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The argument for colour correction

After almost a year of self scanning, I no longer believe that we should leave the scanner to it's own devices.

Photo by adam_g2000

Over the past month or two, I’ve been inspired by the Impossible Project, Polaroid (pack) Land Cameras and instant photography in general. I still love traditional film, perhaps even more so.

I made some discoveries, both with scanning instant photographs and sprockets. I’ll start with sprockets.

When you scan with sprockets you narrow the area the scanner scans, to avoid the sprockets. You do this so that the scanner is not influenced by the holes and doesn’t choose the wrong colour range to scan. From the get-go you are agreeing to let the scanner colour correct for you. Something you cannot turn off.

I’ve not had satisfactory results using this ‘standard’ process unless I scan each image individually, letting the scanner choose the colours strictly for a single image. A long and laborious process. The evidence we can draw from this is, regardless of sprockets, the scanner is colour correcting, and doing a bad job if the images in the strips of negs you are scanning are not all very similar.

This is highlighted when you start scanning instant images. You can see the final product in front of you, then you scan, the scanner makes it’s choices and gets it wrong. Here is an example.

This is a shot of graffiti taken on Fuji FP-100c an instant, colour film. This is a scan I made, and then corrected to look like what I had in my hand:

Photo by adam_g2000

Here is another I scanned, and did nothing to beyond the scanners basic settings.

Photo by adam_g2000

Take a good hard look. My colour corrected image is grey. The scanner’s is blue; simply not how it looks in my hand. Worse still it looks washed out, there is little contrast.

I found some negatives from when I was a teenager this week. They were shot when I was a student, which predates a digital darkroom flow. I scanned the negs and they looked nothing like the prints. They were horrible. There was a good variety of lighting conditions, inside, outside, heavy contrast, low contrast. I pretended they were sprocket photos and followed the flow, using a different part of each image. This heavily affected the overall series of images.

Lastly the magazine occasionally features articles about darkroom techniques. The techniques you can use in the darkroom alter contrast, colour etc. When you scan you haven’t the freedom to make these simple basic tweaks if you don’t edit the images at all. This simply isn’t fair to those without access to darkrooms or chemicals.

Lomography is all about images that were what you got in the camera. When you self scan, this isn’t what you get. What you get is less contrasty and a different colour. Two quick tweaks to the image in Photoshop and it’s back to what was in the camera.

This is the standard competition rule that pretty much governs our community: “Any analogue photo not digitally enhanced or manipulated.”

All of the images in the online community are digitally manipulated as soon as they are scanned electronically for use online. They all break this rule.

This rule needs to be changed to: “Any analogue photo not digitally enhanced or manipulated beyond what was taken in the camera.”

escrito por adam_g2000

14 comentarios

  1. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    To follow your argument, it is probably worse for those who get a CD with their negatives from the quick photo or drugstore. They are at mercy of the program installed in the developers equipment. I imagine they are often a bulk of the new or low budget members.

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  2. thecheekyscamp

    thecheekyscamp

    Personally I scan with no exposure correction and then set levels in Photoshop. I wouldn't class setting the black and white points as manipulation or enhancement.

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  3. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @thecheekyscamp I like your logic. That wasn't quite enough with this image, I did that, but had to slightly adjust the blue channel. Where does that fall? I've tried scanning with the auto contrast on and off, colour settings as Adobe RGB and as recommended, nothing comes close to the original until the levels are adjusted.

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  4. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @neanderthalis I've seen people with an x-pro album corrected at the lab to normal colour. I did feel sad for them. They had the whole lot redone at another lab and they got it right. I think at the heart of my argument is another point. All film photography by its nature is corrected or manipulated at some point. The only real exception is instant photography.

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  5. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    I can agree with you. May I ask your scanner? I am running a Espon V600. I am debating if it is time for another.

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  6. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @neanderthalis I use a Canon 8800FF, I'm averagely happy with it, yet yearn for one that doesn't sap the contrast.

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  7. anafaro

    anafaro

    Hi @adam_g2000: I agree with you. I don't use the automatic settings of my scanner (Epson v500). In the past I got my photos scanned by the lab and got some wacky colors and I think it was because they were using the automatic settings. I think provided you are not changing massively your picture, all game is fair. As you said, there is always a degree of digital manipulation if you scan your photos anyway.

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  8. clickiemcpete

    clickiemcpete

    Absolutely. It is not manipulation to get the blacks, midtones and whites corrected in the prescan and in fact I would argue that you are cheating yourself if you don't do those things. That is, if corrections are needed of course. Certain high end lenses such as Leicas are often damned close to perfect though and hardly need anything adjusted but most toy cams need some sort of corrections even if they are minor. When I started out with Lomo I was doing all sorts of PS adjustments but I have learned to leave things alone and get them right in the scan. Let the film speak for itself but treat scanning as the last stage of development.

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  9. asharnanae

    asharnanae

    When I change settings on scans, its to get the film to look as close as possible to the true negative, I would not call what I do enhancing, merely correcting something which is not true to the original. That said, when I develop in a darkroom (B&W) I always use a grade 5 filter to get more contrast (because I crave contrasty b&W prints), which would be the same as altering the contrast digitally.

    I think its a case of trying to remain true to the ethos of an analogue darkroom, whist using digital means. Setting exposure(s), contrast and light balances as you might if using an enlarger. Photographers like Ansel Adams and Don McCullin often heavily post processed there work in terms of dodging and burning areas, and working the exposures and contrasts. So I personally don't feel that working with a scanner to do the same thing isn't going against the lomographic tenet.

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  10. dinospork

    dinospork

    For me, I guess I don't draw lines. I do what needs to be done to get the picture I want. It's not about the rules, it's about the images.

    That being said, I don't use any tools that would allow me to manipulate the images in ways that you couldn't with analog equipment. That's not due to dogma, just to preference.

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  11. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @dinospork are you saying you'd use photoshop for dodge, burn, colour correction but not for things like adding a head to another body, that sort of work?

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  12. dinospork

    dinospork

    Yes, that, but also I won't try to take a crappy picture and fix it digitally. When I was shooting with my DSLR, I would shoot in RAW and then manipulate the file once it was off the camera, up to and including composition through cropping. I was just kind of shooting the general area of what I wanted. It was always very sloppy and lazy, and I won't do that with film. I either shoot what I wanted the shot to be, I shoot something that, through a happy accident, is going to be a good picture, or it sucks and I should figure out what went wrong and try again.

    I guess I want the artistic moment to be 99% in the camera/film, but if it takes flexing that ideal by a few percentage points, I'm willing to go there, regardless of what the manipulation might be. Adding heads represents a bigger flex than I'm willing to make. A few shades of blue generally doesn't. If I have to dodge or burn, I'll probably be breaking out the enlarger and doing it on paper, but I'd rather just get my exposure right.

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  13. adam_g2000

    adam_g2000

    @dinospork I like your stance on this. I just wish I had access to an enlarger. Mine's in the garage, my darkroom now a kids bedroom!

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  14. schlogoat

    schlogoat

    @adam_g2000 Hi. All interesting points. I recently scanned some old negatives too, that I'd only used in a darkroom before. I'd produced contact sheets where they are quite contrasty, and prints where I've filtered to bring out higher contrast, but the straight scan makes them look grey and a bit rubbish! I'm using an elderly Epson 3170 but planning to upgrade asap, its faltering quite a lot.

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