I was originally going to divide these workflow posts into digital vs film, but then realised that as I’m not going to write about the actual film processing it might be a bit misleading. Instead this is really about the differences between RAW output from a camera and the output from a scanner. The source material in the latter case is almost irrelevant – once scanned it is just as digital as the output from my EOS 20D.
But to start with the scanning itself, for anything I really care about I’ll scan the original as a 16-bit image (i.e. 16-bit grayscale or 48-bit colour). I used to scan at 1600dpi or 3200dpi for anything I thought was really special, but since the V500 for some reason only supports 1200, 2400 or 3200, I scan at 2400dpi now. Then I immediately save the file as a .psd and treat that as the “RAW”. I’ve got my own file naming convention to keep track of which film a particular scan comes from, but I won’t go into that here.
Then before any editing of the image I set the image meta-data using exiftool. I set the camera make and model, exposure details (f-number, shutter speed, film ISO) and focal length. Once that’s done, I can open up Bridge and add other meta-data for copyright and keywords. After that I open files in Photoshop for editing.
First up is usually dust removal. However much I clean the scan platter and the film, there’s always some that makes it into the image. Here I find my Wacom tablet very useful – it’s much easier to use for both dotting out single specks or accurately tracing more complicated bits of fluff than a mouse.
Then curves – the new scanner’s control panel does a much better job of scanning the full range of the original negative/positive, but the tone curve it uses it sometimes not ideal, so some gentle adjustments are required. The image is then saved as a TIFF, before conversion to JPEG for upload.
On writing this it seems to me that fewer steps are required than for images from a digital original. This makes some sense for monochrome film (which is the majority of my film shooting) but even for colour originals I rarely do more than dust removal and curve adjustments. I’m not sure if this is down to the inherent properties of the films I choose to use, some deficiency in the combination of sensor and processor in the digital camera, or perhaps the fact that my taste aligns more closely with the average output from film, rather than that from a sensor so I have less work to do to get it how I like it.