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Experiments in Cross Scanning - Scanning Tutorial

Some ideas about scanning cross processed film, or, what I learned (until now) about scanning, especially cross processed film.

Photo by paramir

It has been a long time that I was planning to get myself a proper scanner, one that is able to scan both 35 mm and 120 film. In the beginning of my lomographic way, I used to get the photos printed and scan the prints with my old Epson flatbed scanner. Later, realizing that if I keep shooting like I did, this way is going to lead me to a street corner very very fast, I gave up the prints and started getting the films scanned by the lab. This was already a big difference in the costs, but there was also always the doubt in my mind (well, actually it was more of a solid idea than a doubt) that the lab scans are not exactly “correct”. What do I mean by correct? Well, let me explain.
When I first read about cross processing, here on the site, I was captured by the idea of those “unexpected results” you get when you cross your films. And indeed, crossing my first slide films, the unexpected results were there, and quite unexpected they was! I was very happy with those and started exploring the different films and their behaviors, trying to understand what is actually happening there. Slowly, a troubling thought started creeping at the back of my head: each film had its own characteristics, his own “cross-tendency”, an inclination towards a certain tone (To name a few, the Fuji Velvia 100 leaned strongly towards the purple-pink hues, Fuji Sensia 100 produced psychedelic purple tones, the Kodak EBX – lime greenish), but in almost every roll I got back from the lab there were a few images that did not follow that rule, that somehow escaped this color wash that all the others got. How come?? It was not very logical. What can make this difference? Lighting conditions? Possible, but sometimes two pictures taken just one after the other came totally different in regards to the cross effect.
At the time I left it for the mystery that it was.

When I got my scanner and did my first steps in scanning cross processed film, the issue came back, and this time I needed to understand it in order to get my scans right. The first scans of crossed slide film were very disappointing and I started looking on the net for some information. I also remembered Stouf’s article about scanning crossed film, which made sense to me – the same principle is also true for scanning prints: if you have a “true” black (and white) in your image, the auto exposure feature of the scanning software (or any automatic correction you can do later in Photoshop) will produce a more accurate result.
I found another article that was claiming that cross processing slide films do not lead to unexpected results, but to quite consistent (per film type) results. And it is quite logical: if you look at a crossed Astia 100 negative for example, the base color of it is green. This base color is the same all over the roll. When inverted, it will turn to the purple that is characteristic to the Astia 100. But its effect should indeed be consistent throughout the whole roll. Well, at least that was my conclusion. (This article is written based on my thoughts and experiences only, please correct me if you have any facts that refutes my theories)

Well, there is also another pretty big issue, discussed here on the sit from time to time, and that is: how much do you let your scanning software or yourself fiddle with your scanned images? How far do you with tweaking the color balance, the contrast, the saturation? This is somewhat of a moral issue I find. Some say that you should do as little as possible, some say you should do as much as you like, some say that you should limit yourself to the what is to be replicated in a darkroom. But I will not go in to this discussion now, I just want to show you some of my tests and their results, and you can judge for yourself what is more “correct” in your eyes.
I am using an Epson V500 with the EpsonScan software, but I think that the same ideas can be applied with any other scanner and software.

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction at all.
2: photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: black edges trimmed and photoshop "auto levels applied.

You can see here that the original scan is a bit flat (low contrast). And, you can see a small difference in the “auto levels” correction when applied with or without the black edges.

1: scanned as positive film with no color/exposure correction.
2: photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned as positive film with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma).

Another technique that came up in some discussions about x-pro scanning, is scanning the negatives as positive (slide) film and inverting it in post. As you can see the results are quite different than when scanning as negative. I find that (at least with the Epson V500) this method requires more tweaking in the post, and that the quality of the image is not as good (lots of noise in the black for example).

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction, photoshop “auto levels” applied.
2: scanned with no corrections, black edges trimmed and photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma).

In this example you can clearly see the phenomena I was referring to earlier: when the scan area does not include the black edges, the scan software is trying to correct the levels/white balance without an “anchor” (black), resulting in an image (3) with almost no trace of the Velvia purpleness. This happens a lot in the automatic lab scans.

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction, photoshop “auto levels” applied.
2: scanned with no corrections, black edges trimmed and photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned as a positive film, with scan software uto exposure (1.8 gamma).
4: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), black edges trimmed.
5: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), with black edges.

In the case of the EPP you can see that photoshop “auto levels” does not deliver the same poppy colors that the scan software auto exposure delivers. Though the scan software does blow the highlights quite a bit. I tend to believe that some films are easier to “correct” than others. Another thing that came up in some discussions was that fact that scan softwares probably apply a fort of filter to negate the orange tint that regular negatives have. Since crossed films are mostly not orange (though some are in the area), this might lead to some more color correction issues when scanning them as negatives.

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction.
2: scanned with no color/exposure correction, photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned with no corrections, black edges trimmed and photoshop “auto levels” applied.
4: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), with black edges.
5: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), black edges trimmed.

Without the black edges the purple tint is less dominant and the color range is wider. You can notice that the photoshop “auto levels” produces a little more subdued results.
And, interesting to see, here is the scan I got from the lab for this image:

Photo by paramir

This makes me believe that the scanning profile that is used in the lab is pumping up both contrast and saturation. I must admit I find the saturation a bit over the top.

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction.
2: scanned with no color/exposure correction, photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned with no corrections, black edges trimmed and photoshop “auto levels” applied.
4: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), with black edges.
5: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), black edges trimmed.

Here again you can see the difference between the correction of the scan software and that of photoshop. The scan software pushes the contrast up and loses a lot of detail in the highlights. The color is also quite different.

Again the lab result is with contrast pushed a bit more.

1: scanned with no color/exposure correction.
2: scanned with no color/exposure correction, photoshop “auto levels” applied.
3: scanned with no corrections, black edges trimmed and photoshop “auto levels” applied.
4: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), with black edges.
5: scanned with scan software auto exposure (1.8 gamma), black edges trimmed.

The lab scan: shadows are losing many details.

So, as I keep on scanning my workflow is starting to form… I think that as a general rule I will use the scanning with black edges and scan software auto exposure, maybe a bit tempered down to prevent blowing the highlights. But it seems that the scan software gets more colors out of the image, while the black edges take care that it will stay within context…
After debating with myself for a long time about the moral issues of digitally correcting my images, I got to this conclusion: there is always some exposure/color/contrast correction happening, also in a darkroom. Some photos are badly exposed and a light correction does not bring them to life. I prefer to leave those the way they are. This is part of the lomographic journey as I see it: not all experiments succeed, and not all the photos can be good.
And as for the unexpected, sometimes random cross process effect? Well, it is a matter of white balance or levels adjustments. If you choose to use the black edge method and keep more “true” to the nature of the film you are using, or if you choose to use it the other way and let the correction lead to some unexpected results – I think these are both “kosher” ways to use the cross process effect. I just think, keep it simple.

And to finish it off – the first film I crossed was a Fuji Velvia 100. I did it in the only real professional lab left in Amsterdam and it cost me 13 euro only for the crossing (I did not know it until it was too late…). This film was – according to the lab workers – printed in a darkroom and not digitally. Here is a re-scan of one of the photos from then, which I just did with my scanner:

and this is a scan of the print I got then:

Photo by paramir

I have no idea what have they done to get to this result. I tried to imitate it with no success… I’ll have to go back there and ask them I guess.

written by paramir

26 comments

  1. peropero

    peropero

    great article!!
    i spend so much time scanning my x-pros. i have an epson 9940 and use the same software. i hate it when sometimes the scanner just wont find the colors!!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. adi_totp

    adi_totp

    hey thanks for sharing! :D yes scanning x-pro is a bit tricky I must confess

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. bulletofmine

    bulletofmine

    nice one! this is a great review about scanning film. I had the same problem too. I don't know which kind of colour is the real colour of the film. dammit. so i had to make a choice, whatever the colour appear that please my eyes, I locked than scan it.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. eastmoe

    eastmoe

    thanks for sharing..@adi_totp agree =)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. guitarleo

    guitarleo

    yes, scanning is really a headache job, but this is FUN!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  6. stouf

    stouf

    Excellent post. Very well written and thought. About the two last shots, I think the darkroom print was affected by the choices of the guy who printed it... Makes me wanna try darkroom printing... Ho well, when I'll retire... Congrats again and thanks for the link ! : )

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  7. eatcpcks

    eatcpcks

    really useful article! Love it! Love to scann my negatives and my slides:) Congrats ... I add it to my collection of useful posts

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  8. krusty1980

    krusty1980

    very useful article! thank you

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  9. simonh82

    simonh82

    Good article, i've had the same problems scanning x-pro, but feel like i've cracked it now, pretty much come to the same conclusions as you. I agree with @stouf about the last two shots. Wet dark rooms will use colour filters to build up a 'correct' colour image and this will be down to the eye of the lab guy.

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  10. lolfox

    lolfox

    interesting article although I disagree with your notions about the 'moral' boundaries of scanning.... there are good photos, there are bad fotos and there are indifferent fotos... how you chose to present your images and the methods you use to gain your results are up to you... i really dont see any moral dilema.

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  11. pamplemousse_mk2

    pamplemousse_mk2

    If you include the black borders in the auto digital treatments of the picture, you will get false results because most of the auto algorithms don't exclude the black borders from the real picture informations.

    And I think your lab use a professional scanner like Nikon CoolScan which has a greater DMax value than any flatbed scanner.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

    great article paramir !!!! thanks for sharing !!!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  13. jennson

    jennson

    yeahh great!! same problems here!!
    is anyone using SilverFast Ai? I use an Epson Perfection V700 Photo, and have the problem, that when scanning with SilverFast i am not able to turn of the collorcorrection?

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  14. jennson

    jennson

    yeahh great!! same problems here!!
    is anyone using SilverFast Ai? I use an Epson Perfection V700 Photo, and have the problem, that when scanning with SilverFast i am not able to turn of the collorcorrection?

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  15. mochilis

    mochilis

    Really useful, mostly for the ones that, like me, are new in the scanning world. Thank you!!! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  16. juditto

    juditto

    great article !! thanks for sharing, really..

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  17. pepper-b

    pepper-b

    great article!! I always scan it as negative film and use the auto exposure, I think the results are better than just the auto levels...

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  18. paramir

    paramir

    thank you everybody for the great reactions!
    @stouf - oh yes, I am dreaming on my own dark room... I even have the color enlarger... just need some space! :) (and money...)
    @pamplemousse_mk2 - thank you for your insights! as I said, this article is based on my own experience and thoughts, and I am glad to get some more (solid) information. Thanks!
    @lolfox - that is exactly what I mean, everyone sees these issues differently. And the more I learn, the more I see that there is no real limit to manipulation, analogue or digital. I choose to keep things here as analogue as possible for the moment. Wait till I get my darkroom, some freaky stuff will come out of there! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  19. isoterica

    isoterica

    Wonderfully written article. The examples and how you processed each photo clearly illustrate what you are trying to communicate regarding scanning and I for one have learned a lot from this. I have yet to get a proper scanner for my negatives so I either have to settle for a color CD that the photo lab prepares or scanning and inverting my black and white film. I think as far as the purist ideal goes, whether the darkroom is chemical or digital, there is always choice in how to process the final product from paper type to chemicals or contrast sliders and curves and as long as you aren't doing layers or cloning or adding/reducing grain or applying filters.. then you are being fair enough. Color correction based on what you think is accurate to your eye or most attractive should be acceptable. It's all about aesthetics. If no one likes what you've done.. your purity [or morals] will stand alone and unappreciated. All things in moderation and if you have photos that require more retouching, there are plenty of other forums to share them in so that they too can be appreciated.

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  20. la0da

    la0da

    thanks your tutorial, bookmark this!
    super best!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  21. zule

    zule

    great article and great work. Thanks for sharing it! I'm still in the process of understanding with my lomo and you provide me the next challenge: the fight with the scanning! Sounds as I'm going to be really busy!
    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  22. bernardocople

    bernardocople

    Thanks for writing this man. So complete and full of info, details and examples. I scan my stuff on a Epson V600, very similar, helped me a lot. Thanks again!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  23. paramir

    paramir

    @isoterica - yes, I agree with you, and therefore the need to explore the many different possibilities. Everything in moderation is indeed a good guide. I have seen the craziest effects done in an analogue darkroom.
    What I am getting in general, from looking at the "10 golden rules" for example, and from the spirit of this community, it is not about perfect exposure or true-to-life colors (although it sometimes is) but about the experiments and the love for imperfections. Light leaks, extreme tones, overexposed, underexposed, dishwashers and expired chemicals - these are all our friends here...
    And after that said, I have nothing against scanning experiments, just remember the analogue nature of the community.
    @zule - ah, yes - time consuming and frustrating sometimes, but scanning your own negatives is great (and also those of your girlfriend)
    @bernardocople - glad this information helped you! :)

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  24. disasterarea

    disasterarea

    great article...i usually trim the border before scanning but must see what happens to the colors if I leave a bit left.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  25. xenializ

    Thanks for this post! I just set up a new Epson scanner last night and the first negative I tried with it was cross-processed. Your article will certainly come in handy.
    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  26. lomoluke

    lomoluke

    I've been trying to work out why my x processed photos aren't that different from regular photos. It was cheaper to print from scans than the negatives when i got them processed and now I have a feeling they have corrected the colours in the scans. I'm picking up my own scanner tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what the difference is from the negatives. Thanks for this great article!
    over 2 years ago · report as spam

Read this article in another language

This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish.