Thoughts on the perfect scan - is it that important?

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
citizenlouie Senior Member • Posts: 1,140
Re: Thoughts on the perfect scan - is it that important?

Roman Verton wrote:

Actually, much depends on what you one calls a perfect scan.

And as you may know different films produce different colors. That is a pleasing diversity for photographers that love shooting film.

So, what I was looking for - best way to retain as much of the film image original colors as possible. Because that's what I like about film images. Special colors and special mood and accent they deliver. The main problem is to get rid of the film negatives tint without loosing much of the other color information.

I use a DSLR with macrolens and adapter to scan. It is not a specialized scanner but it gives you the flexibility and quality of raw files. In that respect it is important to make things right at a scanning (or digitizing) stage.

It took quite some time for me to figure out my workflow on all stages of the process. Luckily, a lot of information and advice is available on the net. Some useful threads are present on this forum.

Can I call my scans perfect? I do not know. I just know that the results I now get are quite satisfactory to me.

I am very glad this thread opens up some civil conversations about different photographers' needs. I should added in my post in response to OP that is purely from B&W scan's PoV. I don't scan color negatives as I already stated in another thread. I find that process very difficult but glad you share your workflow for those who do have an aspiration to do it on their own (which is the purpose of the Internet, isn't it? To democratize knowledge).

I also scan my negatives with my digital camera nowadays, as I found that's enough resolution. Some photos were shot beautiful enough to begin with, so I do want to show every grain (and that's how I figure out in the process while scanning, to focus on the grains for a perfect scan). Even if it's not a piece of art by critic's standard, at least a scan with enough detail to show my progress and maturity as a photographer (learning is a life long journey, btw).

This topic obviously affected me enough, I was laying on bed this morning remembering why I care about quality of my prints so much. It was a Cindy Sherman exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Long story short, I read the exhibit catalogue during slacking time in queue (because I miscalculated museum opening hours and museum store opened one hour early). I was grossed out by what was in the catalogue but I went to the exhibit anyways. While I still don't like those few photos with prosthetic genitals (though I can appreciate them why those photos were picked), but one photo stood out. It was a 10-foot tall selfie (Cindy Sherman is famous for her selfies from 70s and 80s before selfie was a thing). As normal for me (maybe not normal for most), I went to check the the print to see the craftsmanship of the artist a few inches from it (or as close as I could legally). That print has to be made from at least Medium Format, as it is not pixelated or filled with noises.

Think about it. You can't do an enlargement print that large and artifact-free (and without sacrificing sharpness if you used noise reduction) if you didn't do your job right as a photographer to begin with. Lighting and other set ups must be perfect. That photo alone was worth the price of museum admission as it is such a revelation that cannot be shown (I am guessing 8"x11.5" size) press print catalogue (and I am glad I didn't judge the exhibit by its catalogue). If the print was blurry, it's extremely difficult to see the photographer's excellence in technical skill. As mentioned before digitizing (i.e., scanning) is often the weakest link in the workflow for a film photo for me. If that's done wrong, it's going to be a blurry print.

That exhibit really made me sigh also. You are FAR MORE likely to see this type of craftsmanship from artists from decades back than today, even with us endowed with much more advanced equipments. Think about it.... I do visit museum a lot so I do have large enough sample size to draw such conclusion. It makes me think about the lack of work ethic of my contemporaries. I get it, modern artists are selling concepts, not the quality of their medium (and many don't even execute their own artworks). However, don't you want to present your work at its best, rather than showing me in plain sight, "how to get rich without putting any amount of work" that's so rampant in the society today? It made me feel if I were a dying breed of photographer. So thank you for making me feel there are still people care about arts. And also there is a desire to keep the spirit of the Internet alive (which is to make everyone a better human being by sharing diverse viewpoints).

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