Finding out how to scan negatives

I started making photos in 1999, in the era of analogue photography. My first camera was a semi-automatic Pentax reflex camera that I could borrow from my mom. The camera has servec e well until 2003 when I bought my own camera, an analogue Canon EOS 300V. While preparing for a long trip overseas, I bought the Canon EOS 300D, to save money on film rolls and development costs.

5 years of shooting analogue pictures have resulted in a lot of photos on negative, and some slides. These negatives and slides will not last forever… so I decided to slowly start scanning them.

Scanning negatives is not an easy task if you want a nice looking result. Yesterday I’ve been experimenting a little bit with a photo I made during a TSP trip back in 1999. It definitely isn’t the final scan, considering the amount of dust that needs to be removed. That didn’t stop me from trying to get colors and lighting look better though. In the below steps I’ll explain the steps I followed.

  1. This is the starting point: a raw scan, without software adjustments. I set the scanner in such way to get a scan in which detail in the dark areas can be distinguished (this took several tries).990932 01
  2. The second step was getting the histogram all right with a levels adjustment for the red, green and blue channels separately. Purpose is to get the black zone as close to the left of the histograms as possible. This increases contrast and removes the haze.990932 02
  3. The light parts of the photo are too light… so I made a darker scan and replaced the light parts of the photo with the corresponding zone of the darker scan.990932 03
  4. Next step is to get lighting better. I used the curves tool to increase contrast.990932 04
  5. Fifth step was increasing saturation, to get some more vivid colors.990932 05
  6. The final step was adjusting the color balance. I found the above image to contain too much yellow and red, so I added some blue and green.990932 06

In these small steps it may be hard to see the difference, but check out this before and after composite:

990932 01 06

It isn’t 100% what I’m looking for, but it’s already closer to how I would like the scan to look. First improvement will have to be to remove most of the dust before scanning. I also feel that darker colors should look a little darker.

I’m curious about your remarks as well!

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