Thoughts on the perfect scan - is it that important?

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
Trevor Sowers
Trevor Sowers Senior Member • Posts: 1,129
Re: Thoughts on the perfect scan - is it that important?

Autonerd wrote:

I've read a lot of comments here about the best way to scan, reproducing true colors from the film, whether post-process color balancing is a good thing or not, etc., etc.

In reading all this, it occurred to me that something has been forgotten: The fact that, in the pre-digital days, color correction was, I believe, a part of the C41 color-printing process. IIRC, the machines did it (by operator or automatically? not sure) and I know we had that option available to us in the darkroom. (Though in my color print class, I don't remember doing it much, if at all.)

We mustn't forget, after all, that C41 negatives are as orange as an Oompa-Loompa.

Same for exposure -- there was so much latitude built into the films that your exposure and balance could be off by a stop or two and the prints still looked good and probably great. That's why 35mm point-n-shoot cameras became so popular -- you were almost guaranteed good results. Worlds better than disc or 110 or 126 (all of which I owned, albeit as a kid).

Same for B&W -- a not-quite-perfect exposure could be compensated for in the printing process. That's why we did test strips. Otherwise we'd just print everything at the same (enlarger) exposure.

Color slide was the exception, because what you shot is what you got. And even then we didn't necessarily want real-life accuracy. That's why we shot Fuji Velvia. What Paul Simon said about Kodakchrome was right: "Makes you think all the world's a sunny day."

To me, photography wasn't so much about how I saw the world as it was about how I saw it and wanted it to be seen.

So I have to wonder if this obsession with *exactly* reproducing film with our scans is really important, or if it's just the film analog (heh) to pixel-counting.

Recently I got some healthy negatives from a roll of FP4+ and thin negs from Arista Edu 200. My scanner produced beautiful scans from both of them. Thank you auto-exposure. At first I thought this was a cheat, but then I realized, no -- that's exactly what I would have done in the dark room. Test strip and pick the best exposure.

I want my B&W negatives to reflect what I shot, but I've had to ease up on myself about adjusting contrast and brightness -- things we could do in the darkroom with filters or different paper.

The point being negatives didn't have to be perfect (or perfectly printed) then and don't have to be perfect (or perfectly scanned) now. Except slides.

But I have a feeling that the quest for that perfect scan is the urge to avoid the manipulation inherent in digital. In digital anyone can dress up a crappy shot; in film you have to shoot just right. Except back in the days you *didn't* have to be totally right. You just couldn't be totally wrong. (Except slides!)

After all, isn't Photoshop merely the darkroom of the present? It just makes the process a crap-ton easier and faster. (Certainly too easy for me, and beyond contrast and brightness I don't bother.)

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my views are outdated. I understand some color print films are specifically made for scanning. So maybe they do need perfect reproduction.



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when I’m scanning negatives I’m just trying to make the best image I can get from the negative. When I’m scanning slides I’m trying to get a scan that looks like the original slide because the slide looks superior and it’s difficult to get a scan to do justice to the original

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