Anything Photoshop or Photography

SCANNING WITH A BLACK BOX

Image of Plumbago flowers taken in a black box and scanned
To keep busy I have been watching a lot of videos, especially some drawing videos by Aaron Blaise, possibly the greatest wildlife illustrator around (and he has some great deals on his site right now), and Johannes Vloothuis, a fabulous painter and teacher (he creates these great “paint-along” videos using regular paint media, but the information applies to digital painting very nicely). Also this week I did try to get a bit creative with my photography and made a small black box out of cardboard to scan some of my yard flowers.

Quick Workflow

  1. Took a small cardboard box (7″ X 10″) and cut the bottom and top off of it. Then cut down the sides so they were only 3″ tall. With some flat black matte spray paint, sprayed the inside of the box. Also sprayed one side of a flat piece of cardboard to use as a top – made it a little larger than the inside of the box. (Note: in the related blog at end, a black sunglass case was used as a black box for a small bloom.)
  2. Plucked a couple flowers off my Plumbago Plants growing outside and pulled a couple of leaves off also.
  3. Put the black box on the scanner with the top off and laid out my flowers and leaves. Put the black top piece facing down on the cardboard box.
  4. Fired up my old scanner (a 16-year old Epson Perfection 3200 scanner – I can’t believe Amazon still has it????) that is actually working fine – set the resolution to 3200 and tiff output.

And a rather interesting image appeared! I really liked the soft look of the flowers it created.

Issues to Look Out For

  1. The scanner software I use is called VueScan X64 which was bought ages ago. They continually upgrade it and it has always worked for me until their latest upgrade in March – I had to remove it and go back to the earlier version. I guess my scanner model is getting too old so just beware when upgrading your scanner software.
  2. I tried a few different arrangements. Found out that these flowers wilt very quickly, so you have to do this pretty quickly or pick more fresh blossoms to scan.
  3. I had not cleaned my scanner glass very well and it was also dusty even under the glass. Be sure to clean the top of the glass before doing your scanning. I have no idea how to clean the inside area.

There were lots of white dots showing up in my image with the black background. Luckily Photoshop came to the rescue. To get rid of these nasty white dots, went to Filter -> Noise -> Median and set the Radius to 2. It can be previewed easily while you adjust the slider. This got rid of most of the dots. Just remember the filter also softens up your image just like any noise filter does so don’t overdo it. A layer mask was added and the areas to keep sharp were painted back. Since there were still a few white dots left over and on some of the flowers painted back in, a New Layer twas added for the Spot Healing Brush to finish the clean up process. I could not believe how well this worked.

The image was sharpened using Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI before doing the white dot clean up – it definitely did help sharpen up the blossoms. The vintage border was from Heybing Supply Company. A little dodging and burning was done using lighten and darken Curves Adjustment Layers – painted in where the dodging and burning should occur using black layer masks. (See my How to Use Curves Adjustment Layer to Dodge and Burn an Image blog for more on this.)

What I liked about the black box effect is that the colors of the flowers were pretty close to what the blossoms really looked like. A slight depth-of-field was obtained with this method which I found rather pleasing.  Lots of fun but I did learn a few things along the way. Hope everyone is doing well and trying out some new techniques! Have a great week creating! ….. Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Scanning a Bloom for a Different Look

7 responses

  1. Ann Mackay

    Love your plumbago! If I lived somewhere warmer, I’d grow it. (My parents lived in Spain for over 20 years and I’d wander into the garden centre near them just to see the plumbago and bouganvillea. You’ve reminded me that I also have an old Epson 3200… 🙂

    04/05/2020 at 6:00 am

    • Thanks Ann. I have a whole hedge of plumbago across my back porch and they are beautiful in the middle of the summer. How funny you have the same old Scanner I do – I am amazed how good it still works!

      04/05/2020 at 11:42 am

      • Ann Mackay

        A hedge of plumbago sounds amazing – they’re so beautiful. The 3200 was good for a flatbed, but I’m glad not to have to worry about scanning any more. I have a couple of film scanners that were expensive mistakes!

        04/05/2020 at 5:52 pm

  2. A different way to capture photos. And so cool! Gives the feeling of some old fashion images.

    04/06/2020 at 11:37 am

    • That’s what I thought too!

      04/06/2020 at 12:57 pm

  3. What a beautiful image! Thank you for the excellent idea.

    04/22/2020 at 6:39 pm

  4. Pingback: HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP’S MEDIAN FILTER | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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