In my last article I detailed how you can recover the negative from Fuji FP-100C film for scanning or historic process techniques. In this article the focus is on scanning and post processing the negatives. You can use Adobe Lightroom 4 or Photoshop CS6 (or earlier) to do this processing. I’d say Photoshop has the edge, mainly because cloning is much easier in Photoshop and often a bit of cleanup is in order with these negatives. For scanning, many of the modern flatbed scanners with transparency capability will do a nice job. I still use my Epson Perfection 3200 Photo because it still works well for me, but newer scanners such as the Epson Perfection V700 Photo Scanner or the HP Scanjet 8300 professional image scanner would provide excellent results. If you are on a budget, check out the Epson 3200 or even 2400 models on eBay.
Start by removing the white document card from the lid of the scanner, exposing the transparency window. Some of the high end scanners allow up to 8×10 inch transparencies but some are limited to a 4×9 inch opening which means positioning your negative is a bit more critical. I usually place white artist’s tape on the bed to mark out the spot so I can quickly go from one negative to another. I place my Fuji negatives emulsion side down on the glass. This prevents Newton rings from showing up in your scan. (They might appear as small rainbow markings in the image). Tape down the corners with transparent tape to keep the negative from curling (Figure 1). Now you are ready to scan.
When using an Epson scanner, work with the Epson scanning software. No matter how old your scanner, you should have the latest Epson software (download from the Epson site). This is essential if you are using newer operating systems such as OS X Lion or Windows 7 as the older drivers will no longer work.
The first thing I do is change the software to Professional Mode, so I can access as much of the controls as possible. Now, go to the settings (See Figure 2)— some of this may seem obvious and some not. Let’s assume you are new to scanning negatives. Set the Scan Mode to Transparency-Negative. For Kind select Negative Slide. This forces the software to reverse the image. For Colors select Billions, the more data the better. For resolution, I usually choose 1200 dpi, but this scanner can go all the way to 3200 dpi, which will generate an enormous file that is probably not necessary. If you plan to print huge, say 40×50 inches, you could consider more resolution. If you are printing to a 13×19 printer or 17×22, 1200 dpi should work fine. Your own experimentation will no doubt provide the correct answer for you.
For size, we are essentially scanning at 100% so the dimensions are approximately 4×5 inches when you draw your selection marquee. You can also set the Figure 3 marquee to Auto Select and let the software draw it out. Next, name a folder where the scan will be saved. I created a folder called Epson Scans that I always use (Figure 3). If you use Lightroom, you can designate a “hot folder” and Lightroom will automatically import the scan into your catalogue. For format, I choose TIFF. Both Lightroom and Photoshop will work with this format. As for the rest of the tools, I select None for each of them. When ready, click on Scan the image scan.
To bring the image into Photoshop, you may first have to change your Camera RAW preferences to automatically open “TIFF” images in Camera RAW. This was not the default in earlier versions of Camera RAW, but it appears to be in my beta version (as I write this) of Camera RAW 7.0.
Utilizing Bridge to browse and select my file, it will now open in Camera RAW, giving all of the adjustment tools available in Lightroom 4, although with a different interface. Here you will see the familiar Histogram (which may look a bit stranger than images from your DSLR), and all of the revamped controls present in Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 (Figure 4). Notice that “Recovery” and “Fill Light” are gone, but not to worry, they have been replaced with the more logical “Highlights” and “Shadows.” Also, that all controls are now set to center positions rather than some previous left and right positions, again, a more logical interface. Here is one additional preference I prefer, I set my Camera RAW output to ProPhoto RGB and 16 bit. An alternate choice is Adobe RGB and 8 bit, which is a considerably smaller color space setting.
The first thing you will notice is that the preview of the scanned image shows somewhat strange color. Some photographers are charmed by this, and others strive to correct all of the idiosyncrasies out of it. I would say here that if you are looking for Kodak Portra color fidelity here you will not find it. I consider the Fuji negative experience more of an alternative process technique and I try to allow it to create its own color palette and enjoy it for what it is.
My initial Camera RAW settings are likely to be somewhat different than yours, since subject matter and exposure conditions will yield very different results. Here’s what I did for this image: first, I chose the White Balance Tool in the Camera RAW menu and clicked on an area of the scan that I felt should be a neutral off-white. Experiment with this because you will find some dramatic changes depending where you click. You can also manually slide the Temperature and Tint sliders to adjust color temperature (Figure 5).
Now, move to the tonal adjustment tools. For this example image (Figure 6), I only pulled back my Highlights, increased my Blacks and boosted the Clarity, or mid tone contrast. Next I moved down on the HSL or Hue Saturation and Luminance panel (Figure 7).
Here is where I began to minimize the unpleasant coloration of the RAW scan. I reduced the saturation of the greens, aquas, blues and most significantly the purples in the image. This was done entirely visually, setting the tab to Saturation and utilizing the Targeted Adjustment Tool in the upper Toolbar. Then I went into the image and dragged down on areas where I felt the saturation should come down. You can also do this with the Hue and Luminance tabs, in the case of this image I felt it unnecessary. My next move is to do some local tonal control. I wanted to darken the window area without impacting the plant details. I chose the Graduated Filter from the Tool Bar and dragged downward from outside the top of the image to about halfway down. I held down my shift key to keep the tool moving in a straight direction (Figure 8).
With my marquee set, I then darkened the sky area and reduced the Saturation as well (Figure 9). This pretty much satisfied me for tonal and color corrections, now it was time to move on to retouching. I must admit I am not the most careful person in the world when handling my negatives after the bleach recovery process, and I really wish I had a good film washer. Not having that leads to quite a few artifacts in the image. Photoshop is excellent for fixing this, but I would stress that anything you can do to provide a cleaner negative from the start will avoid extensive dust cleanup. I first tried the Heal/Clone Tool present in Camera RAW but soon ran up against the limitations of its abilities.
There are far too many artifacts too close together for this toolset to deal with, so it is time to bid adieu to Camera RAW and go back to Photoshop, where pixels are just waiting to be manipulated. Some of the larger spots can be effectively dealt with with the venerable Clone Tool and the amazing Spot Healing Brush (Figure 10). For some of the larger linear artifacts, the Patch Tool can be extremely effective (Figure 11).
I use a combination of these three tools to clean up as much of the image as I can. To address the numerous fine spots scattered around the image I rely on an old technique I have used since Photoshop CS2, circa 2003. It involves the History Brush, and the creation of Snapshots to paint away your pesky dust spots (Figure 12). To begin, create an initial Snapshot of your image as it currently exists within Photoshop (Figure 13).
Photoshop will create a separate entity that sits above the ongoing History States (Figure 14). It is a good idea to name the Snapshot, here I called it “Original”. Now, create a state that will eliminate our fine dust spots. Select the Dust and Scratches Tool from the Noise submenu of Filter in your upper Menu choices. Select a fairly aggressive setting, in my case I chose 16. (Figure 15).
Do not be alarmed, your image will look very soft, but the dust is eliminated (Figure 16)! Fear not, we are not done yet. Now create another Snapshot and title it DS16 for Dust and Scratches, 16 setting. Next, click on the History Brush in the left side Toolbar and most importantly select the Original History Snapshot and click in the small box next to the DS16 Snapshot.
A small History Brush icon will appear in the box. Next we will paint the “dustless” history into the “Original” state. First we must do something very important, we must place the History Brush in the “Darken” Blend Mode. This will force the tool to only eliminate the dust specs that are lighter. If we were after dark spots, we would have placed it in “Lighten” Blend Mode. Now we can paint around the image, quickly eliminating the remaining dust spots. You should exert some care in painting, use a small brush and only go after the areas that need it. It is possible to inadvertently soften areas you don’t really want to touch. I suppose to really be on the safe side you can create a duplicate of the Layer before you begin. To finish up, I added a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a bit of overall contrast.
I also experimented with switching the image to Sepia by adding a black and white Adjustment Layer, and picking a sepia tone, but decided I liked this one in color better.
The last thing I did was to clean up the border. To accomplish this I made a Color Range selection based in an Inverse marquee selection of the border area (Figure 17).
From this selection I made a new Layer, which consisted of the border only, locked its Transparency and filled it with Black, creating a much more pleasing border.