Editing scans vs. editing digital

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Actor, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    I've been taking my color film to Target and Walgreens and getting "process and scan to CD, no prints." The scans are usually not to my liking so I edit them, adjusting exposure, brightness, contrast, etc. I also edit photos my wife takes with her DSLR.

    OK. I'm not certain of this and maybe it's just me, but I get the feeling when I'm editing from a scanned negative I have less of an adjustment range than with a picture that was born digital. For example, if I move the control for "exposure" on a scanned neg it seems to go from unacceptably blown out in one direction to unacceptably dark in the other direction over a shorter distance than when I do the same thing with a digital original. I can't be certain that this is so because the pictures I took on film are not the same subject or light as the pictures she took with her DSLR.

    If it's not my imagination, then what is happening? Is this simply the norm? Does a film to digital transfer simply lose data? Does it have to do with gamma? Are the labs not doing the scan correctly? Do I need better software? I'm using iPhoto on a Mac.
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I know what you mean. A part of the problem, I think, is that a scan is a digital representation of a "fixed" original...the negative has certain parameters that are fixed. In a B&W negatie shot for example, the highlights have X density level and the shadows have X density level; the scanner makes a scan of those fixed attributes,and then software converts it into an image. With a digital capture, the black point is not fixed, but adjustable, moveable. ANd the same with the highlights, to an extent.

    Also, adjusting exposure using a simple editing app like iPhoto doesn't give you the flexibility of doing things like assigning black point, adjusting the curves and levels,etc. I do think moire sophisticated software would help, but also I have seen the same lack of malleability in scanned negatives.
     
  3. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Less adjustment range is dependant on how you scan the image. If you're going to Target and getting a CD full of JPEGs back then yeah you won't have anywhere near the latitude as you do with a RAW file from a digital camera. The data is gone.

    However the data is all still right there in the negative. The secret is to not let others touch and then give you a low quality result. 48bit (16bpp) scanners produce quite a bit more data than your standard 10-12bit digital RAW file. That can be used for both good and evil. You can let the scanner auto tone, and auto contrast the entire image, or you can take control and finely tune the scanning process, and then still import to Photoshop directly in 16bit. I have pulled images out of negatives which have looked so incredibly thin (develop error on my part) you would not believe, but I guarantee the $13/h kid at Target will just say it's a throwaway. I only have a basic flatbed scanner with film holder, I can only dream of the result I'd get from a decent drum scan or even a dedicated film scanner.

    Transfer to digital is an artform.
     
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    not practiced by Walgreens and Target.
     
  5. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I also get my color film developed and scanned at Target. I have been extremely happy with the one here, so much that I quit scanning my own because my scanner just doesn't compare. I guess it depends on who's doing it.

    Also, not trying to be mean or anything, but are you sure the problem is the scans? Are your pics properly exposed, etc.? Have you tried scanning the same negatives yourself to see the difference? Or had prints made from the negatives?
     
  6. Plato

    Plato TPF Noob!

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    This scan was originally on Kodacolor-100 film.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. battletone

    battletone TPF Noob!

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    Walgreens is something else..... I used to do that too a couple times. But the images they scanned were garbage. Are they still giving out jpg files that are about 1200x1800 pixels?

    Maybe digital cameras have just spoiled me, but that is an unacceptable resolution.
     
  8. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    I thought of that. I don't have access to a scanner, otherwise I'd be scanning them myself. Having prints made is my next step.

    One thing I didn't think of until just now. The scanned neg files are a lot smaller than the files from the digital camera. The scanned neg files are mostly just over 500K. The files from the DSLR are 2.0 Megabytes give or take 500K.
     
  9. Patrice

    Patrice No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm not convinced that the mini lad digital file you get on the cd is a properly scanned negative in terms of what you would get from pro lab doing a drum scan. To my understanding all the images printed at a minilab are prints from a scan minmally done to produce a 4x5 print only - thus the small size of the digital file on the cd. Similar to only saving your digital images in small size jpeg at 80 to 150 dpi. My epson scanner produces 16 bit images from a 35mm neg that is upwards of 150 mb in size - depending on the scan resolution selected. Lots of data to play with and very tedious.

    Pat
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    All this talk of quality is all good and fine, but the topic here is about latitude for editing. The finest drum scan in the world is useless if the lab gives you a 3mpx 8bit JPEG.
     
  11. battletone

    battletone TPF Noob!

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    Not to steal the thread, but as someone who doesn't shoot much film anymore, but does have a handful of shots on various negatives I would like on my computer, what is the best choice(like the OP, most information to work with)?
     
  12. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Buy a dedicated film scanner, and learn to scan.
    Find a decent lab which will hand over 16bit TIFFs (you'll probably pay more but if it's control you're after then this comes a close second to owning your own gear).
     

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