Scanning is something I’ve always hated. When I first started shooting film I had the idea that unlike digital raw files, what I captured wouldn’t need much manipulation. I thought I could shoot freely knowing I’d get a lifelike representation of what I saw through the viewfinder. This was wrong, very wrong. First of all, color negative film has always required manipulation. Before Lightroom, photographers used a filters in the darkroom to change color temperature and contrast. The idea of not editing your photos sounds nice, but in reality, it doesn’t work. 

Two years ago, when I first started using film, I  purchased Negative Lab Pro. I liked it enough. It was easy to use. I read countless reviews, watched people use it on YouTube, and saw people praising it on the Facebook group. I bought it and used it for two years and it was always . . . fine, but it never worked great for me. I’m was sure this was due to user error, so I tried everything. I tried scanning on my Epson v600 as Tiffs and .DNG raws. The photos were fine, but always felt off to me. Something about the contrast seemed unnatural and the colors never looked how I wanted them. I ended up doing a ton of work in post before I was happy with my scans. 

I thought it might be the scanning, especially for 35mm. So I purchased a Minolta Scan Dual III and used that for a while. The results still didn’t blow me away. Everyone on the Facebook group seemed to be having great results, but I was left craving a new workflow.

My lack of enthusiasm for my scans didn’t change with the new scanner, but I continued trying it for about a year. Doing heavy edits to color balance and contrast.

Finally, I thought camera scanning might give me the results I was looking for. I bought a Minolta bellows and a Hoya enlarger lens that I adapted to a Minolta MD mount. This gave me the best results yet. The scans were sharper than I ever imagined, but the colors and contrast still bothered me.

I stumbled upon another software designed to invert negative scans. Negmaster. I bought the software and joined the Facebook* group.

*It might be worth mentioning that this is not an ad for Facebook or Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce. I’ve brought up Facebook several times now and would like to clarify that Facebook is terrible and Zuckerberg definitely rubs that BBQ sauce all over his genitals. I mean, what other reason would there be to have BBQ sauce on the shelf behind him. He was trying to tell us something, sick bastard.

Anyway . . . 

I started using Negmaster and was getting better results than Negative Lab Pro. This was the method I used for a while, but I was growing tired of the DSLR setup. Especially having to pull my camera off the copy stand every time I had an Architecture job to shoot. The creator of the group has an obsession with scanners and his posts were peaking my interest. About a month ago, I purchased a new dedicated 35mm film scanner, the Pacific Image Primefilm XA, and decided to ditch the fancy programs. 

I am using Vuescan to invert my images and doing my final touches in Lightroom and Photoshop. I can safely say that this is the perfect workflow for me and am getting the exact results I desire. I guess that’s my point. Scanning workflows should be specific to you. It’s easy to see what the trendy Youtubers are doing to scan their film and try to work with the programs they are using, but if it doesn’t work for you, then don’t force it.

I tried to force Negative Lab Pro to work for me for two years and it just didn’t. I didn’t like the process. That’s not to say that it’s not a great  tool for film shooters. I think it is. I’m 100 percent sure that my issues were user error, but it’s important to use the workflow that works best for you. Try them all and then decide which one you like more.

In the end, the final image is the only thing that really matters. How you get there is up to you. I’m loving my current scanning workflow, but knowing me, I’ll probably start fiddling with it again soon. I’m a real sicko. 

Not that anyone is going to read this, but let me know how you scan in the comments! I’m always interested in learning about other photographers workflow’s. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.