Getting the most accurate color in scans of old documents, photographs, etc.

Started Aug 10, 2022 | Questions thread
momotus Contributing Member • Posts: 544
Re: Getting the most accurate color in scans of old documents, photographs, etc.

I'm confused. Are you just trying to calibrate the scanner, or your entire workflow?

Most of the X-rite Color Checker type solutions are reflective targets, meant to be imaged with your camera. That is, the color response of your imaging device is part of the workflow.

If you only want to calibrate your film scanner, you will have to use a 35mm transparency or film, which has a reference image on it. This means that the color characteristics of the film itself are already baked in. These are commercially available, but are subject to aging color shifts, just like any photograph. Also, they are not cheap.

I think that people who are serious about a color managed workflow for film have a different set of calibration LUTs for each film stock they use, and each light source.

If you just want to take a photo of a color chart and color manage that through your scanner, make sure you take the (film) photo with a CRI 95 or better light source. CRI 99 would be great, but very hard to create in the real world. Without using a high quality light source, the whole exercise is a waste of time.

I recommend reading one or more of the books out there regarding Color Management. I like "Understanding Color Management" by Abhey Sharma. I also have a couple others on my bookshelf.

Also, pay close attention to your chosen color space. Are you working in sRGB? AdobeRGB? etc... Having the wrong color space somewhere through your workflow can cause unexpected problems.

Color Management can be a real challenge. Besides your camera and scanner, there are also your monitors, printers, and other display devices. If you are aiming at web content, your workflow is different than if you are making physical prints.

The other way to go is just don't worry about it. Choose a good scanner, set it up with a wide gamut color space, and save your images in RAW. Yes, this is just deferring color management, but the information will be saved in a way that it can be manipulated as you wish, later.

Have fun with your project!

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