My Negative Scanning Workflow

I have to say I have a lot more understanding of scanning and what it takes to make a print from a negative these days. Basically was up till something like 2:30am last night as I finally hit my stride in the negative scanning I’ve been trying to get to. I’ve only (after spending a fair amount of today doing this as well) gotten through two and a half rolls of film, but I’ve got a system worked out that seems to go along well with the equipment and knowledge I have. Read more if you care about the workflow and whatnot.

Basically my workflow goes something like this:


  • Hit ‘random’ on my mp3 player šŸ™‚
  • Blow any dust or hairs off the strip of negatives with compressed air
  • Load a strip of negative into the HP S20
  • Use Vuescan with the following settings:

    • output filename of ‘0 – Unprocessed +.tif’
    • highest bit depth and dpi (48 and 2400)
    • scan from preview (no need for a preview and a scan mode)
    • crop set to manual
    • color with auto levels

  • When the scan finishes, manually select the first image on the strip with enough of a border so that I know I’m not going to cut off any image, and click ‘save’. This saves just that scan. Vuescan has an ‘auto’ setting for this, but for some reason it’s set up for negatives that are shorter than what I have, so I have to do it by hand. At one stage I had the crop set to ‘maximum’, but found that the auto-levels screwed up if there were both dark and light images on the negative strip. Much better to do it on a per image basis. Much slower as well though šŸ™
  • As the next negative strip scans, open the images one by one in photoshop.
  • Use crop and a straighten trick involving the measure tool to crop to the extent of the negative.
  • Save. Go over to the open folder with the images in it and hit f2 to rename from ‘0 – Unprocessed NN.tif’ to something like ‘london – science museum 1.tif’. The “0 – Unprocessed…” filename ensures that images coming straight off the scanner float to the top of the folder on a sort by name.
  • When a roll is done, create a ‘Roll N – place 1, place 2…’ folder and move all the images into that. This makes sure that if any hunting for when/where something was (in the case of older or unlabelled pics) can be aided by keeping similar images together.
  • Repeat until the other 42 rolls of film are done…

When this is all done I’ll go through all of these and choose the good images, then go through then and nuke off any scratches or dust (which, if I had a good scanner instead of this older one (which is great, but not as good as the big ticket items that they have now with automatic dust and scratch reduction), adjust colors, etc, and create an album, print out, or whatever you do with pictures after they’re taken šŸ™‚

I have to say I understand (I think) a lot more about what is involved with creating a print from a negative… course, it’s all 99% automated these days anyway, so maybe I don’t.

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