Film Scanning with Color Profiles in VueScan

2013-03-19 19.15.30

Dave from Shoot Tokyo
has been working on his medium-format
film scanning technique
.  I commented
on how I manage scanner and film profiling in VueScan
and he asked for more info.

Someday I may write a general introduction to VueScan, but
for today I am assuming that you have the basics down.  I highly recommend the VueScan
as a starting point.

For slide film (positive) profiling you:

  1. Obtain color
    slide(s) in your film(s) of choice
  2. Scan the color target slide using your scanner (no need
    to save)
  3. Use the Profile Scanner function (it will require
    the data file that came with the target) and save the profile with a
    descriptive name (in case you have multiple scanners and/or films)
  4. Use the resulting profile in the "Color | Scanner
    ICC profile" field to base the color of future scans of this film

This results in slide scans to be very true
to the original as viewed on a light box. 
Of course, if the color cast in the slide is off you will need to correct it later (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.).

For color print film (negative) profiling you:

  1. Obtain color target in your slide film of choice or a printed target
  2. Take a photograph of said target using your film camera
    & negative film of choice under normal lighting.  Use even or diffused mid-day sunlight or flash.
  3. Process and scan the negative film frame with the color
    target (no need to save)
  4. Use the Profile Film function in a similar
    fashion as above, feeding it the data file for the color target you took the
    photograph of
  5. Use the resulting profile in the "Color | Film ICC
    profile" field to base the color of future scans of this film

This results in negative scans to be very neutral and consistent in color. Again, if the color cast was off in the shot to begin with it will still need some correction.

I used my Nikon F6, a macro lens, and a slide copying adapter to shoot a Fuji Provia 100F slide target.  You can probably make use of any camera-lens with decent close focus ability to shoot a printed color target.

Using a neutral target like Provia for profiling Kodak Portra 400 shots produces very natural results. 
I tried a Velvia target for fun (which has very saturated colors) and the resulting profile was wonky and
"not Portra like".

This process is a bit of a hassle to setup, but once you have the profiles in place you can save a lot of time by reducing your "normalizing" color correction work.

The Lita Vietor View

Nikomat FTN, Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5, Nikon Y44 light yellow filter, Ilford HP5 Plus

I am still scanning away, and it is slow going.  Even with simple family shots I cannot resist some cleanup via the Photoshop clone tool to remove some scratches, hot spots, etc. on my film.  For slide film I can use the infrared channel cleanup in Vuescan, but for negative film that isn’t possible so I have to go the manual route.

Infrared cleanup (for scanners and software that support it) is a lifesaver with slide film.  It is kind of like an automatic version of a clone/intelligent heal tool.  By using the infrared channel during the scanning process Vuescan (and other scanning applications that support it) can automatically identify where the emulsion has been scratched, where there is lint/dust, and other disturbances with or on your positive image and then fill in that spot based on surrounding image data.

This can easily save five, ten, fifteen minutes or more per image if you are “detail oriented” like me and like clean images.  I think I spent ten minutes cleaning up the B&W image above (negative, so infrared not possible…).  This is back from the winter by the way, and there is a slight possibility my Dad was actually the photographer as we were passing the Nikomat back and forth.  It was the first roll I put through that camera which has been my favorite classic shooter of late.

Which makes me wonder even more about dr5‘s chrome positive B&W developing process.  They offer their own custom chemistry for your B&W negatives to turn them into B&W positive processed film. This is not unlike good old Agfa Scala, may it rest in peace.  But I am curious to see if their B&W positives can leverage infrared cleanup during the scanning process. That could be a tremendous time saver for B&W shooting!

I think the next roll I will shoot (after my scan fest is finally over) will be a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus destined to pilot my use of the dr5 chrome process.  They say it is their highest volume film type, so it should go well.