Adventures in Scanning Cross Processed Film


Trying to scan cross-processed film and have it look alright can be an adventure. Having bought my first scanner that can scan negatives I soon discover it isn't as easy as it looks! Here I use the Photo CD from the lab as a baseline for trying to get the best scan of a cross-processed image.

The above image is what came on that $2.99 US dollar CD from my local photo lab. I never really thought about what all might go into that. I did know that I wanted to have more of a hand in the fate of my images than what the lab handed me. So I bought an Epson Perfection v500 and grabbed the only developed lomography slide/xpro 200 film I have.

The above image is the “do it all for me” option. Basically in Epson Scan I selected that I was scanning film and that it was a negative. I let the scanner find the image and do what ever magic the little Epson gnomes inside the scanner wanted to do. It looks respectable, if not a bit pale. But hey, it was a bright day.

This next image, above, I did it myself. Gone are the magic Epson gnomes. The most tampering I did was in the histogram where I used the eye dropper to select the blackest section of the film. That area I selected was the black boarder around the image.

This last image, above, is where I did everything backwards to conventional thinking. What is xpro? Slide film processed in the chemicals for negative film. So I told the scanner software that I was now scanning a slide rather than a negative. In the histogram I selected the, now white, side boarder as the white eye dropper. After scanning I opened up Photoshop Elements 6 and pressed Command-i to invert the colors, nothing else.

Which of the four images is the best? Which shows of the Lomography Xpro 200 film and my LC-A+ camera the best? I guess it is a mater of personal preference. Some people want the green cast or magenta casts of xpro. Other people might want more normal colors — just punchier. The first image by the lab seems, to me, to have the most unnatural sky color as well as a lot grainier. However, the lab uses Fuji equipment and so it is just little magic Fuji gnomes doing their thing. Personally I like the last image best, though it took the most steps.

Got any tips? Leave a comment!

written by rav_bunneh on 2011-03-11 in #gear #tipster #select-type-of-tipster #tipster #cross-process-processed-processing-cpro-xpro-scan-scanning-film #scanning


  1. lighttomysoul
    lighttomysoul ·

    first off, is $2,99 just for the CD or for developing AND CD? in that case you're so lucky it's not even funny. for me, developing + CD(+ shipping since I don't have a local lab) comes out at a whopping $18, according to todays currency.

    that said, depending on what kind of film it is, and what colour-shifts are expected to come from X-pro, I'd say the first or second are the best. I actually really like the first one, may be a bit grainy though. when I think Xpro I think lots of colour and punch and saturation, and I think the first two have it. the last two are just bleak and not what I would personally hope to get on a Xpro roll. all is relative I guess. :)

  2. awesomesther
    awesomesther ·

    I am really contemplating buy a Scanner (Epson v300) but I really don't know if I can have the patience and time to do home scanning! :( Over here, scanning for normal neg & x-pro are around ... min US$2.70? Not inclusive of processing etc. And I collect the CD myself, no post or delivery... I was thinking of getting the scanner mainly for those Sprockets rolls as the price for develop + scanning a roll of x-pro with sprockets is $12+ O_O It's really expensive! :(

    Anyway, I think your first scan, though a little bright, is quite nice :D

  3. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    I think that xpro shoul be something about to exagerate so I think the Lab scan is the best becouse at my eyes is how an x-pro should look! Big Contrast and Punchy colours!

  4. j_rad
    j_rad ·

    I use a v500, too. Whenever I have a roll of XPRO, I pay the lab to scan and try to achieve the same results myself. To be honest, I love the lab scans and I can never quite match them. It has something to do with gray balance, if I had to guess, but my photos almost always come out with more yellow and green tones than the lab scans have

    It sounds like you're starting to scan in Professional mode instead of the automated process... That's a good start! The histogram will get easier to learn with time. I will suggest that don't include the black border... You'll get much better results. There's a huge difference in the histogram if you select just the actual photo (as much of it as possible) versus including a frame.

    Have fun experimenting! PS, I love reading your articles and looking at your photos because I grew up in Hawaii, too. I can always tell early on in an article that it was written by you!

  5. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    I'm agreed with @j_rad about the black border and did you use the Auto Levels function? also in professional mode it can be selected or deselected just to see the difference, bear in mind that in the lab they use all kind of automations during the scan and pump the colours too becouse common peoples like vivid images...I like it too :)

  6. earlybird
    earlybird ·

    i use the v500 too. i work a lot with the automatic exposure option. i zomm the picture and try to find a little frame where the result looks good. changing the size and place of the frame the scaner will shows you different suggestions of exposures. sometimes it take a few minutes or you have to choose another picture withe more or less light. and when I find a nice looking frame, i deselsct the automatic exposure and save the adjustment . no i´m able to scan the hole film in that adjustment. and sorry for my bad english : )

  7. coldkennels
    coldkennels ·

    For what it's worth, I've spent a lot of time this past six months learning how to scan, and I finally realised that x-pro has more to do with exposure and post-processing than the scanning itself. In short, purposely underexposing the film by one stop, scanning using default settings, and then altering levels and colour balance in iPhoto was the only way I could get anything like most of the photos on here. Of course, this goes against this notion of analogue purity that I, too, once subscribed too; however, one of the biggest things I've learned is that it simply doesn't exist, as you've found here. Lab scans and prints look better than the average basic home scan because they are tinkered with - much like people would in photoshop. You can see what I mean here:…

    Eventually, with enough experience, you start to see just how much colour balancing actually occurs on this site, whether or not it's done by the photographer or the lab. Fuji films are the best example, because they all have a massive colour shift. In that post, I point out one of Renaishashin's photos - a great shot of a girl against a wall, but it's shot on Velvia 50. Velvia 50 x-pro'd has a massive, massive cyan colour cast. I've never seen it do anything else - unless it's been colour balanced along the way.

    But this isn't something that's dirty, and digital, and impure - anyone who's done any developing/printing knows just how much can be altered in the traditional darkroom. The key is doing it subtly, and not going overboard (like 99% of "HDR" photos).

  8. scorpie
    scorpie ·

    like it was said above, when you're working with histogramms, always select only the image itself, not the border around it. when you're using the eye-dropper to pick the blackest or brightest spot, always chose a spot within the image, not the border - you'll get much better results. in your example image, the blackest spot should be somewhere at the bottom of the palm tree, the brightest is probably somehwere in the sign.

  9. katherine-lynn
    katherine-lynn ·

    "Lab scans and prints look better than the average basic home scan because they are tinkered with - much like people would in photoshop."

    Actually, the reason a lab scan is best is because the actual part of the machine that does the scanning is about $10,000. I rarely make changes to cross-processed film as I'm scanning it for customers, except maybe the density if it doesn't have a pure black. I assume that if they're using the cross-processed method, they were hoping for intense color casts and punchy blacks.

    "I was thinking of getting the scanner mainly for those Sprockets rolls as the price for develop + scanning a roll of x-pro with sprockets is $12+ O_O It's really expensive! :("

    This might be the best way to go for sprockets, because you can't get them in the $10,000 scanner I mentioned. They have to be flat-bed scanned anyway.

  10. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    IMO using Vuescan has been a huge life saver, it's made my scanner function 1000 times better and there's lots of information out there about settings and techniques, advanced workflows etc. For x-pro you need to scan it as a negative, start with your colour settings all centred, scan in the film leader and lock the base colour and away you go! I keep it on the white balance setting 99% of the time as I find it gives me the most natural results.

  11. eljanito
    eljanito ·

    Thanks nick_a_tron! I have an Epson Perfection V500 scanner and after reading your posting I bought Vuescan and it's been great for scanning xpro negatives. The colours almost match the ones you can get from the lab.

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