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If you have a full frame DSLR, you can easily digitize your favorite 35mm slides at home. I'm using a Canon 5D, Sunpak 444D flash, and a 1980s slide copier. That's all you really need.

Like many long time photographers, I have a collection of 35mm slides. Some of these images are prized shots that I would love to have digitized. I tested a few outside services, but after viewing the results, really wanted to have more control over the process. So in about an hour, I rigged up the home slide digitizer using the following parts.


Photo of Canon 5D 35mm slide digitizer by Derrick Story. See complete set of images on the Digital Story Flickr page.


  • Canon 5D DSLR
  • Sunpak 444D flash in manual mode
  • Vintage 35mm slide copier attachment
  • Tripod
  • Photoflex arm to align the flash
  • Photoflex flash diffuser
  • Cable release

I had a Canon T-ring adapter for the slide copier so it would mount to the 5D. All exposure settings are manual. So I set the ISO to 100 and shutter speed to 1/60th. There's no aperture setting on the slide copier. Instead, you control exposure by how much light you output from the flash. That's why I dug out an old Sunpak 444D flash. It has manual exposure settings (1/16th through full), and I had an extension cord for it too. I set the flash on 1/8 power for dense slides, and 1/16 power for those a bit lighter. I position the flash a few feet from the front of the slide copier and align it so the light evenly illuminates the image.

One of the advantages of this approach is that I can shoot in Raw mode. So once I digitize the image, I can use Aperture, Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, or even iPhoto to tweak tone and color. With the 12MP 5D, the file resolution is 3929 x 2619. If I use the 5D Mark II, then I get 5616 x 3343, enough to make a 12" x 19" print at 290 ppi.

I wouldn't recommend this approach if you have hundreds of slides to scan -- an outside service makes more sense in those situations. But when you want to digitize a handful of your favorite images, this method works great. And for Canon shooters who have upgraded from the 5D to the 5D Mark II, you can put your old 5D to work and just leave the rig set up permanently in your studio. In fact, why not tether it to a laptop for a slick digitizing production rig?

I have sample images and lots of shots of the rig itself on the Digital Story Flickr page, including a comparison scan from DigMyPics and this method.

For more interesting home projects, be sure to check out the Photography DIY section on The Digital Story.


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DIY Copy Stand for iPhone 3GS

The camera in the iPhone 3GS has improved close-up capabilities, tap focus, and more resolution than previous models. You can use the 3GS to photograph small objects, business cards, even duplicate 4" x 6" prints. With this DIY copy stand that's easy to make, you can produce high quality images with just a couple taps on its screen.

If you've ever tried close-up work with the iPhone, you know you have two challenges. The first is holding the camera steady enough to avoid camera shake. The second is getting the plane of the camera parallel to the plane of the subject to avoid distortion. This little device helps with both, plus diffuses the light for a more flattering rendering.

I have step-by-step photos showing the key elements of this project on The Digital Story Flickr page. In short, it works like this. You remove the tray from the iPhone packaging, drill a hole in it for the lens to see through, cut an opening in the bottom of a translucent box to set the tray in, and you're done. It's really that simple. I recommend that you start with a box that's at least 6" tall. That will give you enough distance to copy 4" x 6" prints. You can use "risers" such a little boxes to photograph smaller items that need more magnification. Here's a short instructional video that provides a nice overview.

Please feel free to add your comments, improvements, or variations on this project. The iPhone 3GS is a handy little camera, and I want to squeeze every ounce of capability out of it.

More on the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

"iPhone 3G S from Photographer's POV" - Digital Photography Podcast 180


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This week Stephanie begins by taking you shopping to a bargain store, then heads back to the studio to design a custom notebook that features your photography on the cover. Even though they are easy to assemble (and very affordable), these beautiful notebooks make excellent gifts.

You'll learn, step by step, how to take apart an existing notebook, customize the front and back covers, then reassemble it. The final product becomes an expression of your art.

Other Creative Output Projects with Stephanie

Make a Custom Photo Gift Bag (Video Tutorial)

Buckle-Up Frame Present for Dad on Father's Day

A Time to Remember - Make Your Own Photo Clock

Packing Tape Transparencies

Buckle-Up Frame Present for Dad on Father's Day

Unfortunately, many people these days have to tighten their belts to make ends meet. It's tough to think about gift giving when so much of your money is put toward paying bills. But that doesn't mean you should forget about good ol' dad on Father's Day (June 21).

Consider making a picture frame that's not only unique looking, but surprisingly inexpensive as well. Pay a visit to your local thrift store and purchase a leather belt and frame. The belt can be any color, however, the width of it should be approximately the same size as the frame's surface.

Measure the sides of your frame, corner to corner. Buckle the belt and cut it into strips that are the same length as the sides of the frame. Position the strips over the frame and miter the corners (45 degree cut) for a clean look. Adhere the pieces of the belt to the surface using a strong adhesive like Beacon's 3-in-1 Advanced Craft Glue.

After the glue dries, it's ready for your photo. Select one that's personal and special to both of you. The frame will look like it was an expensive purchase, and your picture will be a priceless keepsake.

A Time to Remember - Make Your Own Photo Clock

I absolutely love it when I can create something cool out of an object that would normally get thrown away. Case in point... CD discs. These little silver platters offer the perfect surface for creating decorative and meaningful wall clocks. All you need is a CD, a photograph, and a clock mechanism that's available at almost any bargain store.

When you print out your picture make sure it's about the same size as the disc, if not a little larger. Since a CD is about 4.5" in diameter, a 5" x 7" print will usually do the trick. Adhere your image to the CD using a spray adhesive. Trim off the excess paper from the edges and poke a hole in the center.

To turn it into a timepiece, you will need to insert a clock mechanism through the hole and attach it to the back using an industrial strength glue. Carefully remove the clock arms for this phase of the project. You'll reattach them in good time. Clock mechanisms are available at most craft stores, or you can always salvage one from an old wall clock (that isn't as handsome as your work).

Once the mechanism is adhered to the CD, reattach the clock arms and second hand. Mount on the wall, and you have a timepiece that's pretty as a picture. Or to be precise, pretty as one of your pictures.


Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

When I started shooting HD video with the Canon 5D Mark II, and now the Canon Digital Rebel T1i, I wanted a rig for recording on the go so I didn't always have to use a tripod. I investigated commercial steadicams, such as the Redrock micro, but spending $1,000 wasn't in my budget. I also looked into "do it yourself" rigs, such as the $14 Video Camera Stabilizer, but I needed something that looked a bit more professional for client shootings. So, I guess I needed a semi-DIY steadicam: one that I could afford, but also had some style.

Optical stabilization is very important when you're in video mode. The difference between recording with stabilized lenses and non-stabilized is dramatic. But when you're shooting "walk and talks," optical stabilization isn't enough. So I hacked together a stedicam that uses just two components: 1) Stroboframe Quick Flip 350 Flash Bracket ($48), and (2) a $30 monopod, such as the Velbon RUP-40 4-Section Monopod. Total outlay is less than $80, that is, if you don't already have these components laying around the house right now.

Assembly only takes a minute. Screw the collapsed monopod into the end threaded hole on the flash bracket, attach your 5D Mark II, D90, Rebel 500D, etc., and start recording. I hold the grip of the flash bracket in my left hand and monpod grip in my right. This positioning provides the balance I need to record more evenly, even as I walk. You still need a stabilized lens, but this system works great.

For shots where you don't have to walk, try putting the camera strap around your neck and resting the collapsed monopod on your belt. Hold the steadicam so the neckstrap is taunt. It's amazingly solid.

When you're finished shooting video, disassemble the rig and you have a monopod, flash bracket, and hopefully, some great video footage.


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paper_flash_diffuser.jpg

I saw tons of cool equipment at Wednesday's PMA Sneak Peek event, but my favorite was a sheet of letter-size paper folded and attached to a flash with a rubber band to create a very effective diffuser.

I noticed that Steve Makris, a technology writer for the Edmonton Journal, using the device pictured above. I thought is was so simple, yet elegant and quite useful. If you look closely, he's actually using a PMA memo.

And the best thing about it... "I get a fresh one every day," says Steve.

All the more reason to make sure you have a handful of rubber bands in your camera bag.

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Virtual camera club member Sarah Kim discovered the CCRRFDv2 by Photophool while browsing flickr. This device helps you evenly illuminate subjects when using macro mode with a Canon S2. The DIY device consists of three plastic foam cereal bowls stapled together with holes cut in the bottom to slip-fit on the lens barrel, and it delivers shadowless lighting in supermacro mode.

Photophool has updated the instructions for building this handy device. You might want to take a look at what's going on here, and think about ways that you could apply the technique to your camera and photography. If you get some cool shots, or discover a clever variation on this theme, be sure to drop me a line.

Sarah has already put her diffuser to work capturing this close-up of her husband's hand while working. Thanks for the tip Sarah!

Photo of the diffuser by Photophool, who has lots of other interesting stuff.

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