Copy Stand for Photographing Prints


Today’s Question: As a follow-up to your recent posts about scanning vs. photographing photographs to preserve them digitally, you mentioned two lights at 45 degree angles and a copy stand. Do you have more specific information on the lights and stand or an article somewhere that illustrates the setup? I don’t know what a copy stand is or how to position the photo and lights (or what kind of lights to use). I have a lot of old family photos on my “mean to do” list, and this would help.

Tim’s Quick Answer: A copy stand has a platform to hold documents along with a rail for mounting a camera above that platform. Lights are sometimes included or can be purchased separately. You can find an example of a copy stand here:, and a light set for use with a copy stand here:

More Detail: A copy stand makes it relatively easy to photograph old photographic prints or other documents. Two lights can be used to provide good illumination of the print being photographed and having those lights at a 45-degree angle helps avoid glare. Glare could otherwise be a problem if the print is glossy or if you are using a sheet of glass to hold the item flat.

You could certainly use a tripod to hold your camera above a flat surface to photograph prints or other documents. A copy stand simply provides a good solution if you don’t have a good setup for this purpose. I consider it important to use lights to illuminate the item being photographed, and I prefer lights that are always on rather than flash to make it easier to ensure you have the lights in a good position.

The 45-degree angle refers to the lights being above but a bit to the side relative to the item you’re photographing. Let’s assume, for example, that the lights will be about two feet above the platform where the print is sitting. You would also want the lights to be positioned about two feet left and right of center to avoid reflections.

In the photos included on the page for the light kit referenced above ( the lights aren’t out quite as far laterally as they normally would be to avoid reflections. Also, some of the images show the lights in the context of a copy stand, which is not included with the light kit in this case.