COVI-DIY Copy Stand

written/photos by Toby Moore


Anyone else living in a house with ghosts?

At my parents’ house, where my family and I currently shelter, there are photographs of our ancestors all over the place. Some of them I knew and loved—a number are more mysterious. I’m definitely interested in all of them. And when we return to our home—whenever that might be—I might even like to have pictures of my own to contemplate. But how can I get prints?

Now, I don’t have a scanner here—or much in the way of lights, or even a good camera… Guess I gotta have one of them cov-ideas!




  • mobile phone
  • 2 lamps
  • table/flat surface
  • large clear plastic spinach carton or similar
  • file folder or similar solid colored cardboard sheet
  • white trash bag
  • scissors
  • tape




What I do have is a phone. My dad has two lamps and a desk. That’s a good start. I, furthermore, have an empty family-size spinach carton, a trash bag, half of a dark-colored file folder, some scissors, and some tape.

Like my daughters say about their new home-schooling routine: “easy peasy.



Now, a good “copy stand” for photographing mostly 2D art and pictures is supposed to consist of 2 identical light sources positioned on either side of the subject, lighting it at a 45 degree angle to the camera, which sits on a tripod. Google it if you like—you know you’ve got time!

Here’s what I came up with for a “tripod”:

And here’s a close-up of my bad boy.

Now, I did soak off the spinach carton label as best I could overnight—craftsmanship is obviously key here. That said, I’m not quite sure why I cut the hole at left—but never mind—the one in the center is meant for the lens of my trusty, not-to-say rusty, Samsung Note 5.



If I put my phone on top of the carton and shoot a frame with manual focus and a timer down on the desktop, I get a shot like this:

Not ideal somehow. Guess we need to even out the light.



Here is a passable trash bag diffusion filter:



And here’s where that awesome file folder comes in—because we don’t want the reflected dark shape of the overhead black phone (why do I not have a white phone??) to show up in the lighting:



And we shoot again. Hey hey!

Perhaps not graphic arts standard, but it’s a decently even exposure. If you can get your phone to shoot a raw file, then fixing the white balance, contrast, etc. for whatever shot you put on the desk should be relatively straightforward. I ended up using Capture One. But Google’s Snapseed, which is free to download and use, would serve almost as well. It has surprisingly good raw capability as well as easy filtering and non-destructive editing. That’s not a plug—just an option for the newly somewhat-less-rich. (Remember that Might Magazine list of euphemisms for the 1995(?) recession: “lifestyle down-scaling opportunity”).



Anyhoo, here’s my great-grandfather in DIY repro glory.

Aren’t you curious, too?