make archive copies of.

    I know about scanback devices (such as BetterLight) but with them starting at 6K they are way out of my price range so I'm looking for the best solution to using a digital camera.

    These drawings vary in size but they average about 24" wide by 36" long. They are all black pencil on white paper so color isn't much of a factor. Close-up detail is important though.

    I will eventually donate these to a university but want some very high-quality copies for myself first.

    I've had a few pages copied by reprographic shops but they charge high prices and I have thousands of pages.

    One idea I've read is to use a large-format analog camera and then scan the resulting negative.

    Another idea is to take photos of sections of each large page and stitch them together using software. Given the volume I have though, I think I'd be at-it for the rest of my life, unless there is a way to automate that.

    I'd appreciate any suggestions on how best to do this by camera, scanner, etc. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2010
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    23,087
    Likes Received:
    3,754
    Location:
    UK - England
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Peter I think there are certainly some photographic setups that you could make use of for this however an idea of how much you have set yourself as a budget (clearly under 6K ;)) would be a good move as there are likley to be expensive and cheap options.
     
  3. PeterL

    PeterL TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    Sorry, I should have mentioned my budget. 2K would be ok if it would be equipment I could use for other general photography later on.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2010
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2003
    Messages:
    33,817
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Edmonton
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I am envisioning a sort of copy stand. You could mount the camera above a table/surface (pointing down) and then just lay the drawings on the table and shoot away. I'm not sure what lighting set up would work best, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out...at least two lights from opposite sides, crossing over the drawing.

    A decent camera with a decent quality lens should give you a fair amount of detail in the photos. Medium or large format are certainly options...but will make this a lot more expensive.
     
  5. PeterL

    PeterL TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    Anybody have any thoughts on what camera and lens would be best for this type of job?

    I'm building a vacuum frame to keep the drawings flat while being photographed (they have been stored in tubes for many years).
     
  6. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2009
    Messages:
    1,261
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Key West FL
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    That's a rough one to guess without some experiments.

    Trying to calculate the needed resolution is difficult when dealing with Bayer matrix digital sensors. As a starting point, though, consider that a "standard pencil line" is about 1/100" wide. In fact, 150 years ago, a "line" was a unit of measure based on the width of a pencil line and was roughly equivalent of 1/100". If you assume that a line needs to cover at least two sensor pixels to be resolved reliably that translates to a minimum of a 4800x6400 pixel image. This means that the sensor needs to be in the 30mp range if its has a 2:3 aspect ratio, higher if the sensor is a different shape. This, of course, assumes that the lens is sharp enough.
     
  7. Vinny

    Vinny TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2010
    Messages:
    667
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I would suggest to rent a camera and lens to see if you can get the results you are looking for. You can build rather cheap lighting by using a fluorescent fixture (or 2)( or fluorescent drop lights) to give even lighting. If you broke the prints to 12"x12" sections each print will be 6 photos each. I would use a tripod and make what was called a copy stand. Once you get the formula down pat for exposure, lighting, resolution then it would be a simple matter to just position the print in the correct spot and take photo and start all over again. Probably could take the 6 shots in 2 minutes once all the details were worked out. There are programs that could stitch together the photos but it would be time consuming as you mentioned. You would also need to rename the photos in a way to remember what goes where while you are shooting.
     
  8. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2009
    Messages:
    5,394
    Likes Received:
    405
    Location:
    An American in Europe
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    A Large Format would be best. Pencil on white is obviously better than blueprint but I imagine those pencil lines are not fat and with a 24"x36" original drawing they will disappear very easily.

    Your budget is not enough though. Let say you get lucky and you find a decent 4x5 camera for $1000. That leaves $1000 to buy lights, film, darkroom and printing paper. Not enough for the amount of drawings you are talking about.

    Although that will be your cheapest option if you have the time, don't forget you will need extra time to learn how to use all that gear.

    How about making a deal with whoever you are giving those to that they give you a copy...
     
  9. mdtusz

    mdtusz TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Messages:
    261
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    If you have the skills to build a vacuum table, you could make a gantry-tripod type thing and take multiple photos and stitch them together I'm sure. Todays technology using actions in photoshop/lightroom would speed this up a LOT, but it would be still time consuming. I have an old Hungarian document that's been in my family for ages that I made a copy of by taking 16 shots of it and stitching them all together. You can see all the finest details without any loss of calligraphy lines (will be pencil in your case).

    Good luck with this project!
     

Share This Page

Search tags for this page
how to copy archival quality architectural drawings
,
how to photograph blueprints
,
photograhs of architectural drafts
,
photograph blueprints
,
photographing architectural drawings
,

photographing blueprints

,
photographing large architecural drawings
,

photographing large drawings

,
photographing large format drawings
,
photographing plans