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Thread: Converting color scans to black and white

  1. #1

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    Converting color scans to black and white

    I will be taking some photographs with daylight color transparency film (Ektachrome), scanning the transparencies and using the scans to produce black and white prints. Some of the photographs will be taken under tungsten or flourescent lighting. Can I use daylight film with the tungsten or flourescent lighting, uncorrected, if the end product is in black and white? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    You probably could, though some tonal accuracy might be sacrificed. I use color negative film in the same circumstance for both color and b&w prints. Color negs are exceptionally forgiving in mixed and cross light situations especially Fuji NPS. Color negs scan very well because of the long scale and convert to b&w in my opinion better than trans. because of that.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  3. #3

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    Converting color scans to black and white

    Kirk,

    Thanks. I may try the Fuji.

    This is the first time that I'll be using color film for both color and black and white output . I was planning on doing this project, which will involve a large number of photogrpahs, with reversal film because I keep reading (eg. in the current issue of Photo Techniques) that transparencies scan better than negatives. I'm at the beginning of this project, and still in a position to choose between reversal and negative. I gather that you think negative is the better way to go?

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    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    It depends on your final product and who is doing your scans. Most commercial scanners don't know how to do color negatives. I do my own. I am scaning negs for inkjet prints and for magazine reproduction. I can make a neg scan with Silverfsat AI 6 Studio that surpases a trans. scan. because of the longer scale. A raw scan from each will have a different look to it and slightly different color response but I can make them match and have for testing sake. I have compared them many times as many of my clients want a trans. up front and then a scan later on. Unless someone requests a trans specifically I shoot negs. I don't have to bracket so there are savings in film costs. Negs. give me much more raw information with which to manipulate in PS.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5

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    Converting color scans to black and white

    Your arguments for negative are exactly what a cinematographer making big budget motion pictures would say. They want the exposure latitude, the tonal range and the raw information before they go into digital ;post-production. The ;post-production people are plerfectly capable of doing a good scan and of manipulating the images with what amounts to a fancy version of Photoshop. For people who make movies, reversal film is dead and has been for a long time.

    It makes me wonder what the argument is for reversal, in an age of digital manipulation, among still photographers. I would have gone with negative in the first place had I not kept running into statements that reversal scans better. If that isn't true in the hands of a competent service provider, then I would just as soon go with negative for the reasons you mention.

  6. #6
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    I think that the primary argument against negatives is based on old prejudices about scanning negatives. Most of the commercial labs here in New Mexico for instance don't think you can scan negatives. If they updated their software regularly they would know that there are now decent profiles for negarives that weren't available a couple of years ago that take into account the mask . Sometimes it is a simple as knowing that the scan frame has to be clean within the image with no boarder otherwise everything gets thrown off. That kind of detail is not important with trans. Fuji even has in the works a new generation of color negs. that are specifically designed for scanning. They know where this is going.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  7. #7
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    Basically, what Kirk said. I've never used trannies for anything - only negatives. And I do my own drum scanning.

    I think the bias toward trannies in the pre-press world (that is, commercial scanners / printers) isn't technical. It's sociological. It's art directors and editors that want trannies. Doing negative reversal and mask removal in their heads has just never been something they wanted to learn to do, and with tranny film available they've never had to. So historically almost the only thing coming to the pre-press world from magazines and advertising has been trannies. It shouldn't be surprising then that most pre-press equipment is aimed squarely at trannies. Nor should it be a surprise that most commercial scanners have little to no experience with negatives.

    One of the main reasons to use trannies is supposed to be their WYSIWYG nature. However, unless you are shooting in a studio and exercising precision control over your lighting, even trannies are going to need some color correction (if you shoot outside, for example, the color of daylight varies markedly depending on the time of day, time of year, and location where you shoot). So if you are going to color correct anyway, what's the advantage of trannies?

    I can't see any advantage in using a film that can't capture the full subject brightness range (SBR) that can occur with direct sunlight. So I use negative film for everything. And B&W or color, it scans just fine. I don't understand people saying that negative film is hard to scan. IMHO, lack of experience and/or lack of effort is no reason to start (or perpetuate) yet another urban myth.

    Bruce Watson

  8. #8
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    Fuji even has in the works a new generation of color negs. that are specifically designed for scanning.

    Kirk, tell us more please. What speed? Will it be available for LF? In quickloads? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Bruce Watson

  9. #9
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Converting color scans to black and white

    I wish I knew more about the new Fuji color negative films. It is just something I have heard about in the pipeline from the VC conference. The rep there had little additional information except to say that a new generation of neg films designed for scanning was on the way soon. As an architectural photographer my main concern is that they continue the 4th die layer in the new films as I think the current films scan fine now.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  10. #10

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    Converting color scans to black and white

    Jeff, Kirk & Bruce,

    The main argument I still get for using transparencies is that they drum scan better than color negative film (at least the current generation). In such a workflow they reportedly yield superior micro-contrast and color saturation. West Coast Imaging recently reiterated that position to me. I did a test several years ago comparing drum scanned Velvia 50 versus Reala, and the Reala produced a much grainier scan. I have heard a variety of explanations for this; the Luminous Landscape FAQ's say:

    "If one is currently, or is planning to do ones own scanning, then the choice is simple. Transparencies win hands-down in terms of scanning ease. The orange mask in colour negative film, while easing traditional printing issues, complicates scanning."

    What is your reaction to all this?

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