How to scan film – Colour by Guilherme maranhão
Well, we lost this post in the pre-vacation purge that the hosting company graciously bestowed upon me. So I have had to do it all over again. But it is here now. Guilherme maranhão is back with the second instalment on his scanning guides. In this one he works with a couple of different scanners to show different and useful techniques. Check it out.
This guide is an addition to the basic guide published earlier. In this guide we will focus on toning color images in a more practical way and will discuss two different scanners and their software, the Epson V600 and the Kodak/Pakon F135. The key word here is practical, my intention is to offer a simple, repeatable workflow that respects the natural colors of your film and doesn’t take ages to complete, making film shooting more intentional and adequate in this digital world.
Again, I explain my choices a bit, the V600 is affordable and easy to get new and used anywhere in the world, well, at least easier. It is also easy to use. Resolution is not real and film holders have many complaints. The Pakon can only be found used, it scans 35mm negative film only (color or B&W), not the highest resolution, but it is practical in any other sense you can imagine, saving precious time!
So follow the instructions in the Basic Guide to load your negatives in your scanner up until you get to the preview step. Remember to select settings that will make the resulting scans easier to deal with, more bits and enough resolution, less contrast and sharpening, a tiff file. On Epson Scan software, for example, you can access the Configuration window, that has a Color panel that looks like this:
There are three possible Color settings for Epson Scan, No Correction will leave the images positive, corrected for the orange mask, but no contrast or color correction applied afterwards. Color Sync will be equivalent to a gamma adjustment or some contrast will applied. Color Control will change color on every image, like an Auto Levels function. I usually choose the middle one, so the software doesn’t judge color beyond the conversion and at the same time I get some contrast to make using Lightroom easier, Lightroom has short range on contrast controls. Using this setting also helps with series of images on the roll of film so you can use same actions or presets later on, but is not that reliable as you can see when resulting images got imported into Lightroom.
On the Pakon scanner the output is always 24-bit, so getting some decent color before hand is a must. After the scanner previews all images on the screen I usually do a Select All command and dial in some color correction to all at once. In the example bellow I added 1 unit of Red, 3 units of Green and 4 units of Blue, decreased the Contrast by 2 units and increased Exposure by 2 units as well. The red outline on the previews indicates which images are being edited.
The Pakon scanner and its software is much more able to keep an entire roll of film shot at one place with one kind of light looking like that, as you can see here. This is the ideal situation after a series of scans of images pertaining to same job. To my understanding it reads the orange mask and uses DX-code to convert to positive while Epson Scan analyses the images individually.
So to illustrate this guide I picked an image of two gentlemen contemplating life from the top of their bikes as the Amazon River passes by in Macapá, Brazil. The Pakon scanner will make my job easier, but I’ll show how the two scans (one from the V600 and one from the Pakon) of the same image come to life. This photo was shot on Fuji Press 800, a neutral film by my standards that has less than normal shadow detail, whenever possible I avoid adding black to it, as it may kill the image or make it too dark.
Will start with the one from the V600, here it is right after import to Lightroom, as I start to find the White Balance correction, it will change as we make changes to other variables. The original scan had a lot of blue and some green.
Both the white shorts and the white boat had mixed lighting from reflections, the brighter clouds getting some sun light seemed better as a target. The software added too much magenta and I removed about 20 units manually. Still not the best color, but something better to keep going.
Working against what really annoys me, did some cropping, while starting to get a grip on toning.
Increased exposure a bit while holding back the highlights (this is similar to a fill light, maybe), removed some saturation (something I regularly do with V600 scans) and started to add black until a very small bit of clipping appeared. Didn’t feel a contrast curve was needed after blacks were introduced. On the other hand the contrast between skin and jeans was not really nice, looks like the colors are contaminated with each other.
Now the tricky part for the V600, Press 800 has a lot of grain, which I like a lot, this scanner doesn’t really show it, messing it up, so I avoided any noise reduction and increased the sharpening to give some grain back to the image. Higher value for sharpening and a higher value for radius will you get you stronger lines, keeping masking away from zero and detail kind of low will not let the image be only about grain.
Interesting how the ICE on the V600 left the horizontal scratch just above the horizon on this image. The ICE implementation on the Pakon software was able to get rid of it.
The last step is to add some presence and then lower the WB correction some more as the contrast on the image had made it stronger.
The image from the Pakon usually comes with the WB that I don’t feel the need to change. The clouds look white, so does the shorts and the boat. Looking at the jeans you see blue jeans and the same goes for skin. Someone could want a warmer image, using either some more yellow or split toning on the shadows.
My first step was to add blacks until I got a little clipping on the darker areas. Interesting to see how this film has little shadow detail and how clipping pops up in a bunch of different areas all at once.
The image from the Pakon shows some lighter borders so I applied some vignetting tool to darken them a bit. Not sure if there is distortion or not from the Canon 35mm f/2 EF, but I tried to fix something that was bugging me in this image as well. I don’t really know why this image shows this when scanned at the Pakon.
Added some presence and saturation to give some punch to the image. Went on to crop the image and applied a graduate filter since the left side still appeared lighter to my eyes.
Here is a before and after so far.
One last step is to control the noise (I can see some different colors on the image grain) and to add sharpening to the image structure. With the Pakon I usually go for a lot of masking and zero detail to avoid loosing the beautiful grain it does.
Looking at the final image, I’m happier with the color on the jeans and leg you can see through the bicycle wheel. Seems more clear than the other scan.
If you got interested in learning more about the Pakon scanner, there is a Facebook Group devoted to it, it seems at the present the best online resource of used scanners and software to run this machine. It runs in Windows XP (or at least XP mode) only and for some people this is a deal breaker, it shouldn’t be, this scanner is worth the trouble of having Parallels and a Windows XP install on your Mac.
In order to go deeper into the scanning process, one can always study on how to get linear gamma scans of the negatives and how to process them in Color Perfect plugin for Photoshop, this a more elaborate and complex process, requires more expensive software and may yield better and more controllable results after a bit of a learning curve. The Pakon scanner is not compatible with this workflow, but the V600 is, although kind of cheap to be used with so much scanning effort.
I’m a Brazilian photographer based in Sao Paulo. I photograph weddings to make a living and I have been interested in scanners for a very long time. You can see some of my personal work here: http://www.guilhermemaranhao.art.br/
Thanks for sharing your tips and technique with us Guilherme. If you have any tips of your own please comment below.