View Full Version : Scanning Paper negatives

04-21-2009, 12:58 AM
Helllo All,
Just received my Epson 4990 and have started to try to scan paper negs. I am having no luck. Anyone out there doing this? Please help. Any help on where and how to start would be helpful. I know it is alot to ask but any help at all would be appreciated.

04-21-2009, 02:28 AM
Don't know what your problem exactly is. Describe your problems.

I scan and save bw paper negatives as Grayscale, 16 Bit, 600 dpi. I make the tonality adjustments in the scanner software manually (checking the histogram). You can scan the negatives as negative or as positive (and invert then later in your image processing software). I'm using silverfast as scanning software. This should work also in the original Epson scanner software. If the flexibility in the original Epson software is not good enough, try vuescan (http://www.hamrick.com/) (shareware you can try for free).

04-21-2009, 03:08 AM
I guess my problem is with the tonal adjustments. After i am finished it still looks like a negative. I will try it at 16bit 300dpi and grayscale. Are you putting it in as film or as photo in the scanner? I just figured out that you have to invert the image as well as flip it horizontally so know I sould have better luck.

04-21-2009, 07:19 AM
As the paper negative is not transparent (without taking special treatment) I scan photo paper negatives as photo like any other kind of photo. Yes, if you scan it as positive you have to invert and to flip horizontally later on. To calibrate your bw scanning process I would recommend to buy a Kodak grayscale and optimize your process so that your scanned image of the grayscale is very similar to the original one.

Good luck!

04-21-2009, 09:00 AM
As others have said, the scanner will output a negative image. Here are some details of my scanning process:

I use 16-bit grayscale on my Epson scanner, resolution of around 600 dpi for 4x5 sized negatives. I first set the crop window to exclude the border of the film (where the sheet film holder makes those film-gate-looking markings), then set the clipping points for the dark and white points, using the sliders on the histogram. I ensure to get all of the shadow and highlights in the histogram; for some reason the Epson s/w otherwise defaults to want to slightly clip both.

The scanner won't scan closer than ~1/4" to the edge of the glass. But I desire my negatives be scanned horizontal, and not oddly rotated, which would involve some additional cropping in PS. So I use a metal straightedge placed along the long edge of the glass. I can then butt one edge of the negative against the straightedge when placing it on the glass; the scale markings also help me to place additional negatives in the same location. I then set the crop window to exclude the metal straightedge itself from the scanned image.

Obviously, the resulting scanned image is a negative. I flip horizontally and invert tones in PS. I will also check the histogram and move the sliders inwards to remove any gaps beyond the shadow and highlight edges of the curve. Minor brightness and contrast tweaks is about all I do in addition. If there's a real ugly goober of a dust spot I'll remove it with the clone stamp tool, but have lately taken to accepting dust and scratches as bona fide artifacts of the process, much like one would accept the mottled edge of a peel-apart polaroid, or irregular edges to hand-coated emulsions, or scratches and blemishes in a glass plate or metal plate process.

I haven't used it, but there's a freeware photo editing software called Gimp that may serve your post-processing needs.


04-21-2009, 12:59 PM
Many thanks to the 2 of you. With the info from both of you i have been able to work it out. I am wondering if it is possible to invert and flip in the preview mode when I am in Epson? Because i can work with the histogram there but can't seem to get it to save in photoshop. Should i be scanning in Epson or just open the negs up in PS or Silverfast and scan from there? Confusing for this begginer but i am getting it.
Thanks again

04-21-2009, 01:59 PM
I am wondering if it is possible to invert and flip in the preview mode when I am in Epson?

I'm not in front of my scanner, so can't recall if there's an option. I'll check later.

Because i can work with the histogram there but can't seem to get it to save in photoshop.

I'm not sure I understand. In Photoshop 6.0 select Image/Adjust/Levels; from there the histogram should open. If there's a gap between the left or right edge of the histogram, drag the little arrows on the bottom of the graph inward to the edge of the curve. Then File/Save; or Save As, if you wish to record your changes as a separate image file.

Should i be scanning in Epson or just open the negs up in PS or Silverfast and scan from there?

Again, I'm not sure if I understand your question. When I use the term "scanning" its referring to placing the paper negative face down on the glass of the scanner and allowing it to reproduce a copy of the physical object as a JPEG or TIFF file. After this is done, you want to open that file in your photo editing software and work with it.

With my Epson scanning software I use it in the Professional mode, as this gives more control. There's also another suite of software that came with the Epson, but I don't use that. I only use the Epson scanning software itself, then edit the photo in PS.

The initial histogram adjustment I do, prior to the scan, is in the preview mode, telling the scanner to record all of the tonal range into all 65k levels of gray possible with 16-bit scanning. When I tell the software to scan, it opens a dialog box where I input the name of the file and the file location where it will be stored. Then it scans. When it's done, another dialog box opens where I can locate the file that the scanner has recorded on my hard drive, and open that file in my photo editing software of choice. Perhaps you are choosing to open the file using one of the Epson software pieces supplied with the scanner? I haven't worked with those, as they seem to lack the features of more fully developed photo editing software.


04-21-2009, 02:34 PM
Okay, I just looked at my Epson scanning software, after having scanned and posted a photo to the Alternative B/W forum (Feathers 1).

First, I don't see any way to invert the tones directly during the scan. You'll have to do this afterwards, in a photo editing software.

I'm using an Epson 2480. I use the program named "Epson Scan" directly, NOT the other suite of Epson software that came with the scanner.

In the upper section I select "Professional" mode. Then I select 16-bit grayscale, a resolution appropriate to the size of the negative.

Then I click "Preview". After the preview scan I crop the borders of the preview image to what I want. Then:

Click on the histogram symbol and adjust the left and right sliders so they're just on the edge of the histogram. I leave the middle slider where it's at.

Then I click "scan". I name the file, and designate target folder. I also choose JPEG or TIFF. If using JPEG, be sure to select "Options/Image Quality Options" and select the highest quality.

After it scans, it'll put the resulting image file in the folder you selected with the file name you gave. Then open that file in your photo editing software of choice and do the tonal inversion, spotting, etc.

Hope this helps.


04-21-2009, 02:34 PM
I followed alond with what you just wrote and it seems to work. I worked with the image in preview and then scanned it. The box poped up and save it to my documents. I opened my documents right clicked on the file and it asked where i would like to open it. i picked photo shop. Hit the right buttons and there it is. I think i will have to update my PS since the one that came with the Epson is PS Elements 2. Do you do anything special in PS that you could pass along?
Thanks again

04-21-2009, 02:49 PM
Good to hear that you got it to scan and save the resulting image file.

I'm using PS 6.0, an older version, so don't know how similar the features are to the newer versions.

My usual routine after opening the file in PS:

> View the file full screen (for some reason mine wants to view it as a smaller window;
> Flip horizontal (shortcut: alt+I, E, H);
> Invert tones (shortcut: ctrl+I);
> View histogram ... what PS calls "level" (shortcut: alt+I, A, L)
> Move the left and right slider arrows until they are on the edge of the body of the histogram curve, not leaving any extra space.

If the image looks right, I'll save it then (shortcut: alt+F, S) or Save As a different file name (shortcut: alt+F, A).
If it looks like it needs some brightness and/or contrast tweaks:

> Open brightness/contrast dialog box (shortcut: alt+I, A, C)
> I typically try to keep my adjustments here to within 10 counts of the default positions, unless the negative was horribly under or over-exposed. The idea is that I want to be able to replicate what I could do with the same negative when contact printing in the darkroom, which is selecting a contrast filter and controlling the amount of exposure, globally, over the entire print. Can't easily do local dodging/burning with contact printing, so I don't attempt to do so in PS.

If I think the image needs some unsharp masking to add additional edge detail, I'll do that (Tools, Sharpen, Unsharp Masking). I can't remember the settings for my typical USM; you'll have to play with it. I often don't do USM at all, just post directly to F295 unsharpened.

For saving a file version that posts to F295, I resize first:

> Image/Image Size (shortcut: alt+I, I)
> Image width 6-8 inches (shortcut: alt+D)
> Image resolution 100 dpi (shortcut: alt+R)
> Save As a suffix "a" file name, indicating it's been down-sized. I select JPEG file type, with a quality of around "5". (Shortcut: alt+F, A). Files posted to F295 don't need to be huge in size. Try to stay under 50k per file; you'll never see the difference online.

Hope this helps.


04-21-2009, 05:28 PM
Thanks Joe. I appreciate the help. Will try to post something in the very near future.