Flatbed Scans coming out Overexposed


TPF Noob!
Jan 2, 2023
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I'm fairly new to developing/scanning film but had a query with scanning negatives that are coming out overexposed on the scan. The negatives themselves are not very dense and look well exposed (you can still see through the darkest parts quite easily) but they are coming out overexposed when scanning. I wanted to get my head around how the scanning process works and how it accounts for different exposures on negatives:

- Does a decent flatbed scanner compensate for different densities and scans for longer/shorter times depending on its density?
- If not, how would you correctly scan a denser negative?
- Does a better scanner equal better results when scanning very thin/very dense negatives?

For ref. i'm using Kodak Portra 400

I've seen videos online of people scanning Kodak portra up to 5 stops overexposed and still being able to get a great scan out of it. Mine are maybe 1 stop over at most but they're coming out bright and overexposed. I had scans back from a lab (snappy snaps) and tried them on my father-in-laws epson scanner and both were 'overexposed'. I asked the lab nothing in regards to the developing process so I assume it was developed at box speed.

I've attached images of an example negative and the scan that came out (apologies for the bad shot of the negative). Judging by the negative, does it look like a better scan would be possible? If so, would it be a case of a better scanner needed or something else?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Many thanks,


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Hi Jack. Welcome to the site. Which scanner did you use? What were the settings?

Looking at the negative, the bottom shadow area does look blocked up. I wouldn't expect much detail to be gotten from it regardless of the scanner or the number of times you scan it, or speed. Obviously, you exposed for the highlights of the castle and sky. Sometimes the range of film just won't pick up the range between light and dark areas of the scene. So you have to sacrifice something and crop it out or don;t include it in the shot. Or maybe a graduated neutral density filter used during the shooting might help. Next time, for a static landscape scene, try bracketing two additional photos of the scene at +1 and -1 stops so you have three photos and can compare how that works in the scanner.

One other thing about the negative that it could be development that screwed it up. How were the other pictures?

Another factor while scanning it is that the scanner, if on Auto, can range the black and white points to clip at either end. You may want to set the scanner so it scans flat without any edits made during the scan. Save those to use with your post-editing image program like Elements, Photoshop or Lightroom, etc. Or range the black and white points manually for the scan so that the arrows are outside the range of the image range of data.
Thanks Alan!

It was an Epson V500 - but yes it may have been a case that the scanner was set to clip the lights and darks. I wasn't sure of the settings exatly but I have an Epson V850 on order so I will experiment with that once it arrives. The other negatives were okay, its just 2 or 3 out of 15 that were scanning in like this.

So would I be right in thinking that scanners take an average of the density in a negative and scans based on that? So if you had a negative with very dense parts and lights parts, it may scan like mine did or would that be a wrong assumption?

I wouldn't mind if that shadows in that partivular negative are lost completely but I want that church and skyline exposed correctly.

Thanks again for the response!
As the expression goes, you can't get blood from a turnip. Those dark areas are really dark.

I have a v600 which is very close to the v500 and I also now have a v850. V850 has a higher dMax which should pull out more data from dark areas but not that much more.

The big thing I noticed with the Epson scan software is on auto it tends to clip. You can see that if you switch to the histogram before the scan. What I do is go to manual and adjust the histogram points so that they're just outside the range of the image. Then you won't clip and you will get all the data you can get. Then in post-processing editing, I adjust the levels or black and white points a little more to get the proper range. And then tweak the editing from there. Good luck with the v850.

Check back on the Forum if you have any questions about the scanner once you get it. Good luck again
I think you’re getting pretty much all you can from that neg. I looked close at the shadows and sky in the neg and didn’t see much there.

Try to get a good print done so you can have a direct analog to digital positive to compare.
Neg look fine, scan look too contrasty.
Thank you all for the suggestions! Just had a go with my new V850 and it turns out it the lab and father in law were putting too much contrast on the scan settings! I adjusted the settings myself and it came out perfect! Attached is before and after (straight out the scanner no editing):

Need to go through and thorough calibrate the colours on the scanner but very happy after just a quick first scan! (excuse the dust marks!)


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