For the dedicated few who still shoot film, you are probably going to have to digitize your images at some point. More than likely you will be using a scanner– flatbed or film-dedicated… whatever. (Scanners– I used to use a Nikon Coolscan IV ED, which only scans 35mm negative strips and slides, now I use a more simple Epson 4870, which is a flatbed scanner but has transparency holders– 35mm strips, slides, 120mm and 4×5). You are going to get better quality scans from the dedicated film scanners, but you will definitely have to pay for that. The flatbed scanners do a very decent job, you will really only notice the difference when you print bigger than 8×10″.
First, you have your negative/slide. You want to keep these as clean as possible. Use negative sleeves to store them, some people even go far as to use latex gloves when handling them. As long as you handle the negatives by the sides (never touch the image area itself) you should be alright. If you do accidentally touch the image, use negative cleaner or simply isopropanol with a pec-pad or any sort of soft lens wipe– put the liquid on the cloth first, never apply the liquid directly on the film. (Same goes for when you are cleaning lenses– always spray the cloth, not the lens itself)
Obviously you want your scanner glass to be clean as well. Use streak-free glass cleaner (Cinch or Sparkle… same stuff that you would use on windows) and a soft cloth or soft paper towels. Normal run-of-the-mill paper towels are too hard and might scratch the scanner glass. Use a brush or canned air to clean the visible dust off first, then wipe clean.
Hold your negative on the edges and use an anti-static cloth to wipe the negative on both sides– Wipe one way, wiping back and forth will create more static, attracting dust.
Place the negative in the scanner or on the bed, whatever your method might be.
Using whatever software it is you use with your scanner, apply these settings (not necessarily the best, but what I use):
- Color space– If you have an option between AdobeRGB and sRGB, use AdobeRGB. It has a wider gamut (range of color and contrast)
- 48-bit color, or whatever is the highest setting– this will make sure the widest range of colors or tones are being captured.
- 360 dpi— this is the highest resolution that most printers can print. Most can’t print this high, but you don’t want to have to go back and scan it again for a print. If you are only scanning for computer display, use 100 dpi, the highest most monitors can display (these days)
- Target size— pay attention to this. If you are scanning at a 100% scale, you will only get a file that is 24x36mm, the same size as the negative. I usually use 500% to get an image that will print at around 7 inches wide, at full resolution. Use a higher target size if you know you will be printing it larger. Remember, it is easier and more rational to downscale an image than to upscale when printing.
- If there is a brightness/contrast adjustment, don’t use it. Keep them at zero. You want to scan at the widest gamut possible– get the most colors or tones you can, then adjust afterwards. The scan will look very dull and flat, but it will be easier to work with. Don’t even use the color adjustment. Do these adjustments afterwards.
- Sharpening— Don’t use any of the in-scanner sharpening. You can get a much better sharpen with Photoshop after the scan.
- Dust removal— Don’t use this option. What it does is soften the entire image so that the dust will be blended into the tones. What you want to do is get the cleanest scan you can get, then use Photoshop to remove the dust manually.
- Save file as a TIFF. This is a lossless format, which means it is not compressed at all. If you have an option of 8-bit or 16-bit, go with 16-bit. Not a lot of printers can print at 16-bit, but you want to be ready if you find one.
Using these settings, you will end up with a fairly large file, probably no less than 40mb. Save this raw file, without any adjustments, in case you need to start again from scratch when you are editing.
Now that you have your scanned file, you will need to edit it. Check out the next article for some tips.