Choose Your Scanning Lab Carefully


It might seem that all the scans are the same. Not. Kick inside to see a few differences and tips to understand a bit more about the proper scanning results.

Tried several labs with the same film and here is a part of results I’ve got. Several aspects are compared for simplicity, as in fact there are much more of to see and to learn.

First, for one scanning lab all the Fuji Velvia frames’ colors were magenta and red, while the other lab succeeded to squeeze the blue/red tints, giving much better look to the same frames. It’s a matter of color balance set correctly for a particular type of film.

Second, one of the scans is less contrast than the other. Which is better, since on the more contrast scan the faces are almost white, while on the negative everything can be seen.

Third, compare the sharpness. One scan is much sharper then the other.

Fourth, the crop. Some automatic scanners crop a picture for no sane reason.

As I’ve said, there is much more. You may like those results or another. If a mistake serves your frames well – nothing better can happen, but this might and might not be the case. In the latter option, I personally try to negotiate, to point out the error to come with a decent results. After all, labs’ job is to provide us the true analogue quality pictures from our negatives :)

written by breakphreak on 2009-12-03 in #gear #tipster #labs #films #scanning #tipster


  1. lomosexual_manboy
    lomosexual_manboy ·

    That's why I made the decision to invest in my own scanner so I know there won't be any tampering and auto color correction. I never thought about how they could come out differently at any lab though. Everyone should have control over their negatives.

  2. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    i Always scan my negatives myself... it's the best investment to make and have the total control on your negatives. Of course, playing with different settings on your scanner will change the picture... the best to do is to disable all the automatic functions and have the most natural scan.... but in a way, when printing a shot on paper, there are many different possibilities to give the final print a different look, so it's the same when you scan the negatives...

  3. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    well, I have a scanner of my own, actually (Epson v700). But the results (especially on 35mm) are not coming as sharp as in lab scans, so sometimes I scan in labs. Besides, the tip is very useful for those who don't have a home scanner.

    @vicuna: there is no thing like a "natural scan". Neither in digital scanning, nor in oldskul hand printing. All a scanner can do is to perform a "white balance" (for example, treat the brightest point as white and adjust accordingly). As about "color balance" - here is where aesthetics comes into the picture and we are talking about art, not science. For the same reason there are CMYK filters applied in every professional hand-printing lab.

  4. lolfox
    lolfox ·

    Its great that you highlight this because few people realise how variable the results can be. To all the people who sermonise about the evils of photoshop there is really no such thing as an untouched or unmanipulated photo... so whether its the settings on the scanner, photoshop or the different filters in a darkroom, your photos will always be enhanced in some way, and if you give two people the same negative the results will almost certainly be different every time.

  5. nural
    nural ·

    I have a scanner too but I guess I'm not doing everything right when scanning cos in some photos, they tend to look more black&white then grayscale and the contrast is really weird. Also, mine only hasa slot for 35mm so when doing 120mm, ı have to handle the film a lot and stuff

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Ahaha ! You're raising a very interesting point here ! And I agree with all of you, the only true image you can get is when you look at a slide film in your hands. Because negatives are numerically inversed by the scanner, there's also an inevitable white balance and light correction that you can't disable, hence the variable results. I am in fact writing a tipster linked to all these matters. And of course, I wont forget to link this tip into mine ! Great tip breakphreak !

  7. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @stouf: go on, please share your thoughts on that :) actually, just what I've said, even in truly analog world (without white balance and numerical conversions) there is no absolutely right colors. Especially when you are talking about x-pro where the colors are wrong and you simply don't have any referral point (like skin tones, neutral colors or any other kind of colors that should be reproduced just like you've seen them).

  8. stouf
    stouf ·

    Oh man ! The tipster I sent is exactly about what you call 'referral point'! But I'm not gonna give you the punch already ahaha ; )

  9. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @stouf: no-no, please don't give list it here :) let's wait and continue to talk there :)

  10. dirklancer
    dirklancer ·

    This was a big discovery for me about a year ago when I started scanning myself. No need to feel guilty about making adjustments to tone, brightness, colour, etc. The final image is yours! :)

  11. peteparker
    peteparker ·

    I also made the decision to scan the films with my scanner . it's a Epson perfection 4490 photo and scans in a very good way 35mm films as well as 120 films. have a look at my albums to see the results. ciao

  12. stouf

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