View Full Version : Scanning color negatives/slide film - Vuescan

11-Apr-2015, 13:30
Hi all.

I looked around various threads, probably should search Apug as well! It seems like there is tons of relevant information out there, some specific to b/w, some to SF, some to plug-in's, some to mishaps, some in bits and pieces, etc.

All in all, it is easy to get bogged down in technical details, tone curves, film specifics, color ranges, etc etc. Some threads I go into get so deep in a conversation about technical details it is difficult to decide what to actually do. Perhaps it actually is that complicated. More than likely, I am making it more complicated then necessary. I still struggle with scanning color negatives/slide film, it often seems hit and miss.

Personally, I use an Epson v500 (now toast) and Epsonscan software. I plan on picking up a v700 and Vuescan, specifically. Any and all workflow advice is appreciated. I also use Lightroom...I don't even have Photoshop. I also love my betterscanning holders and plan to get ones for the v700.

But, please don't exclude any steps because of my particular set-up. It would be beneficial to have links/information for all those coming to this thread.

I know Ken Lee has an excellent write up as well on his site regarding scanning, as I am sure many others do.

Please feel free to share screenshots, profile set-ups, do you use film holders, links to sites/blogs, etc.

Thank you in advance for, I know, a common topic.

11-Apr-2015, 19:10
Getting into the LF scan game can be expensive – a few ideas to save on costs!

Since you already have Epson Scan, maybe stick with it long enough to see if it fits your needs. I've enjoyed the software ever since I started scanning – all my images posted here (b+w/negative/transparency) use Epson Scan + the 4990, the predecessor to the v700/750.

Also, try-out a homemade scanning station before committing to a betterscanning holder. For scanning 4x5, all you need is, say, an 8x10 piece of anti-glare glass (not anti-reflection glass), etched on one side, from the hardware store. You can dry mount the film on the etched side w/ a few pieces of artist tape. Then you can use something like post-it note stacks to hold the glass above the platen. (You can also use the post-it notes to test for the best height, peeling off sheets for each successive test scan.) Green post-it notes work best for me. ;^)

Some weeks ago, I recommended that a member in search of flatbed scanning tips search for forum posts by the late Ted Harris. I never attended his workshops, but I've learned 98% of what I know about scanning from his practical, well-articulated posts. Taken together, his posts offer a free scanning workshop of sorts. You can tell he was a very good educator.

Hope this helps, and good luck! Looking forward to seeing some of your images here.

12-Apr-2015, 12:00
Thanks Heroique for the advice!

Anyone else is welcome to add/share their method(s).

Pali K
13-Apr-2015, 04:03
I'll be scanning new color negatives this week and will document and take screenshots of my work flow with VueScan and Color perfect.


13-Apr-2015, 09:05
Check out some of the tutorials linked in this thread: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?121168-Film-Scanning-tutorials-and-recommendation

Ken Lee
13-Apr-2015, 14:14
I still struggle with scanning color negatives/slide film, it often seems hit and miss.

You might find it helpful to consider that each film stock has its own "signature": each of the 3 dyes which make up the film has its own characteristic curve. Back in the day of purely analog printing, expert press printers knew which inks to combine to compensate for the eccentricities of various film stocks.

To make images from color film which look like natural light, we need to handle those 3 curves skillfully. Looking like natural light may not be the goal, but it's an important skill, analogous to calibrating a thermometer. Without a point of reference, we're aiming at a moving target.

Then there's the scanner with its sensors for 3 colors, each of which has its own non-linear curve. If you purchase a target and calibrate your scanner, you can eliminate those variables. Now you're back to the variables contained within the film stock.

Depending on who develops your film, you may get different results every time. So you might find it helpful to stick with one good lab or develop your film yourself.

As we do with digital, if you can place a target in the scene before you shoot under those conditions, you have a point of reference: if you color-balance the target in scanning or post-processing, the subject will be "realistic" and you can apply the same correction to all photos made during that shoot.

Another approach is to ignore the hope of calibration and standardization: simply treat each shot independently do not try to standardize on anything. This may be appropriate for Fine Art, but not for banging out commercial work in volume.

13-Apr-2015, 15:38
Another approach is to ignore the hope of calibration and standardization: simply treat each shot independently do not try to standardize on anything.

This is my method, mainly because I shoot such a low volume of color film that the effort to calibrate my workflow isn't worth it. Plus, I tend to use long outdated color film which throws a whole other monkey wrench into the works. I get frustrated at times when I can't achieve a harmonious color palette in a particular negative, but I get close enough most of the time not to worry about it too much. If I ever try printing one of these hack-job color scans I may eat my words, however.


13-Apr-2015, 18:28
Part of the problem with scanning any color film (or b&w too really) is the variance in scanners, software, and methodologies.

Due to my scanner, I scan everything as a "positive" but reverse the image using an inverted curve, and also specific color curves for correcting the colors to what I want. I do this in the scanning software so it's irrelevant to anyone not using the same scanner. However I'm sure you can scan as a positive with most scanners/software, and reverse and color-correct in Photoshop. Or use the normal negative scan function but again use the color curves to adjust the color/balance.

If you do this you will probably over time have standardized color curve setups for different films. I have little notes taped all over my monitor with different settings for my scanner for different films.

21-Apr-2015, 11:28
Thank you all for the help and information. This helps me put peace to mind about just why there seems to be a 1000 ways to skin this cat.

I look forward to more information and will read some of the links provided when not at the office!

And I did not ever even think of the Ken. That is a wise idea for when shooting a set project on a particular day/event. If shooting multiple rolls over a few hours I could shoot a calibration card or something to calibrate to.

Although, generally (and especially with color film), I tend to be like Jonathan, in the sense color shots are usually one offs and most of the time varying conditions/settings. Plus it is not commercial work, so in theory, if I can keep a stringent level of weeding through images, I should only be worrying about a few images that "make the cut".


Pali K
11-May-2015, 11:26
OK, this is long overdue but I will be scanning some color negatives tonight. I will take screenshots and post my process but seems like there is great information in this thread already. My biggest challenges were noise and consistency. The multipass 16 BIT scan (set to 3) in Vuescan eliminated the noise issue for me and using ColorPerfect made it possible to get consistent results from frame to frame.

I found this video on youtube that describes the exact process (Vuescan and Colorperfect plugin) that I follow. Hope it helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pfQ61WTbug

13-May-2015, 10:03
Ok thanks. I will look into all of this in the very near future. I am pretty sure when I make it back home in a few days I will be getting Adobe Creative Cloud. I guess that will help to run color photos through PS Plugins (after I learn how to navigate PS a bit).

15-May-2015, 05:38
Apologies for the late reply, but there is a VueScan/C41 Howto in my FAQ (http://www.brodie-tyrrell.org/wiki/index.php?VueScanC41). The photos are missing from it due to the website being hacked and me not backing it up, but the text should still cover what you need.

Instead of using the RGB sliders for the black/white points, you can get the same effect by:
- lock the exposure (same as linked instructions) so that the film-base is not overexposed/clipped in the scan,
- Lock Film Base Exposure,
- turn off Lock Colour,
- adjust the Film Base Color manually to get the black-point hue neutral,
- set Color Balance mode to Manual,
- once the black-point is neutral, adjust the white-point hue with the "Neutral Red/Green/Blue" sliders, starting from 0.5/0.5/0.5,
- adjust the gamma with the Brightness slide.

The latter method is what I generally do these days; I find it easier than the 6-RGB-slider method but I think it is functionally identical.