My Film Scanning Workflow

As of this blog entry, my portfolio contains 23 images. All were shot on film using a Canon AE-1 camera as old as I am. As I wrote in my first blog entry, I'm not anti-digital. In fact, I'm soon to have my very own Canon DSLR.

In any case, I'd like to share my scanning process and hope that it helps someone with a collection of negatives and/or slides who's looking to put them to use.

For starters, it helps to use the lowest ISO film possible, with very low grain.

The following 2 images on the right (2 of my first sales!) were shot on Fuji Superia 100 print film.

And the shot of Kyoto Station was shot using a release cable. I think I timed the exposure at about 5 seconds.

And the following image on the left was shot on Fuji REALA ACE 100 print film:

The above shots were scanned on an Epson PM-A750 all-in-one flatbed scanner using the Epson Scan utility. Most of my images were scanned on an Epson Perfection 2400 flatbed scanner. I normally use the default settings and then choose the low setting for dust removal. On the above shots, I also used the low setting on noise reduction. It worked, but I prefer to do that in Photoshop. Using the scan utility usually overdoes any tweaking. It's better to do it manually and maintain some control in Photoshop. (I use Photoshop Elements, by the way. It's the stripped down cheaper version. It suits me fine, but eventually I'd like to look into Aperture. - Anyone use Aperture?)

I scan at 2400dpi, target size: original - 35mm. Anything less will not give you images big enough to be accepted. You can go bigger, but you'll greatly increase the file size. I save as TIFFs. Each image takes up roughly 20MB of space.

In Photoshop Elements, I adjust the color levels. Many times, Auto Levels does the trick. Then I tweak it a tiny bit with "Color Variations".

If need be, I apply a "Dust & Scratches" or "Reduce Noise" filter to get rid of, well, dust and scratches and noise.

Many times I have to clean up the image before any filters with the Clone Stamp Tool. In the scanning process, if there's a hair or dust, then there will be small "holes" in the image, or a long scratch. These are fixed with the Clone Stamp Tool. The Clone Stamp Tool is my good friend, and sometimes my enemy. It's very tedious.

Another problem that often occurs is small pixelated areas. Especially in "busy" areas of an image such as running water or trees. If there's too much of this, then I don't bother.

After all this, using File Info, I embed all of my keywords, description and title. Then I save as jpg. And upload.

Keep in mind, if an image has too much noise or scratches or pixelated areas, it may not be worth the time. For stock purposes, I started with my cleanest images and have worked up the tedium scale. I think I have some images that are much better images, but are not worth the time it'll take to clean up all the pixelation and noise.

I've used this process for a few years now, and I've done freelance photography work before using this process. I must say that I am greatly looking forward to that DSLR and cutting out much expense and time!

Photo credits: Reeddaigle.

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May 29, 2009


Amyemilia........... I definitely use the Coolscan for slides. Like you, I have ended up w/ many old slides from my family & the Coolscan does a great job - it has separate settings for Kodachrome & other slide film. It also does great on negatives......... I would recommend it.

March 26, 2009


   Clown time   
As someone who has thousands of 35mm slides & negative strips, I have had good success w/ the Nikon Coolscan 5000ED for high-quality digital results. An example of a negative is attached. It also includes corrective software if you choose to use, but everything ends up going thru Photoshop anyway.

Good luck!

I am glad to see a note about the Coolscan 5000ED. I've thought about purchasing this for quite a while, to handle my own film library as well as my father's and grandfather's EXTENSIVE negative and slide collection. Can you tell me if you've done slides?

March 26, 2009


Thanks for your replies. And the advice, though I think I'll stick with the flatbed since I've gone digital. If I were still shooting film regularly, I would definitely look into a much better scanner.

March 20, 2009


   Clown time   
As someone who has thousands of 35mm slides & negative strips, I have had good success w/ the Nikon Coolscan 5000ED for high-quality digital results. An example of a negative is attached. It also includes corrective software if you choose to use, but everything ends up going thru Photoshop anyway.

Good luck!

February 28, 2009


I found that Elemets work in 8-bit space. It will not give you decent results. The 8-bit output is ok, but if you adjust contrast etc. it destroys your image.

No flame, but throw elements or gimp out of your window.

I believe you can easily scan and upload your photos, and et better results than from current middle-range digital, but you need to use good film scanner (not flatbed for God's sake!) 16 bit per channel workflow and decent scanning.

I could not get good results with flatbed even with 6x9 or 6x6, I do not even touch 35mm

January 05, 2009


It seems as though this article has made into the "useful articles" section. Thanks to all of you who read it. I'm glad it could be useful to someone.

December 23, 2008


Yeah, its better to get a DSLR as this saves loads of time, well I dont use Aperture, but use photoshop CS3 and various commercial plug ins which saves lots of time, anyways i like your portfolio.

December 22, 2008


Hi Reed, I am too an avid fan of decent print and slide film mediums and have tried submitting various of my scanned images from my own stock with not much success, as you mention in your blog does hold true, there are just some images that are not worth the time or effort to try and restore to a level that the images will be accepted. I have 2 of my 35mm prints online and the amount of work that went into getting them there makes me glad that I have converted to DSLR format, although I do feel that my portfolio may be extensively improved with some of the images I already have in my print and slide portfolio, but that said, it has given me plenty oppertunity to experiment with the digital side of photography, which is virtually limitless in comparison. Keep it up though, 4 sales already in a short time is a great start...

December 22, 2008


What DSLR did you decide to go with?

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