On March 18th the article What’s With All the Poor Negative Film Reviews? by Brad Nichol´s was published on petaxpixel.com and I not only fully support his point of view, I would also like to use it as a starting point for an very personal tribute to a single piece of hardware that makes the hard task of scanning easier and let´s you learn how color negative film can look like.
A BASIC TUTORIAL ON HOW TO SCAN KODAK PORTRA 400 FILM WITH SILVERFAST 8 AND PHOTOSHOP
"NORMS - West Hollywood" is a night photograph I took a couple of weeks ago with my Hasselblad 500 and a Carl Zeiss 50mm Distagon f/4 lens of the famous NORMS restaurant. This will be part of a series of images focusing on the architecture of restaurants and shops in greater Los Angeles. In this short tutorial I will show you how to make a good looking scan in just a few simple steps in SilverFast 8 and Photoshop.
The aesthetics I try to achieve are similar to scans that my lab is doing with a Fuji Frontier mini-lab scanner. While the Epson V700 uses a significantly different technique, I am still able to re-scan some frames, especially if I need them at a higher resolution, that look similar or close to the rendition of the aforementioned scanner.
How to get the most out of your Epson V700, V750, V800 or V850
Have you ever wondered what would be the best settings for your scans with an Epson flatbed scanner? Well, there are two ways of getting those values and one of them is a s simple as reading this blog post. I did some testing with an USAF 1951 resolution target and I will share my findings with you. These settings work great on my scanner, with my mounting solution and chances are that they work for your flatbed scanner as well. Of course the optimal way of doing it, is investing some time and money and do your own tests. In this blog post I will explain what is required to do the tests and provide you with the link to some more detailed explanations. So it is totally up to you if you want to do your own tests or play around with my settings and see if they work for you.
Back again with a color negative film scanning example. I had to re-scan this image for a book project as the lab scan did not have enough resolution for the book and therefore I thought this would be an intersting example for everybody interested in scanning film.
In the video I show the steps I do in SilverFast HDR Studio. SilverFast HDR Stduio works with linear scans and if you are interested in how you make these scan check my previous blog post for a detailed explanation.
This is going to be a short post. In order to use SilverFast HDR Studio as an archival workflow solution as well as for a optimized FineArt workflow I find the idea of creating linear scans fascinating. What we basically do is splitting the workflow into two parts. First is the scanning process and second the post-processing that is required for every scan. During the scanning we make sure that we capture all relevant data from film. In order to do so, we do not alter the data in any way and we save the file as a linear 16bit Tiff file.
Everybody who is developing film at home knows that dust is your worst enemy and while it is surely the best practice to avoid getting dust on your negatives, it seems like a fight that we cannot win. In the end there are always small dust particles on the film which we need to be cloned out during post-processing after scanning. If you print in the darkroom you have no other choice than cleaning your negatives carefully before putting them into the enlarger. Canned air and dust blowers as well as small brushes are your best weapon if you want to avoid the elaborate manual retouching process. Digitally we have other tools available. Among the clone and healing tools in Photoshop we can also work with filters. These filters target defects and blend these defects into the surrounding pixels. Photoshop has its own "Dust & Scratch" filter which already works nicely. Of course you cannot expect magic and manual retouching with the afore-mentioned tools is always required especially for larger defects as the filters have a harder time to deal with them. LaserSoft Imaging, the company behind SilverFast has recently released a Photoshop plugin for this task. Everybody who is using their scanner software might have noticed a new filter which is called SRDx. This filter especially targets defects that cannot be detected by hardware based infrared dust and scratch removal.
A workflow concept using an Epson flatbed scanner and Silverfast HDR Studio.
It has been a while since I posted my last video here. After my visit to Photokina in September I realized how many photographers see digitalizing their archive of slide film as a big challenge. I do agree that it is a time consuming task, but the reward of having the complete body of work on the hard drive is worth it in my opinion.
In this video I introduce a concept that includes Silverfast HDR studio. The scanning part of the workflow will be detached from the processing part and this will make the whole process absolutely future proof.
Just recently I published an Epson Scan tutorial. In addition to this tutorial I recorded a short screencast to supplement this tutorial and elaborate some further details. Unfortunately I only have German copy of Epson scan so please bear with me that I used this version for the screencast. In the mentioned tutorial you can find screencasts from the English version of Epson Scan in order to follow along the tutorial.
Epson´s consumer scanners all come with "Epson Scan", a scanning software for all needs. Many scanner operators however tend to use third party software for their scanning tasks. Today I will show you how to get good results from Epson Scan, but I will also try to elaborate the drawback of Epson Scan and why Silverfast will give you even better results in the end.
I have tried many mounting solutions for my Epson flatbed scanner and I was never happy with the results. Some solutions use additional glass and all of them reduce sharpness by a certain level. They deal with curled film quite nicely, but the loss of sharpness is not acceptable in my opinion. This is why I continued to use the original holders for quite a while. I still think they are the cheapest solution for good results. Handling can be a bit difficult though. By coincident I stumbled upon the Digitaliza 120 film mask and as I used a 35mm Digitaliza before I thought I would give it a try. After some experimentation I discovered that I can increase scan sharpness by increasing the distance between the scanner glass and the film. I made a 2mm thick rubber support for the Digitaliza and my scans immediately looked much better. It took me several test scans to find the optimum height. The 120 Film Mask is now my go to solution for mounting 120 film on a flatbed scanner.
After my video tutorial in the last post, I thought a short follow up post with a detailed example would be helpful. So, no video today, but some further explanations on how I scanned the photograph below. But just in case you have missed the video, I highly recommend going back and watch it. It will give you a good overview of all the tasks required during the scanning process.
I always wanted to write about scanning color negative film. Now I was finally able to put together this site with lots of useful information to get started with scanning color film. The main part of this section is the video tutorial that can be found below.
While positive film seems so much easier to scan, obviously you can see the positive image already, it seems some kind of mystery to scan print film. The first thing you hear is, that you cannot get accurate results due to the orange mask. The orange mask and the fact that the image is inverted are of course two complications we have to deal with, but these challenges are not as complicated as you might think. The biggest problem is that we need to accept the fact that there is no accurate or "correct" scan that we retrieve from the scanner. Even during darkroom printing all prints were interpretations. The old Ansel Adams quote about the score and the performance is also true for color film. Once you have accepted this, you are good to go!
Make you own scans, your own interpretations, give the scans your artistic voice. That is what makes home scanning so fascinating.
In the previous part of this installment we have discussed how we get a flat scan from black and white film in Silverfast 8.8. In the second part of this series we concentrate on the creative process of taking a flat and lifeless scan to a wonderful black & white master print. While we should normally never constrain our creative freedom, I still suggest we try to maintain a believable plausibility, which means we want to maintain the characteristic of the medium. A photograph should be identified as one and as we have already made the effort of shooting film, we want to maintain the beauty of this medium in the final master file. The easiest way of doing this is by replicating the tools a darkroom printer uses when creating a print. Of course we use these techniques digitally. Good care needs to be taken to avoid digital artifacts and a digital look. This is not as easy as it sounds, as digital tools can easily make their marks. We do our best to avoid these marks.
From a negative to a black & white "Master-Print-File"
Black and White printing has always been a mastery that requires many years of learning, knowledge and dedication. Nothing will ever compete with a carefully printed black and white print. However acquiring these skills, maintaining a darkroom and finding the time to print regularly exceeds the possibilities of most people. Digital made things easier, but still it can be regarded a mastery to skillfully make a digital master print file from an analog negative. This tutorial will show you in detail how to scan black and white medium format negatives and than process them in Adobe Lightroom like the old masters did it in the darkroom.
I was never happy with how my Epson V700 scanned 35mm film. Don´t get me wrong, it is not bad, but in the end it is a massive pain to mount and scan a whole roll of 35mm film. On my search for a new scanner, I came across many suitable solutions from dedicated film scanners to small minilab scanners like a Noritsu LS-600 or the Kodak Pakon F135+. Chatting on Twitter about the benefits of each scanner I decided to go for a Pakon F135. Mike Poulit was kind enough to answer all my Pakon related questions. Finally I could not resist any longer and I ordered a Pakon F135 non-plus version from AAA image solutions in the US.
I am very proud to share this very interesting conversation with you. Joerg Bergs is the owner and founder of the "Mein Film Lab" (MFL) in Germany. My personal enjoyment of film photography elevated to a whole new level after I decided to send my film to a professional labs. The results have always been mind blowing. Having such a lab now in Germany is very convenient. Shipping is more simple and therefore turnaround times are way faster. I also enjoy the conversation on a very personal level. At MFL they seem to take note of every input you give them. During one of the conversations I had with Joerg Bergs, he agreed to answer some questions which I am thrilled to share here with you. If you are interested in the original German version of this interview, I will publish it in a separate blog post.
Interview über das "Mein Film Lab" und die moderne analoge Fotografie
Ich freue mich darüber diese spannende Konversation mit Euch allen zu teilen. Jörg Bergs ist der Inhaber und Gründer des "Mein Film Labs" hier in Deutschland. Meine persönliche Freude an der Filmfotografie wurde durch die Entscheidung meine Filme in ein gutes Filmlabor zu schicken noch deutlich verstärkt. Die Ergebnisse welche ich von allen von mir bisher getesteten Labors erhalten habe, haben mich schlichtweg umgehauen. Das Mein Film Lab steht dieser Erfahrung in nichts nach. Das es jetzt ein Filmlabor in Deutschland gibt, welches auf diesem hohen Niveau arbeitet ist darüber hinaus auch noch sehr angenehm. Die Bearbeitungszeiten verkürzen sich allein schon auf Grund der schnelleren Postlaufzeiten. Darüber hinaus freue ich mich über die unkomplizierte und sehr angenehme Kommunikation mit dem Lab. Es scheint, als würde über jeden kleinen Input Buch geführt und versucht dem Kundenwunsch so exakt wie möglich zu entsprechen. Während einer dieser Gespräche hat sich Jörg Bergs dazu Bereit erklärt, mir ein Interview zu geben und ich freue mich es heute hier vorstellen zu dürfen.
In my last post I talked about how to prepare Silverfast for negative scanning. Today I aill show you how I mount my medium format film into an Epson V700 film holder. Therefore I have prepared a short video showing how I do the mounting. Let me just tell you real quick why I use the conventional Epson holders and not any kind of third party holders which get good critiques. Well, I have used them, literally every mounting solution availbale for the Epson V-series, and I must say in the end they are not worth the effort. I find the conventional standrad Epson film holder do their job very well. Maybe I am lucky and my scanner is manufactured the way it should be, but I was able to get better sharpness and grain from the Epson holders than from any other holder I was using.
When I started scanning film, I thought it would be an easy process. I severely underestimated the learning curve required to become a good scanner operator. I intentionally use this term, as it precisely describes what you do when scanning film. Beyond the basic operation of the scanner and software, you need to make basic artistic decision when scanning, similar to those made by master printers in the traditional darkroom.
The way we expose film has a tremendous amount on the quality and mood of the final photograph. Of course exposure affects image brightness and contrast, but also quality and color.
Carmencita Film Lab and photographer Johnny Patience both did a wonderful exposure series to demonstrate the effect of under and overexposure to film. Please follow this link to check their series and read their recommendations. You can also find a good film guide from "Mein Film Lab" which explains a lot about the different characters of film. Unfortunately it is only available in German so far.
Learn the most important facts about color negative film
The art of getting a good color print from a negtaive seems to be a dying craft. The modern photographer who still shoots color film normally uses a scanner to get to the desired print. The scanning process is much cheaper, less labor-some and more flexible. In order to learn what is required to get descent scans from color negs, you need to be aware of some important facts.