Today I’m going to write about home scanning. If you’re anything like me, you don’t have a darkroom, but you still want to enjoy all the benefits of shooting on film and living a hybrid dual lifestyle of showing those film photographs on the internet, know there are options. However, it turns out it’s a slightly more significant problem than I was initially anticipating because finding a quality scanner that was in my budget that offered the quality but also some speed were things that I was trying to weigh out. So I found myself doing much research trying to figure out what scanner fits my needs.
If you do any digging around online, the Pakon scanner is the number one favorite for home scanners. There are a couple of problems that exist with that scanner. They’re incredibly hard to find. When you find them, they are incredibly expensive. I didn’t feel comfortable spending that amount of money on a scanner, knowing that my odds were reasonably poor. So, I went a different route. Ok, so I have a Plustek scanner. It’s the 8200i series. As far as quality goes, it’s pretty good for scanning 35mm, but it’s also one of its downfalls. It only scans 35mm. So if you are a 120 shooter or anything more substantial, then sorry, this is not going to work for you. However, that’s not my only scanner. I also have the Epson V550, which scans 35mm and also can scan 120.
I haven’t messed around with 120 yet, but that is the scanner that we will be using when we get into that. So why two? Well, I started with the Epson, which is down below my desk. However, this is not my favorite scanner. The advertised range of it, as far as optical quality goes, is quite good. However, when you understand the math behind that equated optical resolution, and then you take it for the size of a 35mm negative, you’re getting an effective megapixel range of around 2 to 3 megapixels for a 35mm scan. So not that great. I like to use for scanning in low res catalog images. I use lightroom as a sort of a digital contact sheet in which I use to cross-reference to the physical negatives.
If I want a high-quality digital print, I use this one. So that’s the sole use for the Plustek. Let me show you a couple of the things that I use when I scan all the time, and we’ll go into some of the prep work that I do when I scan negatives. When scanning at home, there are some basic things that you want to have, but they’re also things that apply to scan but are also very helpful to use in other areas of anyone’s film photography journey. So, here are a few.
These are great for not putting all of your DNA and signature oils all over the film, which will then lead to dust sticking and getting your thumbprint across somebody’s face. I write this as I remembered of a frame with a friend – there’s his face covered up by my ignorance.
The higher percentage that you can find in your local drug store or grocery store is better. These are little cotton swabby things that are used as make-up remover pads. That’s not what you want stuck all over your negatives – fuzz and junk. You want something that is lint-free and will clean the film and not re-introduce more particulate. A little rule of thumb about applying alcohol and cleaning the film: the first pass cleans the film; the second pass re-introduces everything that you just cleaned off. So, don’t get overzealous. Moreover, here are just some standard cotton swabs. And then, a can of air.
I’ll give a quick pass on the top and bottom as well as the glass or the sensor if you have access to it. Let me take you on to the computer now, and I will show you the process in which I do preview scans as well as the adjustments I do to the raw negative.
I just did a preview scan of the image that I’m going to be working with today. So, I’m starting up at the top left. The first thing I do is make sure that the file naming and file destination are set to the right location, respectively. I use a reverse date naming structure, and this also correlates with the archiving and negative cross-reference that I mentioned earlier. And for this, for the sake of example, I would keep it low around 1600 PPI. It works well for digital distribution. With Negafix, I’ve experimented with popping in the individual stocks in which Negafix will try to use the profile for that film stock to apply the appropriate exposure a color cast removal and that sort of thing.
I have not found anything that I’m thrilled with, or that I have been able to find consistent results with. So, as a result, I select ‘other’ in the ‘film’ category, and I choose it as monochrome. That makes sure that the color cast is removed. Ilford HP5 has sort of, the emulsion is a purple color, and that comes through on scans if you don’t tell it that you don’t want it scanned monochrome. And then in an unsharp mask. If I were going straight from here to the internet or social media, I generally would apply just an auto sharpness as a way to crisp up the edges and make things nice and crispy. However, if I were printing this for a hi-resolution or scanning this for a high-resolution print, I would not apply. So in here, this is pretty much all I would do. Just scan an excellent clean straight ahead negative. So I’m going to examine this.
Ok, so my scan has just finished up. I will open it up here in the finder. Next, I’m just going to open this up in Photoshop. From here, I would do some basic cloning and clean up of any little marks that I find. Bits of hair. I would not say I like to knock out too much of the characteristics, but I don’t want anything that’s particularly distracting. So this is the primary method that I would use in cleaning up a negative if it were going out for printing or social media distribution. That’s the basic scan. Ok, so that’s it for today.
That’s my scanning process, it’s not perfect for me, and I’m not completely happy with it. However, it’s the best option for me at the moment, so I’d love to know what are people are doing as far as home scanning goes. I hope this helps!