Monday, 13 January 2014

a Negative printing experience

I normally don't get my negatives printed until I've scanned them. This is because quite simply the places who print your film are incompetent (I really can't think of what else to say). Today because the shop didn't listen (more evidence to support my hypothesis) I ended up getting prints with my 24 exposures.

I glanced at them quickly and thought FFS

Item of Evidence 1

Now looking at the timber of the desk it looks like I see it here ... so my scan of the negative.

The blue light on the snow is classic up here, and as the sun is going down the sky was lit with low cloud and lovely reds. That's why I took the picture.

If I was a person learning about photography and all I saw was the print I'd be so disappointed with the my camera or me or something. But the issue is firmly at the shop. For if I take my file there (in sRGB colourspace) and print it, then it will look like my scan.

Item 2

shit, the ends of my glasses have more colour than this print.

My scan:

now I want to emphasize that I did fuck all to these scans aside from my usual process:
  1. scan as positive and set levels conservatively to not loose data
  2. invert in photoshop
  3. trim up levels
  4. apply some gamma to each channel
So its no wonder that people think prints from negatives don't look as good as digital prints. The real irony here is that negative was designed with printing in mind, not scanning.

I don't mind paying 5 bucks for the negative developing but the extra for the prints of this quality is just insulting. Sometimes you just don't get what you pay for.


frankie said...

This is freaking amazing.... I'd be curious to see some more examples. I quit having the shop print or even scan my rolls. I don't think it's smart to let someone that wasn't there to witness the colors when you shot balance them out during the scanning process. A cheap DSLR is more than enough to scan your own film. And the price as well are crazy...over here (Italy) they charge 8 euros to scan a 24 roll.

I'm still learning how to find the sweet spot when it comes to adjusting an inverted negative and balancing out the colors, but why take the satisfaction away of getting a final shot that you're proud of and let someone else do it? If i could develop on my own i would...

BTW i like your blog. It's one of the things that inspired me to start my own. Keep it up!

obakesan said...


I've got reservations of the ability of a DSLR to scan negatives. For one the density ranges in the neg are different for R G and B (unlike life that the camera is meant to capture and unlike slide which can be scanned ok by DSLR).

Of course to DSLR scan a neg you'll need to sort out holders, lenses without barrel distortion or vignetting and dust. It actually works out well to just buy a scanner. The Epsons do work well enough (plenty of posts here on that) and a Nikon is not badly priced these days (get the USB 2.0 types not the firewire types unless you have a firewire driver).

You may also like to read this post to sort see the sorts of level differences I'm talking about (and my workflow)

glad you like the blog :-)

obakesan said...

PS Frankie, developing colour negative isn't worth the hassle while the prices are good. There is little benefit in processing alterations and the chemicals stink, and temperature is critical. Get your exposure close (and its not that critical) and scan away ;-)

Black and White OTOH is actually a peach and costs about 10c a roll of film (35mm or 120)

120 black and white film scans really well too.

frankie said...

Thanks for the tips man... I will definitely give an accurate read to the link you posted.

I have been evaluating the chance of getting a scanner at a decent price lately. Shooting my negatives in raw is quite a hassle i must admit.... And unless I push myself to do it, the complicate set-up i came up with (using legos to hold the strips) is not quite worth it.

I actually did get myself a couple of BW rolls that i could process at home...(not C41s) Do you think ordering online the chemicals is worth a shot for the BW? Do you have any resource worth relying on to order them?
I agree that developing color negatives is not worth the hassle for the price. It's 2.50 euros/roll where i live (deep south of Italy) which is pretty good.

I do appreciate your blog a lot. I bumped into it recently when trying to figure out a way to scan my negatives and since I've added it to my feed reader. :)

Thanks a lot for the tips!!

Yu-Lin Chan said...

Most "non-professional" printing houses use automatic colour adjustments (like the auto adjust in photoshop) and most of the time did a shitty job.