Scanning Film Negatives

I need some help here. I have no scanner so I decided to try and scan my film negs with my DSLR. It isn’t full frame so I am not sure if that automatically puts it at a disadvantage. I am guessing this means it is essentially never going to give a good representation of the photo from my full frame 35mm camera.

I spent a while the other day scanning some colour images and trying to get them to look right via a combination of photoshop and lightroom. I then realised that the film I was scanning was actually expired so I maybe needed to develop it differently in the first place.

Today I have decided the best comparison would be to scan something that I have already had scanned from the lab and look at the results against each other that way.

Example 1 – From Lab
Example 2 – Inverted in Photoshop, Set to Monochrome in Lightroom – White balance Auto
Example 3 – Same as 2 but with changes to exposure, contrast, highlights and blacks.
Example 4 – Same as 3 but with the clarity turned up to max
Example 5 – Same as 4 but with some Texture added

Please let me know which you think looks best in the comments. I would really appreciate some opinions. Thanks!

12 Comments

  1. Having a crop-sensor DSLR should make no difference. The key thing is to get the negative completely flat and in perfect focus. Ideally use a macro lens, but a standard lens with some cheap extension tubes would be just as good.

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      1. You really need proper macro focusing, rather than the cameras macro mode, which just adjusts camera settings (such as adjusting the aperture to allow maximum depth of field on an object close to the lens).

        A true macro lens will allow 1:1 magnification or greater and you’ll be able to focus on extremely fine detail in your negatives, even the film grain.

        You can get extension tubes that will convert a normal lens to proper macro for around £20 on Amazon. You attach your lens to the tubes and then the tubes are attached to your camera like a normal lens.
        E.g. I took this photo of some peppercorns and salt crystals with an 18-55mm kit lens and some extension tubes: https://flic.kr/p/DtGphQ

        Liked by 1 person

  2. To my eyes example 3 seems the best, maybe a touch more on the Black slider and a very slight vignette. When I scan I always scan as a positive (16bit greyscale) invert in Photoshop, add a levels layer and set it to auto, then a curves layer with a slight S curve and then adjust the opacity to about 50% on each adjustment layer before flattening the image. Hope that makes some sense !

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  3. I personally fall into a trap of whatever scan I get back from the lab must be What This Photograph Is — when, in fact, what I get back from the lab is only a set of choices the lab made about how they were going to render my negative.

    I say tweak your settings on a negative you digitize until you like the look, and don’t apologize to anyone for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is hard not to see the labs scans as being how the images should look. I mostly feel this way because I am try to find the right workflow to give the most authentic look to all my home developed negs.

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    1. I think I’m actually going to scan this film again because I added texture as I was trying to match the original scan from the lab. I have a macro adapter now so I image I can scan in more of of the grain from the neg. Maybe…

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