[Memories] Scanning

Scanning negatives with an Epson V550 at the office (less dust and no cat hairs)

One thing I really underestimated was the time it takes to scan 10 rolls of film. First you have to press them for at least a day, better a couple of days – depending on the curliness of the material. But I didn’t have that time before the weekly workshop review and I couldn’t wait another week – time was running out. So I spent – after developing for a whole day – another whole day for a “quick” preview scan, to evaluate what I had.

The trap of quick previews

All the auto-features of the scanner were enabled and the scan quality was low. All for a faster process – or so I thought. At the end, all the images looked wildly different.

Contact sheet: preview scans of film #1, auto-everything

Looking through them, after a full day of scanning, I felt really discouraged. All the images looked bad. There were 400+ photos, but nothing for the exhibition or the book. Three days of shooting for what? Who was I, thinking I could make a book after only a couple of weeks of planning, only some days of shooting, when others took *years*? Did I have to abandon the project and resort to plan B?

On friday morning I decided to not look at anything project related until monday. The weekend came and went. On monday I still didn’t look at anything. On Tuesday I started to scan everything again, but this time “properly”. Took two full days, but the images looked so much better. I could color balance one batch, while scanning the next.

My scanning / color balancing method

I scan everything with an Epson Photo V550, which I bought used, when the V800/V850 were announced. I use the Epson Scan software, deselect every automatic correction and use a curve layer in Photoshop for manually setting the black/white/grey point.

Quick tip: with the eye dropper tool (color picker) selected, you can right-click and change the sample size. Especially useful for setting black points / white balance of grainy negatives.

Normally I’d scan color negatives as color slides and use the ColorPerfect plugin, but since the film (Adox Color Implosion 100) is not supported I went back to my old method.

preview scan (no thanks) / ColorPerfect (usually prefered, but no suitable profile available) / my own method

After everything is scanned and manually color corrected I import everything in Lightroom and minimally adjust a couple of things, mainly exposure and sharpening. At the end my images look something like this:

Contact sheet: proper scans of film #1 after manual color balancing in Photoshop and slight adjustment in Lighroom.

Much better to look at and work with. Scanning everything again after the quick preview scan, enabled me to better judge my work and make image selection much easier. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Closing words

If there’s interest I could write-up a more in-depth scanning tutorial. If you have a way to simplify things for me, I’d like to know as well.


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