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Scanning Black and White Negative Film

21st September 2015 Scanning

Black and white film is very flexible and you can greatly manipulate densities by using different developers, agitation, length of development etc. However, this also makes black and white film particularly difficult to scan as what is on it varies so much from film to film, shot to shot.

Typically when scanning negative film, a profile is used which shifts the scan toward the best results with the particular colour response of that type of film. However, experience has taught us that this does not work very well with black and white film. Too often the profile makes decisions about D-Max and D-Min that are not appropriate, and so the final scan does not have all the detail it should have.

The solution to this problem is to scan the images using the full dynamic range of the scanner - as RGB colour positives. This results in a scan with all the detail from the original film on it. Then invert the image in Photoshop and remove the slight remaining colour cast that results from the film base not being perfectly neutral. The final result is a neutral scan with all the detail from the original film.

If you've over developed or your film is very thin (under exposed, under developed) then your scans will reflect this, but the Imacon can get a good workable result from almost any piece of film. You should expect a result that is significantly flatter and more flexible than what many typical labs will produce. You will need to apply a contrast/density curve in Photoshop to restore the scan (or desired) contrast. The file is robust enough to cope with this, and should contain all the detail originally captured.