The usual approach to home scanning negatives is to use a specialist film scanner or perhaps a flatbed scanner. These can give good results, and I’ve used a flatbed in the past to scan some of my old film stock. The images below are a test of a different technique. The shot itself is an old medium format image I took in the Dolomites. Instead of a scanner, I’ve used a DSLR to “scan” the images. ie pointed my Canon 5D Mk II at a backlit negative and took a photo. One of the key advantages for me of this approach is that the image you get is a RAW file, which means you can then apply all the familiar post processing techniques used on digital shots. In my case the image was processed in Adobe Lightroom 4.

The first image is pretty much straight out of the camera. Interestingly, the auto white balance on the camera has removed pretty much all of the negative’s orange cast. I was expecting to have to do this in LR4, but was pleasantly surprised when the camera (or was LR4?), did it for me.

Mountain Hut 1

The next image is after removing the negative effect and then working on the image to put some punch back into it. I’ve kept the image a little blue and washed out though to give an effect of an old 70s photo. One thing that is really apparent in this image is the amount of dust and other debris on the negative. Most modern scanners have software to reduce this sort of thing (called Digital ICE for example), but not with this approach. A bit of negative cleaning before the scan followed by some spotting in LR4 looks like my only option with this approach.

Mountain Hut 2

This final image is is the colour image above converted to black and white and then slightly toned.

Mountain Hut 3

Overall I’m very happy with the results of this test. Happy to the point that I might try this approach going forward on my film work.

By the way, in a later post I’ll explain my scanning “set-up” and how to do the processing in LR4.

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