Lights for Camera Scanning

Digitizing Your photos - a guide to photo scanning with a digital cameraThis page contains links to recommended lighting for scanning film and prints as shown in the book Digitizing Your Photos. The books describes a method to rapidly scan photographic prints and negatives using a digital camera.

In the book

I show a mix of LED, dichroic light and strobe. If you already have studio strobes, these can be a good choice for copy lighting. If you don’t have them already, you’ll want to look at LEDs. These are cool, and they can be even, daylight balanced and have a good spectrum for color reproduction.

Reminder – Color Rendering Index

If budget allows, you’ll want lights that have a high CRI or Color Rendering Index (generally high 80’s and above). This will allow for the most accurate color reproduction. Lights that are not rated for CRI can also be used.

• If you are shooting Black and White images, CRI may be mostly irrelevant.
• If you are shooting prints, use of custom profile as described in the book may provide adequate compensation for lower quality lighting.
• If you are shooting slides or color negatives poor quality lighting will probably have the greatest effect.

Lighting for reflective copywork

The units below are dedicated lights for shooting prints and documents on a copystand.

Personal Level

Smith Victor LED Copylight set – This budget setup claims CRI of 95 and clamps to the base of the copystand. At $150, this looks like a great deal for the family archivist.

Professional level

These units are more expensive, and may be better suited to a professional environment.

lighting for ka

Kaiser RB 5020 DS – These are the lights I used for the demonstrations in Digitizing Your Photos. They attach nicely to the copy stand, and can be adjusted pretty easily, although the clamps are a little weak for the weight of the arms. They have a CRI rating of >85. $1038

Lighting for copy stands

Kaiser RB218N HF – These are fluorescent lights claiming a CRI of 90-100. At $700 and a 3-5 week special order, they are not a great deal, but they do integrate with a number of Kaiser copy stands, which may make them attractive to some readers.

Enterprise level

TTI  LED Systems – Museum-quality copy systems from TTI can be fitted with LED lights. Price by quotation only.

Dual Purpose Lights

Photographers may want to buy LED lights that can also be used for general photographic needs. I suggest using a strip light (long rectangle) rather than a square panel, as that should make even lighting easier to achieve. Here are some different lights you can consider.

Genray Spectro LED – This budget unit has a daylight color temperature, is dimmable and advertises a “high CRI”, $150. Or, for about $18 more, you can get the light bundled with a light stand.

Light that can be used for scanning photos and film

Yongnuo YN1200W – Another budget unit. This one has barn doors included so that you can shade the camera from stray light. CRI rating is 95. $180

AXRTEC AXR-A-1040DV Daylight LED Light – We take a jump in price here to get significantly higher output. Probably not necessary for copy work, but handy for general purpose photography. CRI listed as above 95. $431

LED lighting for scans of photos and film

Dracast Cineray Series LED700 Daylight LED Panel – This one adds a much larger form factor to the power boost. This one is 24 inches by 9 inches, which should provide better illumination for large photos. It comes with barn doors and a diffuser, and has a CRI of 96. Has remote control. Looks cool. $455

Lighting support for camera scanning

Lighting support – If you want to attach your lights to the copystand as shown in the book, you may want to pick up a pair of pivot arms and clamps. $95/each

Lights for Transparency and negative copying

Depending on the kind of film holder you’re using, you could use the same lights for both reflective prints and film copying. But many readers will want different lights, simply because the physical configurations are pretty different. Let’s start with Lightboxes that could be used on the base of a copystand. Then we can look at lights that could be used in conjunction with a rail or bellows system.

Currently, I’m not seeing any lightbox vendors publishing their CRI ratings.

Porta-Trace / Gagne 10×12″ LED Stainless Steel Lightbox This is about the cheapest LED lightbox I can find that still accommodated a page of slides. $49

Porta-Trace / Gagne LED Light Panel 8.5 x 11 This is a budget model that is big enough to accommodate a page or small box of slides as I demonstrate in Digitizing Your Photos. It’s also pretty bright. They do not publish a CRI rating. $120

Backlight for shooting transparencies

Kaiser Slimlight Plano 10.5×15.5 This is the one I used in the eBook videos. It’s big enough  to accommodate 24 slides. CRI rating 88. $150

Transparency backlights

The best options for the money (factoring in published CRI ratings) are already listed above in the Dual Purpose section. The only thing I’ve found to add is the one unit below.

Dracast Camlux Pro Daylight This looks like a great option. I saw one in the store at B&H. It claims a CRI of 95. When we measured it, it was actually 97.5! $68 The power supply does not come with it. I think I’ll buy one and give it a shot. Will report back here later.

Polarizing Gel

Polarizing Gel If you need to reduce the reflection caused by silver mirroring in vintage prints, you’ll want to use polarizing gels on your lights. $50

Note: We welcome input from readers with direct experience using other solutions. Send us a note to to let us know of additional solutions to add to this page.

And just so you know:

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