35mm film scanning process.

Istanbul Harbour - August 2017

Following my past post, 'Which Film Lab', I'm now solely scanning my film at home once it's back from the film lab.

Here's my guide on how to scan developed film at home:

For this example, I'm scanning a roll of Kodak Portra 400 that I shot in Istanbul last week.

The equipment you'll need to scan your film:

  1. Film Scanner - I have an Epson V550 flatbed

  2. Computer and scanning software - I use a MacBook Pro and Epson Scan

  3. Cotton gloves - to stop fingerprints from getting onto the negatives and tarnishing them

  4. Air blower - for getting all specs of dust off of your flatbed's glass and film negatives

  5. Film negatives

 Film scanning equipment

Film scanning equipment

To get my negatives scanned in, I put the cotton gloves on, make sure the glass is clean, then put the the negative holder onto the flatbed glass, then place the negatives face down into the holder. To get the best scans, the matte side of the negatives should be facing upwards. 

Once secured by the holders lid, I close the lid of the scanner, turn it on, then boot up Epson Scan - the free scanning software that came with my scanner.

 Negatives secured into scanner

Negatives secured into scanner

Once booted up, you'll be presented with this window; there are a few different modes you can scan in, but for this example, and out of preference, I'll be scanning in 'Professional Mode'. I also select 'Film' in 'Document Type', and as I'm working with colour film today, I chose 'Color Negative Film' in the 'Film Type' selector.

 Epson Scan - Main Window

Epson Scan - Main Window

This window has a fair selection of scan options - I use the 24-bit colour file mode, set the resolution to 2000 dpi and turn off grain reduction, colour restoration, back-light correction and dust removal. It's worth mentioning that I have my display gamma set to 1.8. All curves and adjustment sliders and left to default.

From here, you'll want to hit 'Preview', to get low resolution previews scanned and loaded.

 Epson Scan - Preview Window

Epson Scan - Preview Window

Now that the negatives are in the 'Preview' window, I click into each frame checking overall quality, colour balance or anything else that seems off; there are a load of different edit options on Epson Scan - such as rotation, clipping, curves, colour balance, and levels, but unless any of the individual previews are upside down, under/ overexposed, or if the colour balance is way off, I tend to go straight to Scan. 

I treat my scanning like I would a RAW file out of a digital camera; The flatter, the better for editing later on! 

On the Scan settings I choose an file to export to, an image prefix, set the format to JPEG (out of preference), then I hit 'OK' to start the scanning.

 Epson Scan - File Save Settings

Epson Scan - File Save Settings

One they've been scanned out of Epson Scan, I import them into LightRoom. As we can see, it's looking pretty good, albeit a little bit flat and lacking character.

 LightRoom - Image Imported

LightRoom - Image Imported

To get the colours looking a more true to the Portra colour profile, I'm going to do some non-destructive editing. For this I go into 'Develop', hit 'Auto' on the White Balance, adjusted to what the light was like from memory (Golden Hour at 7PM) and added 15 points of Contrast - removing the flat look and finishing the colour work off.

 LightRoom - Tweaks Applied

LightRoom - Tweaks Applied

The final step is to open the image in Photoshop, remove any dust or rogue hairs, then re-import it to LightRoom, and we're done! 

Comparing where started on, with a pretty flat image, with the finished photo below - I can see a good improvement from where I started and I'm happy with how it looks.

 Finished Photo

Finished Photo

In a nutshell:

  • Scanned photos on Epson Scan

  • Put straight into LightRoom, then:

    • White Balance - Auto

    • White Balance - Tweaked by eye after auto

    • Contrast - Raised to add depth

    • Photoshop - Exported as JPEG, then removed dust

    • LightRoom - Imported and done

Another concideration is that as we scanned at 2000 dpi, the image size is now natively at 2766x1733px and 300 dpi, which covers 90% of my needs to publish online, via my website and Instagram; At this size I can also print this up A3 at 300 dpi, so is a massive bonus for the size scanned. 

So there we have it, a quick way of scanning in each photo and turning it around to a lab quality photo, with minimal effect and maximum quality. Now to scan in the next 6 rolls!