Nawfal Nur Art Still Life

HOT STUFF v6 Scanography

HOT STUFF, v.6, originally uploaded by N. Nur.



Title: “HOT STUFF, v.6”
Creation Date: 26 Nov 2009
Location: Penang, Malaysia.
Genre: Scanography.
Equipment: UMAX ASTRA 5600
PPI: 1200.


Scanography is the opposite of photography. The same rules hardly apply to the other. Being a photographer for so long, it is tough to think in the opposite – and that is an odd feeling.

  • Subject Placement & Lighting

In Photography, you shoot with the subject facing you (usually), and your goal as a Photographer is to apply lighting to the surfaces of the subject from whatever direction you think will get you the best results. Often times, this is from the front, overhead, the sides, and maybe in addition, from behind the subject.

In Scanography, the side of the subject you want to capture is placed FACE DOWN (on the glass) toward the optical lens of the scanner. The main light, and most of the time the only light, is coming from the scanner. For special effects, you can attempt to use additional lighting on the opposite side of the flatbed surface, but the way a scanner captures an image is WAY DIFFERENT FROM A CAMERA.

  • How the Subject is Captured

The camera captures what is seen through the camera lens. The scanner captures the image as the optical lens slides along, underneath the flatbed scanner glass.  The scanner slides (captures the scene as it slides) and lights in progression as it moves across the subject.  Thus, the same lighting rules do NOT apply for photography and scanography.

Scanographic images also work best, in my opinion, with the lid down over the subject to reflect as much light back onto the subject.  Although, for creativity’s sake, other materials and colors can be placed over the subject to create a background other than white.

  • Scanography as an Addition to Your Creative Tools

Scanography can be used as an additional tool in your creative tool kit.  Scanography is a rewarding art form to use to create art pieces that are different from those created with photography.  Scanographs definitely resemble photographs, but as you can see from my “HOT STUFF, v.6” scanograph, the results are different.  For example, notice in the scanograph of the chillies and silver fork the location of the water:  The liquid settles on top of the chillies, as if to defy gravity (settles in the foreground). This experience is the exact opposite of what happens with a photograph setup, where you will see the moisture settle down on to the background material.

In this way, scanographs can create a bit of an optical illusion that makes the viewer’s brain wonder, “What is it that is different in the scene?”  You know something is different but it may take a couple of moments to figure it out.

You can kind of get the same visual results (as a scanograph) with photography if you placed the subject on clear glass and photographed from the bottom upward, but it would still appear different, maybe in subtle ways, but different all the same.

  • File Size and File Dimension Differences between a 1200 ppi Scanograph and a ‘typical’ Digital Photograph from a Digital Camera

Another marked difference between Scanography and Photography is that scanographs, at 1200ppi create HUGE digital files with BIG dimensions. This image ended up (in the original before cropping) at around 6000 pixels wide by 8000 pixels high, and the TIFF file size was around 150MB!  You won’t see that much information captured in one shot with the majority of modern digital cameras.  Of course, the optics of fine photographic equipment is superior to scanner optical lenses, but it is a different tool used to create a different type of visual.

Another interesting item about scanography is that the Scanographist (not sure, but maybe that is a made-up word) has a wide range of settings to play with when creating a scanograph:

  • You can set your desired ppi – I like starting with 1200ppi.
  • You can set your desired file type – I like TIFF output.
  • You can set your desired file dimension – I like A4.
  • Scanography as a way to be Creative when You Feel ‘BLAH’ about Photography

For myself, Scanography is a kind of refuge, especially when I’m feeling distressed with the sameness and the madness of digital photography, where the ‘industry‘ comes up with the next best digital cameras that you MUST purchase or dare you be obsolete, and this seems to happen every six or nine months.

When these feelings of, well, for the lack of a better term, “BLAH“, happen, then I swerve off the road of what Brooks Jensen says is ‘the hamster wheel of digital progress.’  For me, I like to know that I can switch things up a little, and work on some scanographic imaging, so I can be creative in a different way.