Scan Your World

Close your eyes while scanning or use your hands to cover them. Photograph/Laura Dyet

Close your eyes while scanning or use your hands to cover them. Photograph/Laura Dyet

Laura Dyet explores the fun of creating self portraits with the help of a scanner—an innovative alternative to using a camera.

My Assignment

  • Description
    This was an unintentional experiment that helped me discover a new perspective to portraiture—just by using a scanner.
  • Duration
    A few hours!
  • Notes
    Ensure that your eyes are completely shut while scanning as the light can cause retinal damage.

When we think of a scanner, we usually consider scanning documents, photos or negatives. But, do you know that it can be used instead of a camera? The idea is crazy and yet, is an effective way of creating artistic images. Popular as Scannography, it is a great tool to achieve fine art. What is more, you can make scannographs of yourself in the comfort of your home, as I discovered accidentally. However, do remember that keeping your eyes open while scanning can harm them.

My Perspective
Seven years ago, while I was scanning some documents, I was curious to see what would happen if I placed my face against the scanner. Excited by the results, I went ahead and scanned myself a few more times. I felt the joy of discovery each time I saw the outcome on my computer screen. It was entirely surreal!

The Process
I realised that scannography is quite a simple process. All I needed to do was place my head on the scanner and hit the scan button. For making self-portraits, I had to keep the lid of the scanner up. This resulted in a black background as the depth-of-field in a scanner is limited. Additionally, doing this experiment inside a dark room helped me play up the effect of light and colours in the final image.

I experimented with how I placed my head on the scanner, used my hands and generally tried out different expressions. The only thing I had to remember was to keep my eyes shut as the light from the scanner was really bright.

The idea was to experiment. I did it with my hands and face; but you could make use of different objects and arrange them in a varied manner. The best part is that one cannot predict the results so each time you scan you know its going to be a unique image in its own way.

Scanner Art with Everyday Objects!

  • Flower petals, staplers, vegetables, earrings etc can make great subjects. Avoid objects with sharp edges that can harm the scanner glass.
  • To scan liquids like eggs or colours, place them on a transparency. Remember to keep the scanner’s lid open to prevent damage.
  • Cover the subject and scanner glass entirely with a piece of black material so that light does not escape from the scanner. Experiment with backdrops of different colours and textures.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Better Pictures, On Assignment, January 2011, scanography