Photographing old negatives / workflow

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PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Photographing old negatives / workflow
1

Moderator: Let me know where this belongs if not here. I looked but couldn’t find a topic area that seemed a better fit.

I have something like 4,000 old negatives and slides to digitize in formats from 126 Instamatic to 2-1/2”x4-1/4”. I plan to photograph these using my Z7, Nikkor 60mm Micro, and a negative stage I built myself. I’m not interested in using a scanner for this.

Best practices? My current plan:

  • Create custom picture controls for each emulsion type so I can see positives in camera before I even fire the shutter. That way I can just not photograph ones that don’t look interesting.
  • I use Affinity for editing so plan to shoot RAW, save to disk and then use View-NXi to bulk convert to TIFF before tweaking those I’m interested in. That way I don’t have to re-process the RAW files again in Affinity.
  • I’d like to connect my camera to PC to preview and maybe save direct to disk. Looks like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for this but wonder if it provides the flexibility I know I will want. In particular:
  • - If I know an image should be vertical, I’d like to indicate that so the original is flagged that way.
  • - Auto dust and scratch healing?

Has anyone here done this, and have advice?

Thanks.

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NCV
NCV Forum Pro • Posts: 11,703
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
9

PLShutterbug wrote:

Moderator: Let me know where this belongs if not here. I looked but couldn’t find a topic area that seemed a better fit.

I have something like 4,000 old negatives and slides to digitize in formats from 126 Instamatic to 2-1/2”x4-1/4”. I plan to photograph these using my Z7, Nikkor 60mm Micro, and a negative stage I built myself. I’m not interested in using a scanner for this.

Best practices? My current plan:

  • Create custom picture controls for each emulsion type so I can see positives in camera before I even fire the shutter. That way I can just not photograph ones that don’t look interesting.
  • I use Affinity for editing so plan to shoot RAW, save to disk and then use View-NXi to bulk convert to TIFF before tweaking those I’m interested in. That way I don’t have to re-process the RAW files again in Affinity.
  • I’d like to connect my camera to PC to preview and maybe save direct to disk. Looks like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for this but wonder if it provides the flexibility I know I will want. In particular:
  • - If I know an image should be vertical, I’d like to indicate that so the original is flagged that way.
  • - Auto dust and scratch healing?

Has anyone here done this, and have advice?

Thanks.

Yes, I have done this, not with my Z7, but with my D810 because the autofocus does not work on the Z7 with my 60mm Macro.

I wanted to start digitizing my old jazz and performing arts archive.

I have also reproduced the stuff I took on my first continentale trips back when I was in my 20's.

With the jazz archive, I started by reproducing  what I had printed back in the day, but I found it was quicker just to photograph whole concerts leaving out the stuff that was obviously not worth reproducing. I could then look with more calm at what was worth processing.  I found an awful  lot of things I had missed the first time around, so it is worth reproducing as much as you can.

It is interesting, that what I wanted and, what I thought were good shots has changed with time and maturity. Things I dismissed back, then were not the failures I thought them to be.

My reproduction rig is a custom made aluminium base holding a neg ot transparency holder form my old enlarger. For negatives the process of copying is very fast as the negatives slide through the film holder.

I processed in DXO doing a batch BW negative profile. I removed dust with a blower as I did in the darkroom and the spotting out was done in post with healing.

I have found that with modern software I can drag a lot of stuff out of those negatives that was almost impossible in the darkroom.

Here is an Ebook I made of my Jazz shots.

Joe Henderson

Pat Metheny

A- ha

Ian Anderson

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JohnXTanner Forum Member • Posts: 61
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

I use an Ohnar slide copier and Adobe s/w, so mostly different from you.

But some points apply to both of us.

  1. It may be obvious, but turn off IS/VR in the camera. Not necessary here.
  2. What light source will you use? The Ohnar device is effectively quite a small aperture, so I still have exposures in seconds even when using a bright LED as the source (I worry slightly about the white balance of this source, but not enough to do anything about it).
  3. Kodachrome produces some quite odd colours - this may relate to the point above.
  4. My old slides and negatives tend to be quite dirty. You might want to consider cleaning them first. (Some scanners used infra-red light to detect dirt, I think, but the rephotographing approach won't have this).
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Padrow New Member • Posts: 17
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

I've been using my Z6 with an old mf 55mm micro Nikkor on a Berkey enlarger column with the colour head as the light source. This allows for me to dial in colour if I want. I've upped the ISO to perhaps 1200 allowing an aperture of F8 and shutter about 1/60th.

I haven't found how to reverse the image in the Z6 before taking it, but that'd be very useful. Originally I tried an LED source but found the colours too difficult to put right in post.

LarsHP
LarsHP Regular Member • Posts: 285
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

PLShutterbug wrote:

Moderator: Let me know where this belongs if not here. I looked but couldn’t find a topic area that seemed a better fit.

I have something like 4,000 old negatives and slides to digitize in formats from 126 Instamatic to 2-1/2”x4-1/4”. I plan to photograph these using my Z7, Nikkor 60mm Micro, and a negative stage I built myself. I’m not interested in using a scanner for this.

Best practices? My current plan:

  • Create custom picture controls for each emulsion type so I can see positives in camera before I even fire the shutter. That way I can just not photograph ones that don’t look interesting.
  • I use Affinity for editing so plan to shoot RAW, save to disk and then use View-NXi to bulk convert to TIFF before tweaking those I’m interested in. That way I don’t have to re-process the RAW files again in Affinity.
  • I’d like to connect my camera to PC to preview and maybe save direct to disk. Looks like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for this but wonder if it provides the flexibility I know I will want. In particular:
  • - If I know an image should be vertical, I’d like to indicate that so the original is flagged that way.
  • - Auto dust and scratch healing?

Has anyone here done this, and have advice?

Thanks.

For slides and B&W negatives, it's relatively straight forward.

For color negatives, I started out making a custom profile in Adobe Camera Raw that I fine-tuned, fine-tuned and fine-tuned. In short, my experience told me that it was a lot of work and the profile was semi-useful at best to other negative types. You plan to make profiles for each "emulsion type", but for negatives that might end up with a profile for each film type (Fujicolor 100, Kodacolor 400 etc. etc.).

In the end, I have found out that getting acceptable colors from negatives is so difficult, that I will recommend paying for a plug-in software specifically made for this. This means either something like Negative Lab (which unfortunately works as a Lightroom plug-in only) or a scanner software that will let you convert from TIFF. Since I have some medium format negatives and a few large format images, I ended up buying a flatbed scanner for those and for 24x26mm color negatives that were too difficult for me to get the colors right. Resolution is not as good with the scanner, but colors are much better.

 LarsHP's gear list:LarsHP's gear list
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NCV
NCV Forum Pro • Posts: 11,703
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

Padrow wrote:

I've been using my Z6 with an old mf 55mm micro Nikkor on a Berkey enlarger column with the colour head as the light source. This allows for me to dial in colour if I want. I've upped the ISO to perhaps 1200 allowing an aperture of F8 and shutter about 1/60th.

I haven't found how to reverse the image in the Z6 before taking it, but that'd be very useful. Originally I tried an LED source but found the colours too difficult to put right in post.

Hey this is something I have not thought of.

Just one thing how do you see the illuminated image. This is something I want to explore with my old LPL 7700

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Padrow New Member • Posts: 17
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

NCV wrote:

Padrow wrote:

I've been using my Z6 with an old mf 55mm micro Nikkor on a Berkey enlarger column with the colour head as the light source. This allows for me to dial in colour if I want. I've upped the ISO to perhaps 1200 allowing an aperture of F8 and shutter about 1/60th.

I haven't found how to reverse the image in the Z6 before taking it, but that'd be very useful. Originally I tried an LED source but found the colours too difficult to put right in post.

Hey this is something I have not thought of.

Just one thing how do you see the illuminated image.

As per normal on the screen, but as a negative (at the moment).

Focus is critical, so I zoom-in at full magnification and with the lens at F2.8 - tweak it using a fine screw thread on a macro focusing slide rail. Then drop the aperture down.

commiebiker Senior Member • Posts: 2,582
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
2

That's a great historical archive

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michaeladawson Forum Pro • Posts: 14,895
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
1

I would second the use of 3rd party software for color negative conversion.  If it's a photography science experiment and hobby feel free to develop your own process and profiles.  I suppose it could be a fun project if that's your type of thing.  If the goal is to convert negatives then I think 3rd party software is the way to go.

I have tested out Negative Lab Pro and I think it is very good.  I haven't gotten up the energy to start my full scale conversion process yet.  VueScan is also pretty good and it's not just for scanners, as the name might imply.  It goes without saying that the light source used for the negative capture is the first step in getting good conversions.

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Mike Dawson

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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

Thanks for responding.

I created a custom picture control with the Picture Control Utility, and reversed the tone curve. That switched the image from negative to positive.

You have to start with the “Neutral” built-in PC in order to access the tone curve customizations.

The one thing I can’t seem to get yet is how to change the colors to eliminate the orange cast (shows up as cyan in positives). The utility doesn’t provide individual tone adjustments for each color channel - at least I cannot find them. But there must be some way to do this because Nikon had to do it to create all the wacky profiles they include.

But at least that gives me a positive image so it’s easier to identify people in preview.

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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

JohnXTanner wrote:

I use an Ohnar slide copier and Adobe s/w, so mostly different from you.

But some points apply to both of us.

  1. It may be obvious, but turn off IS/VR in the camera. Not necessary here.

Good point. I almost always forget to do that when shooting from a tripod ...

  1. What light source will you use? The Ohnar device is effectively quite a small aperture, so I still have exposures in seconds even when using a bright LED as the source (I worry slightly about the white balance of this source, but not enough to do anything about it).

I ordered an LED “conferencing” light. The first one was only 2-1/2” square so too small. I just ordered a larger one. One thing I forgot with my original design is the need for a diffuser. I’m looking for a couple of one-gallon translucent-white milk jugs to use to build that.

  1. Kodachrome produces some quite odd colours - this may relate to the point above.
  2. My old slides and negatives tend to be quite dirty. You might want to consider cleaning them first. (Some scanners used infra-red light to detect dirt, I think, but the rephotographing approach won't have this).

Yes, I have seen that in a prior project. I hesitate to put any liquid on the negatives - at least the color negatives - so I will probably end up doing a lot of healing in post.

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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

LarsHP wrote:

PLShutterbug wrote:

Moderator: Let me know where this belongs if not here. I looked but couldn’t find a topic area that seemed a better fit.

I have something like 4,000 old negatives and slides to digitize in formats from 126 Instamatic to 2-1/2”x4-1/4”. I plan to photograph these using my Z7, Nikkor 60mm Micro, and a negative stage I built myself. I’m not interested in using a scanner for this.

Best practices? My current plan:

  • Create custom picture controls for each emulsion type so I can see positives in camera before I even fire the shutter. That way I can just not photograph ones that don’t look interesting.
  • I use Affinity for editing so plan to shoot RAW, save to disk and then use View-NXi to bulk convert to TIFF before tweaking those I’m interested in. That way I don’t have to re-process the RAW files again in Affinity.
  • I’d like to connect my camera to PC to preview and maybe save direct to disk. Looks like Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 for this but wonder if it provides the flexibility I know I will want. In particular:
  • - If I know an image should be vertical, I’d like to indicate that so the original is flagged that way.
  • - Auto dust and scratch healing?

Has anyone here done this, and have advice?

Thanks.

For slides and B&W negatives, it's relatively straight forward.

For color negatives, I started out making a custom profile in Adobe Camera Raw that I fine-tuned, fine-tuned and fine-tuned. In short, my experience told me that it was a lot of work and the profile was semi-useful at best to other negative types. You plan to make profiles for each "emulsion type", but for negatives that might end up with a profile for each film type (Fuji-color 100, Kodacolor 400 etc. etc.).

You and I are talking about the same thing. Kodacolor, Fujicolor, Vericolor, etc. all have slightly different masks. I realize this won’t be easy ...

In the end, I have found out that getting acceptable colors from negatives is so difficult, that I will recommend paying for a plug-in software specifically made for this. This means either something like Negative Lab (which unfortunately works as a Lightroom plug-in only) or a scanner software that will let you convert from TIFF. Since I have some medium format negatives and a few large format images, I ended up buying a flatbed scanner for those and for 24x26mm color negatives that were too difficult for me to get the colors right. Resolution is not as good with the scanner, but colors are much better.

 PLShutterbug's gear list:PLShutterbug's gear list
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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

michaeladawson wrote:

I would second the use of 3rd party software for color negative conversion. If it's a photography science experiment and hobby feel free to develop your own process and profiles. I suppose it could be a fun project if that's your type of thing. If the goal is to convert negatives then I think 3rd party software is the way to go.

I have tested out Negative Lab Pro and I think it is very good. I haven't gotten up the energy to start my full scale conversion process yet. VueScan is also pretty good and it's not just for scanners, as the name might imply. It goes without saying that the light source used for the negative capture is the first step in getting good conversions.

Thanks, Michael. I may have to decide to move to Adobe. I will continue looking for the moment. Fortunately most of my archive is shot on Vericolor so if I can find a good balance it should work for my needs.

I will use an LED light panel and a diffuser as a light source.

As I complete my setup I will post images.

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jch2103B Contributing Member • Posts: 674
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
1

LarsHP wrote:

In the end, I have found out that getting acceptable colors from negatives is so difficult, that I will recommend paying for a plug-in software specifically made for this. This means either something like Negative Lab (which unfortunately works as a Lightroom plug-in only) or a scanner software that will let you convert from TIFF.

Negative Lab Pro https://www.negativelabpro.com/ works well, but as noted there's a price and it requires LR.

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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

I looked on the VueScan site this morning, didn’t find an answer I needed so wrote to Support, and Ed (owner) already responded with good instructions.

I will download his trial later in the week once I figure out my lighting situation and will probably buy it.

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michaeladawson Forum Pro • Posts: 14,895
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
1

PLShutterbug wrote:

I looked on the VueScan site this morning, didn’t find an answer I needed so wrote to Support, and Ed (owner) already responded with good instructions.

I will download his trial later in the week once I figure out my lighting situation and will probably buy it.

ViewScan is good.  I used it for many years with dedicated scanners.  The ability to convert raw files from negative captures is a nice feature.  It also comes with a lot of different film profiles, although I'm not sure how accurate they are.

One of the fortunate things about scanning in old negatives is that you really have no idea what they're supposed to look like.  You can't really use old prints as a target as the color has probably changed.  Especially the standard 3.5x5.5 lab prints.  So you can really just shoot for a color balance you find pleasing.

I've even converted recent color negatives and I still can't reproduce exactly the print colors that came from the lab.  But who says the lab was right.

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Mike Dawson

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olyflyer
olyflyer Forum Pro • Posts: 27,227
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

For color slides and negatives a scanner is the best in my opinion. I have a flatbed with back-lit film scanning function for fast scanning and larger than 35mm films and have a film scanner for 35mm and smaller formats. It is in my opinion faster than taking pictures of slides and negatives and editing them to get the right color. I use Vuescan with the scanners. It is an excellent software, been using it for many years.

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OP PLShutterbug Contributing Member • Posts: 823
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

michaeladawson wrote:

PLShutterbug wrote:

I looked on the VueScan site this morning, didn’t find an answer I needed so wrote to Support, and Ed (owner) already responded with good instructions.

I will download his trial later in the week once I figure out my lighting situation and will probably buy it.

ViewScan is good. I used it for many years with dedicated scanners. The ability to convert raw files from negative captures is a nice feature. It also comes with a lot of different film profiles, although I'm not sure how accurate they are.

One of the fortunate things about scanning in old negatives is that you really have no idea what they're supposed to look like. You can't really use old prints as a target as the color has probably changed. Especially the standard 3.5x5.5 lab prints. So you can really just shoot for a color balance you find pleasing.

I've even converted recent color negatives and I still can't reproduce exactly the print colors that came from the lab. But who says the lab was right.

Speaking of not knowing what the colors need to look like ...

Two of the negatives I need to scan are from my parents’ wedding in 1951. I have seen black and white prints of these but when my sister told me she had found negatives and then gave them to me yesterday, to my surprise they are color! They are a strange image size: 2-1/2” x 4-1/4”. I can’t find any reference to the film type. On the top edge it says “Kodak Safety Film 531903”. I know what “safety film” means but my search results on that emulsion number come up empty.

I need to do further research ... somewhere.

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frankjoke Regular Member • Posts: 349
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow
1

I did converted thousands of my old negatives because I had all negatives reserved.

I photographed them with a macro lens on my D850 where I used a flash at the back of the negative in RAW format.

On my DXO RAW converter I reversed the RGB tones which led to real colors instead the negative ones.

The good side was that I could user white balance (with pipette or settings) after that which means I corrected most of the color problems.

I tried before same with LR but it was not so easy to get good results results, but I anyhow do not user LR for RAW conversion because DXO generates better results (for me, I user LR only for import and face detection!).

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Greetings
Franz with Z7 + Irix, Tamron, Nikon F and Z lenses.

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Tin WS New Member • Posts: 9
Re: Photographing old negatives / workflow

frankjoke wrote:

I did converted thousands of my old negatives because I had all negatives reserved.

I photographed them with a macro lens on my D850 where I used a flash at the back of the negative in RAW format.

On my DXO RAW converter I reversed the RGB tones which led to real colors instead the negative ones.

The good side was that I could user white balance (with pipette or settings) after that which means I corrected most of the color problems.

I tried before same with LR but it was not so easy to get good results results, but I anyhow do not user LR for RAW conversion because DXO generates better results (for me, I user LR only for import and face detection!).

Would you please elaborate what do you actually do to "reverse the RGB tones" in DxO Photolab 4?

Thanks,

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