Wednesday, November 2, 2016

DSLR scanner - Part 3 - Photographing and Processing the Negatives

This is the final post in my DSLR scanning series. Part 1 looked at what you'll need, Part 2 was how to build the copy stand and Part 3 is how to photograph and process your negative.  There is quite a bit of explanation which may come across as daunting but once you have it down pat it's really simple and I found much much quicker than using my flatbed scanning method!

Part 3 is also based almost entirely off Michael Fraser's technique so, feel free to by pass this post and go directly to his. I will try and add my own spin and extra little things I picked up along the way but it's pretty clear without Michael's awesome brain this post wouldn't exist! 

Camera and film strip in place

So we left off in Part 2 with the camera screwed onto the middle beam (of the copy stand) and on the bottom, the film sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic sitting on top of a light.  I'm now going to walk you through the steps of photographing your negative frames.


01/ Flat Film.When I get my negatives processed at a local shop, I ask they don't cut the negatives up into strips.  I find it easier to photograph the film when it's one big strip and I can slide it through - it also mean you get less curling edges.  If they do slice your film, you can leave them wedged in between some heavy books to try and get your film as flat as possible before scanning.  You want flat film because you're digital camera is going to pick up any bends and that will effect how the overall image looks.

02/ Positioning the middle beam.  You want the negative frame to (almost) fill the DSLR screen. A tiny slither of surrounding unexposed film, is needed in post production to set correct white balance. I also found that sometimes my negative was not 100% straight in the photo and I only saw this once I got into Lightroom, so a bit of extra space around the negative lets you straighten with your crop in LR without loosing any of your photo. 

Tighten washer and wingnut in place when everything is level and correct height

03/ Everything Level.  Once you work out the correct distance of your camera to the negatives you also want to double check everything is level. Using a level, check your camera and film is both sitting evenly, you may need to adjust where the middle beam is sitting.  Once you have everything perfect, tighten the wingnuts on either side

04/ Get the focus perfect using manual focus on live view mode (if your camera has it). I personally found sandwiching a piece of black text on white paper in place of my negative strip easier to focus upon because of the contrast of the text :) Once you have your focus set and as long as nothing moves you shouldn't need to change it again 

05/ Settings for your camera (on Manual mode, shooting in RAW and camera on Auto WB) 

f stop / I played around with f stops on my camera to see which was the sharpest, I think this may vary from camera to camera and what lens set up you're using. I found by taking some text shots, ranging from 5.6 to 8 that f/6.3 was the sharpest – I just zoomed in to each shot and compared sharpness

ISO / Use your camera's lowest ISO for the lowest amount of grain - with my camera it's at 100 ISO 

Shutter / When you take your photo you want to check your histogram (a graph showing the pure whites and blacks in an image and all the tone's in between). You want this graph to sit more towards the right meaning it will be leaning more towards being overexposed but you don't want to clip the white - aka overexpose the photo to loose highlight details. You'll notice your photo is clipping when part of the graph hits one side. You also want to photograph your negatives in a dim room (which I'll explain next) so your shutter will subsequently be more on the longer time side. An extra thing you can do (if you don't mind spending a little more time with post processing) is to set your camera to bracket, so it will take three photos, one under-exposed, one at the set exposure and one overexposed - this will give you a range to play with in processing.

06/ A dim room, is helpful so you don't have any unwanted light reflections on top of your film.  I took my scans in a room with no lights on and the blinds drawn.  You could do it in a completely darken room but you would need a really long shutter time, where something could potentially interfere with your scan.

07/ Set your camera to 2 second timer mode.  The sturdy rig, everything level, flat film and your frame in focus, all are essential to having a sharp scan as well as using timer mode.  Timer mode simply helps to eliminates camera shake when you depress the shutter button.  If you have your camera set to do three-bracketing, when the shutter goes off it will take three photos.

Cotton gloves, blower and lens cloth

08/ Dust Removal. Make sure you get yourself a blower and blow each film before taking a photo of it.  Also remember to clean the glass on your lens and use gloves when handling film this also prevents scratches and oils.  Be careful not to get scratches on your piece of white acrylic either as this may show up in your scan.

Once you have photographed all the negatives frames it's time to import them into Lightroom.  In Lightroom, you'll be cropping and setting the correct white balance.

LIGHTROOM01/  Using the WB eye dropper click on some unexposed film.

image before using white balance dropper

image after using white balance dropper

02/  Set camera profile to neutral (you'll find this in the "camera calibration" section over on the right in developer mode - located towards the bottom)

setting camera profile to neutral

03/ Crop/straighten.  I've been shooting 120mm film in my pentax 6x7 so I set my crop to 4x5.

using the crop took
04/ Export your image, which will change your raw to a jpeg.

Now it's time to open each image in Photoshop


01/ Run Michael Fraser's “colour neg inversion” action, which you can download here


This action will invert your negative to a positive image

Inside the action is also a bunch of other things you can play around with

The image once run with Michael Fraser's action and the various steps within

Mask Correct
Click on the picture of levels next to the words "mask correct" which will open you up a level adjustment window, like below.

The level's window clicked open from mask correct

Then use the grey middle dropper and select the darkest area on the image (for this image I selected the black car tyre).  Doing this seems to give a fairly accurate base level and you can see it took away a lot of the blue hue cast.

adding a s-curve

Tone Curve
I like doing this next to set how bright I want my image and subsequently easier to spot any unwanted hues in the image.  You can see my s-curve above which adds a nice amount of contrast.  You may like more or less depending on your film look preferences.

above images shows manipulating the blue channel curve to correct colour

Tone Correction
Gives you a curve to further colour correct.  If you hit the drop down arrow, next to "auto" you can go into each individual colour  (red/green/blue) and move the curve line around

playing around with the channels for further colour corrections.

For this image, I also went back into mask correct and played a little bit further with the red/green/blue sliders until I was happy

02/ Rotate and an extra little crop if necessary. 

03/ Remove unwanted dust or scratches.  You can easily get rid of any dust/scratches by selecting the spot healing brush on "proximity match" (make sure you have selected your background layer) and then clicking where any imperfections are.

 Hey pretso - bob's your uncle, scan is done :)

Now, you may be thinking, how do I actually know/trust this scanning method is any good?  Well tomorrow, I'm back for a final wrap up post, where I'm going to show you comparison scans between a pro lab, my flat bed scanner and this DSLR scanning method - stay tuned!


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