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Thread: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

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    Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    Greetings. While perusing George DeWolfe's latest book on digital printing, the text accompanying a Clyde Butcher image made mention that Clyde scans his negatives to open as a negative image rather than a positive one, so the shadows will not be "corrupted". Does anyone know exactly what this means, and why there would be a significant difference scanning one way vs. the other?

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    From actual experience working with Clyde, he scans his negative as a positive so that it opens on his computer as a negative. One of the main reasons he tells me he does it is because he believes that most scanners were built to scan chromes/positives and therefore performs better.

    Once the image is open he makes some initial adjustments, levels etc. and then converts it back to a positive.

    For Clyde this method is simple because of the many decades he spent in the darkroom working with negatives. Even though I spent my early days in the darkroom I would still rather scan and open the image as its intended output.

    In terms of the corrupted shadow question, looking at it as a negative it would look burned out, burning those areas can be performed to see if there is any information to pull out of the shadows.

    Much of what I know about photoshop I learned from Clyde. His methods are non traditional in terms of photoshop standards. He has developed a system that allows him to adjust as he would in the darkroom.

    Clyde has produced a dvd tutorial on photoshop for photographers. The dvd should be coming out soon, when it does I will post a notice.

    www.timeandlight.com

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duane Polcou View Post
    Greetings. While perusing George DeWolfe's latest book on digital printing, the text accompanying a Clyde Butcher image made mention that Clyde scans his negatives to open as a negative image rather than a positive one, so the shadows will not be "corrupted". Does anyone know exactly what this means, and why there would be a significant difference scanning one way vs. the other?
    All scanners, from the worst consumer scanners to the best drum scanners, are optimized for trannies. There are a few reasons for this. First, trannies are the worst case. Tranny max. density is large compared to color negative, which is huge compared to B&W negative.

    Second, color trannies were the "lingua franca" of photography when scanner design was at its peak in the mid 1990s. Nearly 100% of magazine and advertising photography was trannies -- art directors insisted on WYSIWYG so they wouldn't have to visualize removing the orange color correction mask and reversing the colors. So scanner designs were optimized for what the users where actually using, which was almost exclusively trannies.

    Smaller scanner makers needed to add capability to carve out their niche in the smaller pre-press houses. IOW, they had to provide more flexibility. This meant negatives. So makers selling the smaller "desk top" drum scanners improved their software to also handle negatives, and to make 16 bit scans (and file saves). This was happening in the mid-1990s when the digital wave hit and most high-end scanner R&D ended.

    What we are left with is a mixed bag. Some scanners / software does a good job with negatives, some does not.

    Then there's the operator. Scanning negatives is somewhat different than scanning trannies. For one thing, you can create an ICC profile for a scanner for scanning a tranny. It's not really defined for scanning negatives (too much density variance from film-to-film for one thing), so the operator has to dial in each negative frame individually. Which takes time, and requires a bit more skill.

    All that said (whew!)... much depends on the scanner / software / operator. There's no right way or wrong way really. If what you are doing works for you, then do it that way.

    But I gotta say, if a scanner / software / operator is having trouble with "corrupted shadows" when scanning B&W negatives (that is, when scanning the least dense part of the film), I would look more toward operator error than a scanner hardware or software problem. Just sayin'...

    Bruce Watson

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    My 2 cents about Shadows, etc:

    When shooting B&W negatives with scanning in mind, I try to get the "levels" or "histogram" of the negatives to occupy around 2/3 of the overall range of the scanner.

    This means that the shadow and highlight areas of the negative, are mapped away from the extremes of the scanner's range, where (I presume) we are more likely to encounter noise, flattening, or other distortion. Instead, we use the "sweet spot" of the scanner. (With high-end scanners, the whole range may be sweet, but with my consumer-level scanner, the extremes are best avoided).

    In my (limited) view, this is akin to targeting a negative to "print on Number 2 paper": we have room to increase or decrease contrast if we need to, without heavy and lossy adjustments. This is also analogous to avoiding the "toe" and "shoulder" of contrasty film, so that we end up with a linear image, one which will feel most like light, as Fred used to say.

    It seems to me that in the general case - where subject brightness range is fairly normal - tonality will be the most "analog" or "natural", when adjustments are made earliest in the process. (Scenes which require extreme compensation are a different subject).

    So if we can't adjust the lighting itself (as they do in cinematography) then the next step should be with exposure and development (as done with the Zone System or BTZS). To the degree that those earliest analog steps fail, the next opportunity for the least damaging correction, is in the scanning process - and after that, any further corrections can be done in a photo editor like Photoshop or GIMP.

    Please correct me if I have overlooked something.

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    All scanners can handle the low-density end of the spectrum. They have to be able to do this, else highlights from trannies get trashed. And no one is going to buy a scanner that trashes their skies and clouds.

    The low-density range is the easiest because most of the light from the light source gets through to the sensor. Very little is attenuated by the film. So you get a good strong signal and therefore a good signal-to-noise ratio from the sensor.

    That said, there's no accounting for all the variations of hardware / software / operator. There's usually a way to maximize the system to get what you want. Said another way, whatever works, works.

    Bruce Watson

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    some how I doubt that scanning as a positive or as a negative really makes any difference. I mean, either way, you are still scanning a negative, you aren't changing the input. However, if you are LOOKING at the negative still as a negative while scanning, you may be mor einclined to use different scanning levels/curves than you would if viewing as a positive. This could make a difference. But with a linear curve and the same equivalent input and output ranges, I can't see how it would matter if you scan as a positive B&W or a negative B&W.

    I will gladly be proven wrong though, maybe some scanners/software process the scan differently if it's a negative versus a positive. Should be a fairly simple test. Scan once as a positive, and then once as a negative. View them both as a positive in photoshop and see if there is any more (or less) detail in the shadows and highlights. Maybe if I get some time tonight I'll give it a shot.
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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    I'd only jump in here to mention that transparencies became the defacto standard for color separators long before 4-color seps were done by scanning. The need for a positive was due to the optical color management regime of that bygone era, when the transparency was rephotographed onto 4 registered sheets of B&W negative film through filters (sometime more than 4 with masking as needed to correct contrast and to correct individual colors for CMYK print conversion).

    The use of transparencies might otherwise have been arbitrary by the 90's had this system not been in place for 50+ years, and everyone in the industry not been transitioning from that workflow. Had scanners originally been developed for fine art photography, it would have been much easier to design scanners around the restricted density of neg film (16 bits or greater per channel would have been necessary even sooner, however).

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    When I started scannning about 12 years ago the standard advice was to scan b&w negatives as positives and then convert later. Then as the years went on I started reading that with newer scanners it didn't make any difference though many people still suggested the negative-positive approach apparently through habit. I tried it both ways - in fact I used to switch back and forth all the time depending on what recommendation I read most recently. I finally settled on the negative - negative approach after reading John Paul Caponigro's book that said he did it like that. I actually didn't notice any real difference even in the earliest days though I never made a rigorous scientific test.
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  9. #9

    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    in my experience this is software dependent. Some, in neg mode, make it difficult to make sure you have captured the entire range, or their film curves suck.
    There is nothing wrong with scanning as a positive, but good software should make it unnecessary... and I second Bruce's "sayin'".
    All that said, as they say, I often scan negs as positive also. Go figure.
    Tyler

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    Re: Clyde Butcher - Scanning a Negative as a Negative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Boley View Post
    All that said, as they say, I often scan negs as positive also. Go figure.
    Tyler
    "They" also say "Do as I say, not as I do!"

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