First scans and print : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have got to the point with my 5X4 B & W negs that I can scan and print (not well) them at home. What I am not sure about is that I am going about it in the best way for optimum quality. I am leaving manipulation for now until I am comfortable with getting the best quality I can out of my set up(a 1640SU with transparency hood). I plan to try some colour slides shortly and send away for printing as a digital file. Drum scanning seems a crazy price in the UK from the adverts I have seen (£40-£60ukp per scan) so is not an option.

Question is - what are the minimum steps to get from negative to print with optimum quality in mind ? Everything seems to be 'suck it and see' for me at the moment.

I have various digital books and read as many of the posts as possible but none quite answer my question.

Sorry for the basic question.

-- David Tolcher (, February 03, 2002


David ; if you're using Photoshop, try Curves, Auto as a means of getting an acceptable first base tonal curve from the raw scan. Then cropping, and possibly unsharp mask, should put you in a position to get a good proof print.

-- fw (, February 03, 2002.


A couple of links to give you some more info on scanning and printing.


should give you plenty to study and it should probably give you much better results as well.

-- Björn Nilsson (, February 03, 2002.

David, I use the same scanner for b/w scans. I am also using Silverfast AI5.0 software between the scanner and the compouter. I get good scans by scanning at 1200-1600 dpi. I scan in at 16 bit, not 8 bit, and set the gamma to 3.00. I scan as a negative and use the invert tool in photoshop. In photoshop I set levels and maybe curves and brightness. If not nothing else is needed,then I printprint at 16 bit. If my negative needs added work--most do--I convert to 8 bit . That way i can make more corrections and use the wide selection tools that photoshop now denies at the 16 bit level.

I print an an Epson 1160 with piezography inks fom Cone Editions.


-- Bob Moulton (, February 03, 2002.

I too use the 1640SU for 5x4 (and sometimes 6x7). It often works fine for b/w at 16bit as others have suggested. One problem I have with the machine though is that it sometimes gives a very dark preview and even with the maximum adjustment on the controls it still is much too dark - this is normally with slightly thin negs. Another problem with the scanner when doing slides is that it often gives a magenta cast which is a real pain to remove. I suspect both of these are software issues, I am using it via photoshop6.

-- Mike Dodd (, February 04, 2002.

Oh yes, I forgot about scanner software.

Vuescan from is a very competent program that is fairly cheap ($40) and under constant development. Most reviews that I've seen about the program are very positive and so am I about the program.

-- Björn Nilsson (, February 04, 2002.

I use a 1640 and it's very good for large format work (see also my earlier post on replacing the glass) The way to get the best out of it is to scan as a positive/transparency at 1600dpi and 16 bit with all the scanner colour and exposure controls turned off. Then manipulate the 'raw' scan in photoshop (see end of text). It may be a bit dark and look a bit murky but this is the only way to get the best quality out of the scanner. Once you have saved this file you can make copies to manipulate till you get it right - practice!.If you let ANY scanner software do any tone or sharpness 'correction' you are losing data that cannot be recovered later - NO scanner software (except perhaps that available to high end drum scanners) is as good as Photoshop. Minimum (well nearly)steps; Invert to get a positive, Go to channels and zoom to 100% and see which colour channel gives you the sharpest/least grain and select grayscale from mode (this cuts the file size down). Select levels ( make sure you are still at 100%) and trim the end points to the start and end of the histogram - do not move the middle slider ! Select curves and bend the middle up or down to get the right lightness and darkness. Select the curves again and put a point nr the top and bottom of the slope and make a slight S shape to get more contrast in the midtones if it's needed. Convert to 8bit Convert back to RGB mode Resize to your intended print res/size Add some unsharp mask - try 0.5pixels at 100% ( always do this last) and save as another file so you keep the original scan in it's raw state (to have another go!). If your computer can't handle an RGB 1600 16bit file - it's about 260mb! do it at a multiple lower ie 800mb - don't do any at odd sizes as the scanner does the interpolation - badly! the reason to use 16bit is that it alows more manipulation without banding and posterisation - do as much as you can in this mode before you go to 8bit Good as Vuescan is - the latest Epson twain driver with everything turned off is quicker and more user friendly and the raw data is all you are after.

-- John Griffin (, February 04, 2002.

This is a brilliant set of answers and exactly what I needed right now. Thanks very much.

-- David Tolcher (, February 04, 2002.

Just as an update. I followed the suggestions and sent off a digital file on CD at 300ppi for a 16X12 Crystalchrome print at Colab (in the UK). I had it back today and was mightily impressed with the quality. The print was about £9.00ukp incl VAT and ,for me, represents good value. It looks like this will be a viable option for colour work rather than the expense of drum scan/lightjet.

Thanks again

-- David Tolcher (, February 08, 2002.

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