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Thread: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

  1. #1

    Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I've started scanning my LF negs digitally and make corrections in Photoshop sim ilar to what I used to do in the darkroom. I've got some experience with b/w, bu t ask your help for color.

    I guess the biggest reason for the confusion is that I noticed that I spend less time taking shots in the outdoors (i.e. the shots are less contemplated, less f iltration, less perspective control), because so much can be done in PS. I'm not saying that I'm no longer interested in taking the shot, but it just fee ls like the emphasis is more on Photoshop than the camera. And I must say that i t works out pretty well.

    However, starting with color, I'm not sure what to do. I've got the impression t hat color negs record more data on film than color slides, the curve is longer, and negs respond better to hue / saturation tweaks than slides. But still slides have a better punch - hard to explain, but they seem to have more briliance.

    Would appreciate if someone could share his/her thoughts on this, from a LF pers pective. With the purpose to alter the shot digitally, and print the photo from Photoshop, are you using negs or slides? Do you recognise that your time and eff ort tend more towards Photoshop than taking the actual shot?

    Many thanks in advance,


  2. #2

    Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I've always been a neg man.My belief is that the rightful end product of the photographic process is a print. You can hang it on the wall, admire it up close, and manipulate the final printing. You don't have to peer through a loupe, or submit your viewers to a tedious session in a darkened room. The print can be stared at for hours, or just glanced at and ignored. I like prints!Consider: Prior to the invention of photography, how many great artists worked in stained glass as their preferred medium?

    Given all the above, it's always seemed the most natural thing, for me, to shoot colour negative film, and thus avoid the convoluted process and contrast hike of reversal materials.Having said that, I do think that the film companies have put more effort and research into tranny material, and tended to ignore the negative market. This has irked me no end for years.

    Yes, negatives are capable of capturing a much longer tonal range, but that tonal range can't be got onto photographic paper without a fair bit of dodging and burning. The long tonal range with its low contrast also goes hand-in-hand with poor colour saturation. The chemical process just doesn't allow saturated colour and low contrast to happily co-exist.This trade off does improve as format size is increased, and prints from Medium and Large format colour negs have a bit more snap and vibrance to them than 35mm does, but their colour is still outshone by Cibachrome/Ilfochrome. Or it was, UNTIL DIGITAL CAME ALONG.Whoopeee! I can now scan all my old dull negs, tweak the saturation and tonal range in Photoshop, and still retain a shadow detail that makes Velvia users wonder where half their subject disappeared to.

    Hoorah for digital scanning, Hoorah for Photoshop, and Hoorah for colour negative material!

  3. #3

    Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    Mark - any time you spend with PS is time well spent - but don't fall into the " I'll shoot this anyhow and fix it up later in PS " syndrome. Your LF shots should still be well considered, and perspective control with the camera is still more effective than PS. As to filtration, PS enables you to just about do without any on camera filtration - the softwares ability to isolate and change hues, brightness and contrast is very strong - but I still prefer a well composed, well exposed transparency to work from. Most of my work is commercial architecture, and my main use for PS is to remove unwanted elements in the original shot. But yes, I spend more time with the scanning, Photoshoping, and e- mailing/CD burning than I do behing the groundglass.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I have just started to venture out into the neg scanning. I have always been dead set on using transparency film because I was told that it was the best option. You do not have to correct for the orange mask, you have a exact reference to go by, photoshop might not do a good job at reversing the color, you lose to much in the conversion, ect. Then I started working on some old color negs that I had laying around. I found out how much info was missing from the traditional C prints that I had labored over. And found out how much more info there could be with a little work and digital output {neg/transparency printer, lamda prints, even lowly ink jet printers}. To the dedicated transparency shooters who follow or made up these rules either you are sheep {like I was } or your full of BS. Figuer out the math color negs have what 7 stops of usable info and B+W film has about 10 stops. Transparency film has 4-5 stops if you are lucky. With photoshop you can adjust the levels and curves to get all of the stops into a printable range about 4-5 stops depending on the printer or media. It is always better to get as much info as posible and with the freedom you get from the editing controls in photoshop {just like traditional processes} get the best image you possibly can.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I forgot that "punch" you see actually what your eye/brain is interpreting due to contrast. Contrast being trying to compress a whole bunch of info into a small F stop range and losing whatever doesn't fit. Hope this helps.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Re: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    The easy way to see it is the scanner tends to a better job with chrome than with negatives. If you plan to scan it then chrome is the best choice. If you are going print from the negative then use color negative film. Of course, an overiding factors tend to limit viable choices.

    PS the avatar is chrome, and my last processing/printing lab did mention that I might do better switching to chrome as I was shooting negative film.

  7. #7
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    USA, North Carolina

    Re: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    Tranny films became a defacto standard because it's easier to communicate what the shot looks like to someone else with a tranny. That is, you toss a tranny on a light table and show it to the advertiser or art director -- they can see it and make decisions about it without having to learn how to invert the image and remove the orange mask in their heads (and yes, one can learn how to do that). Makes life much easier for the art directors and clients, which clearly means a lot if that's the kind of work you are doing.

    You, as an individual photographer, don't need that.

    The joy of negatives is two fold. First, the lower density range makes scanning easier, even drum scanning. Second, negatives have the ability to record considerably larger scene brightness ranges (SBRs) which means that you don't have to pass up shots that are too dynamic for the film you have with you at the time.

    All that said, there is nothing about this that means your shots should be less contemplated, filtration should be lax, or you should be lax about perspective control. Nothing about scanning indicates this. If anything, you should be even more rigorous in getting the best negative you can, because the old saw "garbage in -- garbage out" really is true when scanning. If you "hit all the numbers" on the negative the final print can just glow -- and that's the whole point of this exercise, isn't it?

    Bruce Watson

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Re: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I agree wholeheartedly with Bruce and some of the other posters here: get everything as nearly right as you possibly can "in camera" whether you are using colour, B&W, positive or negative film. Photoshop is a great tool, however there comes a time when, if you manipulate too much, what you are doing becomes "painting" rather than photography. I suspect that if that is what we intended then we would choose a more tactile interface than a mouse, or even a Wacom tablet!

    Similarly although perspective corrections can be made (after a fashion) in Photoshop they give rise to significant loss of data if they are large so why not just use your camera properly to start with?

    David Whistance

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I platinum print and carbon print, full frame...usually with no manipulation other than exposure and development choices with the negative and the papers and process choices of the alternative photo methods I use.

    For me, this is why I force myself to better see as the camera and processes see and relate that to the world in front of create a stronger image by using the "limitations" of straight printing. Certainly this is not the only way, nor the "best" way for everyone to approach photography...but it is my way. Which is why I have little interest in using PhotoShop or creating digital negatives for my artwork.

    Your way of working is perfectly valid...if for you, it keeps you moving forward. And that is something only you will know.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Re: Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor

    I actually find slides easier to scan than negatives. With negatives, I have trouble matching the digital file to the original color. With slides, adjustments are usually not required. When they are, I got the original slides to do color-matching.

    To me, slides have only advantages and no drawbacks that concern me. My metering technique is always perfect, so the smaller exposure latitude isn't a problem. I say, go with slides.

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