Slides or negs - visualisation in the field or behind the monitor : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've started scanning my LF negs digitally and make corrections in Photoshop similar to what I used to do in the darkroom. I've got some experience with b/w, but ask your help for color.

I guess the biggest reason for the confusion is that I noticed that I spend less time taking shots in the outdoors (i.e. the shots are less contemplated, less filtration, less perspective control), because so much can be done in PS. I'm not saying that I'm no longer interested in taking the shot, but it just feels like the emphasis is more on Photoshop than the camera. And I must say that it works out pretty well.

However, starting with color, I'm not sure what to do. I've got the impression that color negs record more data on film than color slides, the curve is longer, and negs respond better to hue / saturation tweaks than slides. But still slides have a better punch - hard to explain, but they seem to have more briliance.

Would appreciate if someone could share his/her thoughts on this, from a LF perspective. With the purpose to alter the shot digitally, and print the photo from Photoshop, are you using negs or slides? Do you recognise that your time and effort tend more towards Photoshop than taking the actual shot?

Many thanks in advance,


-- Mark Houtzager (, August 17, 2001


I've always been a neg man.
My belief is that the rightful end product of the photographic process is a print. You can hang it on the wall, admire it up close, and manipulate the final printing. You don't have to peer through a loupe, or submit your viewers to a tedious session in a darkened room. The print can be stared at for hours, or just glanced at and ignored. I like prints!
Consider: Prior to the invention of photography, how many great artists worked in stained glass as their preferred medium?

Given all the above, it's always seemed the most natural thing, for me, to shoot colour negative film, and thus avoid the convoluted process and contrast hike of reversal materials.
Having said that, I do think that the film companies have put more effort and research into tranny material, and tended to ignore the negative market. This has irked me no end for years.

Yes, negatives are capable of capturing a much longer tonal range, but that tonal range can't be got onto photographic paper without a fair bit of dodging and burning. The long tonal range with its low contrast also goes hand-in-hand with poor colour saturation. The chemical process just doesn't allow saturated colour and low contrast to happily co-exist.
This trade off does improve as format size is increased, and prints from Medium and Large format colour negs have a bit more snap and vibrance to them than 35mm does, but their colour is still outshone by Cibachrome/Ilfochrome. Or it was, UNTIL DIGITAL CAME ALONG.
Whoopeee! I can now scan all my old dull negs, tweak the saturation and tonal range in Photoshop, and still retain a shadow detail that makes Velvia users wonder where half their subject disappeared to.

Hoorah for digital scanning, Hoorah for Photoshop, and Hoorah for colour negative material!

-- Pete Andrews (, August 17, 2001.

Mark - any time you spend with PS is time well spent - but don't fall into the " I'll shoot this anyhow and fix it up later in PS " syndrome. Your LF shots should still be well considered, and perspective control with the camera is still more effective than PS. As to filtration, PS enables you to just about do without any on camera filtration - the softwares ability to isolate and change hues, brightness and contrast is very strong - but I still prefer a well composed, well exposed transparency to work from. Most of my work is commercial architecture, and my main use for PS is to remove unwanted elements in the original shot. But yes, I spend more time with the scanning, Photoshoping, and e- mailing/CD burning than I do behing the groundglass.

-- Michael Mahoney (, August 17, 2001.

I have just started to venture out into the neg scanning. I have always been dead set on using transparency film because I was told that it was the best option. You do not have to correct for the orange mask, you have a exact reference to go by, photoshop might not do a good job at reversing the color, you lose to much in the conversion, ect. Then I started working on some old color negs that I had laying around. I found out how much info was missing from the traditional C prints that I had labored over. And found out how much more info there could be with a little work and digital output {neg/transparency printer, lamda prints, even lowly ink jet printers}. To the dedicated transparency shooters who follow or made up these rules either you are sheep {like I was } or your full of BS. Figuer out the math color negs have what 7 stops of usable info and B+W film has about 10 stops. Transparency film has 4-5 stops if you are lucky. With photoshop you can adjust the levels and curves to get all of the stops into a printable range about 4-5 stops depending on the printer or media. It is always better to get as much info as posible and with the freedom you get from the editing controls in photoshop {just like traditional processes} get the best image you possibly can.

-- john (, August 17, 2001.

I forgot that "punch" you see actually what your eye/brain is interpreting due to contrast. Contrast being trying to compress a whole bunch of info into a small F stop range and losing whatever doesn't fit. Hope this helps.

-- john (, August 17, 2001.

Just try sending those negatives to a publisher or editor & watch how fast you are on the 'do not call' list with most of them If you visualize I think you do the mental planning and whatever at the time you compose and shoot. Digital fiddling is after the fact. Fall into the lazy habit of 'we'll fix it in photoshop' & watch a lot of your finely honed skills erode. Shoot it right the first time and you can then use photoshop for tweaking rather than repair. Get into the habit of not accepting less than the best possible results from the shoot and save a lot of time later in front of the computer screen. One of the better compliments from the past year was the comment from the owner of a fine custome lab saying "it sure is nice seeing a well done 8x10 negative that prints perfectly". No after the fact screwing around and no major digital efforts as all the real work had been done with the four hours of preparation on the clients building before shooting. Best of all, the scans to photoshop for his web use didn't need a lot of fiddling either.

-- Dan Smith (, August 17, 2001.

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