Using a Scanner for Product Photography A method of taking product photos you might not have considered

We found this method in the comments of an Etsy article; a seller used a flatbed scanner to take product photos of her jewelry. We wanted to test this out ourselves to see its efficacy as a method of taking product photos. It worked surprisingly well as a quick and easy solution for certain products. Here are the dos and don’ts of using a scanner for your product photography.

Example of product photos taken with a scanner

Examples of product photos taken with a scanner and then edited in Clipping Magic

Which scanners work

We tried both a cheap scanner built into an all-in-one printer and a more expensive high DPI scanner for this. We found that cheap scanners did not produce a great result. They didn't have the resolution and the depth of field to handle anything other than flat documents.

Example of product photos taken on a cheap scanner (looks bad) and an expensive scanner (looks good)

Photos taken of earrings on a High DPI (left) vs Cheap (right) Scanner

What did work great was the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner (currently available for around 200 bucks on Amazon, you can also find refurbished ones for less). This scanner's resolution went all the way up to 12,800 DPI (Dots Per Inch, or in simpler terms how much detail it's capturing) which is probably more than you would ever need. You should use a higher DPI for your smaller objects, but you probably won't need to go past 1,600 DPI.

How to use a scanner to take product photos

Place your object on the scanner bed. Make sure whatever you're going to scan is as close to the bed glass as possible.

Earrings placed on scanner bed

Instead of closing the top over the products, we just covered them with a sheet of white paper. You can play around with what works best for your products, whether that's using the cover, a piece of paper, or leaving it completely uncovered.

Paper placed on earrings on scanner bed and final image result

This is the resulting product photo from this scanning method after being edited in Clipping Magic

Which products does a scanner work well with

Scanners can work great for smaller, flatter objects that aren't reflective or metallic. We tried scanning earrings, trinkets, and flatter alcohol bottles and got similar results to what we achieved with a DSLR + studio setup.

Example of product photos taken with a scanner and a dslr, both look decent

Photos taken of earrings on a DSLR (left) vs the High DPI Scanner (right) — both were edited in Clipping Magic

Which products do not work well with a scanner

We found that highly reflective or metallic products don't work well with a scanner. This includes gold/silver earrings and gemstones. The way the scanner captures an image doesn't work well for reflective objects. This is strongly evident in the example below where we compare the image of a highly reflective gold earring taken both in a light box with a DSLR and in our scanner.

Example of a highly reflective earring that doesn't look good after being scanned, and how it looks taken with a DSLR

Photos taken of reflective metallic earrings on a DSLR + light box (left) vs the High DPI Scanner (right) — both were edited in Clipping Magic

tl;dr

A high DPI scanner can be a great alternative if you don't have the space or time to set up a full scale studio. While you will get the best product photos from a nice studio setup, using a scanner can produce acceptable results. Which to choose depends on your budget, what equipment you already have, and the products you're selling.

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