Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scanning Workflow

updated 01/29/2014

Overview of the process:

Make a linear scan using Silverfast 8 SE scanning software. Use ColorPerfect negative conversion plug-in to convert the positive of the negative to a normal looking positive image. Adjust the tone of the image using a Levels or Curves adjustment layer. Sharpen your image. Clean up any dust speaks. Save the edited image as a TIFF (be sure the Keep Layers options is selected within the Save dialog). Print.

Two part video series on the workflow:
Part I
Part II

Color Film
Part III

Settings for making a linear scan of a color negative. It's wise to name your 
files with relevant information such as type of scan, subject, date, and film type. 


UM Students: You must be logged in as the user rcphoto in order for ColorPerfect to work properly on the lab computers (otherwise it doesn't 'know' it is registered - a weird grid will appear over the image). I sent the password in an email a few weeks ago.  

Please turn off the scanner when you are done with it. You can leave the computer logged in as it will go to sleep anyways.

When scanning film, use the following major settings:

Scan at a resolution of 4800. This will result in an image that will print nicely up to around 16x20"

Unless the scanner is powered up and connected, Silverfast won't launch. 

It can be hard to determine which image you want to scan given that the images still appear as negatives   given that you are scanning them using the positive setting. So, you can toggle the mode over to Negative to see the images as positives in order to facilitate the selection. Then just toggle back to Positive before scanning.

Crop your image within Photoshop before applying ColorPerfect. ColorPerfect makes some edits to the black and white points of the image and if you have non-image areas that are very dark or light it can throw off the tones of the conversion.

Command + Delete will allow you to deselect an image so that it won't be part of a Batch scan.

A scan of a standard 35mm image area at 4800 PPI will take about 1.5 minutes. If you enable the ME (multiple exposure option) a scan may take as long as 7 minutes.  So, use the option sparingly or when you can set up a batch scan and go do other things or awhile.

The model of scanners that we use is Epson V750. It's pricey at around $750, but it is more than most people need for home use. It can scan film up to 8x10 which is why it is so pricey. Epson V370 can scan 35mm film and only costs about $109 new. Epson V600 scanners can scan up to medium format film for around $200. Epson V500 scanners are now discontinued but can be found for around $50 used and they scan film up to medium format.

Vuescan scanning software is a cheaper alternative to Silverfast that works with almost any scanner/Operating System combination. It also allows you to make a linear scan that works well with ColorPerfect. Here is a nice tutorial on how to make linear scans using Vuescan in preparation to working with Colorperfect.

A linear scan records all the data from the scan without making any adjustments to the tone of the resulting image. We use Colorperfect to inverse the tones of the image and to apply some basic adjustments including mapping the tone to a Gamma of 2.2. In simple terms, this means that it takes the tones as they are recorded on the film and maps them to account for how human vision functions. What is important to note is that the image must be viewed in a default color space of Gray Gamma 2.2 in Photoshop or the tones will not look as expected. I have set the default color space of Photoshop to be Gray Gamma of 2.2 on all of the lab computers. When you save your Tiff files, you should always note that it says Save Profile: Gray Gamma 2.2.

When scanning color, you also have to select the film manufacture and type. This insures that the color characteristics of the film are interpreted correctly.

Photoshop's Color Management must be set up to use the Gray Gamma of 2.2 as the default Gray (Black and White) colorspace. I have done so on the lab computers. To do so on your own computer see the images below. I also suggest you set your default color working space to Adobe RGB (1998).

PhotoLine is a commercial image editing program that is supposed to work well with ColorPerfect. It costs around $60. I haven't used it.

Gimp is an open-source (free to use and distribute) image editing program. It is very powerful and would allow you to edit your images in a similar manner to Photoshp. It uses a different system of plug-ins which are not compatible with ColorPerfect, so if you wanted to use Gimp to edit your images and ColorPerfect to handle the conversions from negative to positive, you would have to use another program to run ColorPerfect. Fortunately, two free programs exist that would allow you to do this. IrfanView is a Windows only batch processor (a program that lets you quickly process many files at once) that supports Photoshop plug-ins. XnView offers similar capabilities and runs on Macs and PCs. I haven't ran through the motions of doing this yet, but if you are interested in using this workflow, I can write up a tutorial on it. If you do decide to give Gimp a try, but sure you set up the color management settings correctly.

The video below explains the more advanced features of ColorPerfect. There are a number of features which allows you a great deal of control over tonal placements. I find the user interface to be very non-intuitive and prefer to make most of my tonal edits in Photoshop or other image editing applications. That being said, it is interesting that the tools are designed to mirror how darkroom printing works using equivalent contrast grades.

Scanning the Sprockets of 35mm film

If you want to include the sprocket holes when scanning 35mm film, there are a number of ways to do so. Assuming you have a medium format film holder, you can try to to use that to hold part of it. You may want two pieces of cardboard and sandwich the film between it and place that on the glass or into your medium format film holder.

I have had success making numerous custom film holders from magnetic sheets. These are commonly sold at office supply stores and are designed to be printed on and cut out to shape for custom magnets. I cut out the size needed from two of them and lay one other the other to keep the film is position. It works very well though it can be a bit fiddly to position the film.

Lomo sells an item called the DigitalIZA which is an ingenious film holder designed to facilitate the process of scanning sprocket holes. It works quite well with a clever system of loading in the film. If you want the easiest method and don't mind spending $35, then that is the way to go.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is simply taping the negative directly to the glass. That works, but you will end up cleaning the glass a lot due to the inevitable fingerprints and tape residue.

It is important that your film is very flat when attempting to scan the sprockets. Especially if you are using a DigitalIZA. I find the best way to do this is to place your film in a large book with a few books stacked on it overnight. 

NOTE: Be careful not to cover the area of the flatbed scanner that is used to calibrate itself. If you look at your film holder, there is likely a little notch with some sort of 'do not cover' indicator on it. When you use any of the methods above, just be sure that you don't cover the corresponding area on the scanner.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Color Film

It is my belief that the days of color film being readily available are limited.

So, you are some of the lucky few who will still have a chance to shoot and process your own color film. Yes, you will be developing your own color negative film. The name of the chemical process is C-41 (or the very similar CN-16). Just so you know, the chemical process used to develop slides, also called positive or transparency film, is named E-6.

Here is the current list of 35mm color negative films that Freestyle Photo carries. It is not all inclusive as they don't even stock the perennial favorite consumer film Kodak Gold 400/Ultramax. Here is a current list of 35mm color negative films that BH Photo carries

I encourage you to only work with rolls of 36 exposure film as it is much more costly and time intensive to process a single roll of film compared to black and white film. Essentially, it isn't worth messing with 24 exposure rolls given the work it takes to process a single roll. On the other hand, rolls of 24 exposure may be worth it if the film is very cheap or you want to process shorter rolls.

I am providing you each with 3 rolls of Kodak Ultramax 400. It is the same thing as Kodak Gold 400. There is a Flickr Group dedicated to the film. It is cheap, and perhaps the most readily available locally. BH Photo sells it for just $2.49 for a 36 exposure roll (as of this writing 10/2013).

White Balance
The vast majority of film is of a type called ‘daylight balanced’. It is designed to be shot under lighting that is daylight balanced. Daylight balanced means light that is near the color of daylight at noon. The color balance of light is measured in degrees Kelvin. Daylight film is balanced for 5500K. Artificial lighting such as tungsten bulbs and fluorescent tubes put out light of a much different color than daylight at noon. Tungsten bulbs put out a light balance close to 3200K. Tungsten bulbs emit a very orange light.  and most fluorescent bulbs emit a very green light. The reason that everything does not look off color to us when we are indoor light is that our brain can quickly adjust to varying light conditions so that things look normal. Film cannot.
You have likely received prints back from you photofinisher that appear very orange or green. This is a failure on the part of your photofinisher. It is their task to correct for colorcasts introduced by artificial lighting. You can also use color filters to correct for the most common types of artificial lighting. When using transparency films, you have to make use of such filters, as there is no successive photofinishing steps in which color correction can be performed. Refer to figure 1 for a list of filters to use when shooting under artificial lighting.

80A     Converts daylight film for use with 3200 K lamps                blocks 2 stops of light
            For use under Tungsten bulbs (household screw in bulbs)

80B     Converts daylight film for use with 3400 K lamps                blocks 2 stops of light
            For use under Quartz bulbs (Studio lights such as Smith Victor lights)

FLD    Converts daylight film for use under fluorescent lights         blocks 1 stop of light

The greatest drawback of color correction filters is that they block a lot of light. Often the indoor light is low and the use of a color correction filter may necessitate an excessively slow shutter speed or a larger aperture than desired. When shooting print film, you can choose not to use a filter and rely on your photofinisher to color correct when printing. With a digital workflow, you would then have to color correct the image after scanning. Color correction is both laborious and time consuming. It is always better to make the extra effort to color correct via filtration rather than to color correct the digital image. However, that is not always possible. When shooting slides, color correction must be achieved through the use of filtration, as there is no subsequent color correction unless the slide is scanned. 
Given that you will be scanning all your color film for this class, color filtration at the time of shooting really isn't necessary. 

Practitioners and resources on night photography

Excellent Aperture web feature on Gregory Crewdson. His work is amazing. I thought my process of shooting my Three Minute Series was complex, but his process makes me feel inadequate.

Equally fantastic is the night series by Jan Staller. Check out the Frontier New York series. Like Crewdson, they make images as opposed to taking them. Unlike Crewdson, he doesn't physically construct the scene. Rather, he explored the familiar areas around him and photographed them in a manner which makes them seem simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. One of the significant things about Staller is the seeming insignificance of what he photographs. He doesn't seek out the most obvious chooses. There are no photos of the Statute of Liberty or Times Square. In most of his photos, there aren't people. This adds to the otherworldly nature of his photos. The color is amazing. Most of his images contain large elements of neutrality to which the colors offer a counter point.

Here is a link to a guy who blogs about night photography. There are some links to some really good work from here.

Julian Faulhaber- very bold use of color. Great compositions and shots from everyday places that are transformed due to their absence of people. I love the basketball court image. Some are at night, others not.

Darren Soh - Check out his series While You Were Sleeping. Night shots of Singapore.

Harold Davis- He has written a boatload of books on photography. This is his site dedicated to night photography.

The Nocturnes - A group dedicated to night photography. I linked directly to their resources page. Be sure to also check out their image gallery.

DarknessDarkness - a site in conjunction with an exhibit of the same name. I showed you the PDF of the exhibit in class.

Steve Harper - Some really great stuff here. He taught a course on night photography for over 11 years or something crazy like that.

Link to an article about photograping the night sky and creating star trails.
Series of work on the flight path of planes.

Firefly images.

flight patterns from Charlie McCarthy on Vimeo.

is a programmable timer for digital cameras.

2003 Documentary on Night Photography - FYI-All film work as it was shot in 2003.

Nice videos about digital night photography by Harold Davis. Audio quality is poor in the first one. Terrible in the second one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Removing Dust and Scratches from film scans using the Dust and Scratches Filter

Adobe Photoshop has a very nice tool called the ‘Dust and Scratches Filter’ which allows you to remove a great deal of dust and scratches very quickly.

Before using this filter, you need to sharpen your image. Then duplicate the Background layer. Name it Dust and Scratch Removal.

Select Filter from the main menu. Then go to Noise and select Dust and Scratches. This will bring up a dialog box with two input sliders. Set the Radius slider to 1 and the Threshold slider to 0.

The way this filter works is that it looks for small areas of high contrast that are likely to be dust or scratches. It then blurs that area with information around it so that you can’t see it anymore. The Radius slider determines how much blurring needs to happen in order to remove the dust and scratches. So move the slider to the right until you see the dust and scratches disappear. You may also notice that much of your picture looks blurry as well. Fear not, the Threshold slider will allow us to rectify that problem.

The Threshold slider allows you to control how blurry the overall picture is by controlling how much the difference in contrast must be present before any blurring is applied. When Threshold is set to 0, it is applied to the whole image. What you want to do is slowly drag the Threshold slider to the right until the dust starts to reappear and then go back to the left just before that point. This should result in a happy compromise where the image is still sharp but most of the dust is gone. This tool will not fix real heavy scratches. Use the clone and healing tools for those.

Then, create a layer mask by clicking the little circle in a square option in the bottom of the layers palette. It will appear entirely white indicating that the mask isn't applied at all. Hit Command/Control + I to invert the mask so that it is entirely black. Then it is fully masked off. Then use a brush with a white foreground color to paint over the dust specks. This will effectively allow the cleaned up layer to show through. This works especially well in areas on even one such as skies.

Alternatively, if you don't want to use a layer mask, you could use this technique in conjunction with the History Brush tool. Basically, you apply the filter, then take a snapshot of the image, then undo the filters application. Then use the History Brush to “paint” in the corrections only on those areas of dust and scratches. This insures that the filter doesn’t obscure any areas of detail that it incorrectly identified as dust.

Making positives from your pinhole images

There are two ways to make positive prints from your negative image pinhole images.

1. Use your print as a paper negative and make a contact print. Simply place your print on top of a piece of photo paper and into a contact printer to keep it flat. It will take a long exposure time, but eventually, you will get a positive print. You should start with a grade 3 or higher filter as the resulting print will be flat as you are printing through the paper.

2. Scan your print as a Positive and simply Invert it within Photoshop or other image editing program. When scanning prints, be sure to insert the white foam piece into the lid. This will helps keep your print flat during scanning.

The simplest way is to use Epson Scan.

Make sure that the lid has the reflective insert in place (see image below).

Set the resolution to 300 x the number that you want to enlarge it. Let's say your print is 5x7. If you wanted to print a 5x7, you would simply need to scan it at 300. If you want to be able to make it 3x as big, so 15x21", you would scan it at 3 x 300 so 900. I would like you to make prints that are approximately 11x15".

Be sure to selected Professional Mode if you are prompted by a window asking you what mode you want to use.

16 bit grayscale

You need to adjust the tones to insure that you aren't losing any information in the highlights or shadows. Set the white point and black point to just outside the image data. Set the midtone to 1. Set the output to 1 and 255.

Turn Unsharp Mask off.

Scan it as a TIFF.

Invert the image. Image > Adjustments > Invert.

Edit the tones using a Curves Adjustment Layer. Sharpen the image. Remove the dust using Dust and Scratches. Save as a TIFF. Print!


If you want to use SilverFast - don't really feel it is worth it for pinhole prints - here is the info:

As far as SilverFast goes, set major settings are:
48 > 24 Bit

To determine what resolution to scan at, multiply 300ppi by the number of times you want your print enlarged. For example, 900ppi will give you a print 3x the size of your original. If you have a tiny print, scan it higher. If if doubt, go with 900ppi.

When you open the scans in Photoshop, go to Image > Mode > Grayscale. This is because we scanned the print as a color image, but want it to be in Grayscale mode before we run ColorPerfect. Crop as desired.

Run ColorPerfect. It should think it is a Black and White negative and generate a good looking positive. If it doesn't look good, cancel it and just invert the tones in Photoshop by going to Image > Adjustments > Invert.

Edit the tones. Sharpen the image. Remove the dust. Print!

Assignment #3: Ambiguous Narrative (What's Going Down?)

Assignment #3: Ambiguous Narrative (What's Going Down?)

This assignment is a vehicle for you to explore color film photography, color theory, night photography, composition, narrative structure, digital color manipulation, and the direction and photographing of people.

Spee Critique of First Image/s: Monday 3/31

Final Critique: Monday 4/7

For this assignment, you will work in a directorial/staged/cinematic mode (you set up the photographs) to create narratives using people as subjects. This assignment will require some planning. Start thinking about it now. Don't wait until the last minute!

Open ended narrative photographs containing people:

Shoot any subject(s) concentrating on the idea of a suggested but open ended narrative. Make photographs in which a single image tells a story or implies a narrative. The most interesting narratives are ones in which the story is open ended- those which leave the viewer filling in holes or trying to complete the story. Aim for this type of narrative! I want all your narratives to be vague. Experiment! Have fun! Get crazy!

Think about what distinguishes a fine photograph from a snapshot and take responsibility for everything in the frame. This includes (but is not limited to) distance from subject, background, pose, expression, figure ground relationships/ depth of field, mood, lighting, composition, color relationships, and other formal considerations. Decide what you want the photograph to communicate and make it happen.
Hint: We all know the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" but an image that "tells it all" is generally less interesting than one which leaves the viewer looking for more. Your images need to be intellectually challenging to retain the viewers interest. Keep this in mind when shooting and try to create images that will intrigue the viewer; create open ended images that will involve the viewer in the narrative and inspire the viewer to interpret your narrative. Don't give away the ending! Think of each image as its own narrative that occurs in the same ‘universe’ as the other images.
Requirements: I would expect you to shoot at least 3 rolls in order to complete this assignment.

Criteria for Grading:
Three inkjet prints of no smaller than 11x14. Print quality matters. Don't wait to print the day before the assignment is due to try to print. The main work of this assignment is the planning and the shooting. I don't want crazy digital or special camera effects. This is to be shot straight. Use composition, color theory, and a good narrative to make your images compelling.
Shoot early to allow time to shoot again as necessary.  If you take a photo and it is a little blurry, plan on shooting it again. If you take a photo and the negative is very under or over exposed, shoot it again. If you don't love your images, shoot again.

The emphasis of your grade will be based on your creativity and ability to communicate the objectives above; however, technical proficiency is expected and poor technique will have an adverse effect on your grade.

Many students go 'dark' with this assignment, but it isn't necessary to do so. Please have a look at Selesnick and Kahn's fantastic work.  I'm particulary fond of their series Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea. I was fortunate enough to include some of their prints in an exhibition that I curated.

Or course, the work of Gregory Crewdson and Jeff Wall are prime examples of this type of work. You might also want to look at the work of Margi Gerrlinks.

Student Examples:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

ChartThrob Results

Second Round Results - Success! I think...
Okay, I think I got it! If you don't want to read the whole post and just want the curve, here it is. Remember to make your image look good as a black and white image, then apply the curve, then Flatten the image, then Invert the image, then print it. Simple!
This whole process took quite a bit work to get it down. I had hope and expected it would be easier, but in reality I was also working on getting my emulsion application and exposure times dialed in at the same time, so that likely slowed the process down.You can see how much better the chart looks this time.
The thing that turned out to be the trickiest was to insure that the samples that the script 'found' where not in the right place. I had to crop several times then run the script then check to see if it sampled the right places. Lots of trial and error. Finally, I got it to sample the correct patches though and it generated a curve that seems appropriate. I read somewhere they they smooth out the curve before using it. I will try it as is and see what I get. Will update the blog once I have a time to make some prints using it.

Here is what the resulting Curve looks like.

 Here is ChartThrob message.
 Here is the chart:
This shows the sample areas lined up with the corresponding patches. 
 This shows the sample areas lined up with the wrong patches. The samples would result in two patches being averaged together.  

First Round Results - 
Here is the Photoshop Curve Preset that I generated via ChartThrob for use with Cyanotypes. Below is the dialog box that I got during while using ChartThrob to generate the curve. So, I will do as it suggests and make another print of the chart but expose it for less time. I will also give this curve a try to see what the results are.
I printed the chart twice. I wasn't happy with the first chart as the emulsion hadn't been applied very well and resulted in the paper being torn. So I did it again. The curve is very similar from both.
A nice write up on how to use ChartThrob

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cyanotype Toning - Lipton Tea and Folger's Instant Coffee as Toner

 Lipton Tea and Folger's Instant Coffee as Toner - no bleaching

This image show the straight Cyanotype, a piece of the same paper allowed to sit in a solution of Lipton Tea (10 tea bags steeped in 1 L of water) for about 3 hours, a piece of the same paper allowed to sit in a solution of Folger's Instant Coffee (about 2-4 oz of coffee [wasn't precise with that] and 1 L of water) for about 3 hours.

It is important to stress that I did not bleach the prints before hand. Just threw the strips in the mix and let them stew.

Washed in water afterwards.

The tea toned print is a lovely brown. The coffee toned print is surprisingly neutral. I would imagine that you would see more of a brown or eggplant color in the mid tones, but I really don't see it in this dense test strip.

Second image shows the flip side of the paper. Clearly, the coffee and tea have stained the base tint of the paper. The backside of the paper is more stained than the front as there is no cyanotype coating on the back. You could probably play with the times that they were allowed to soak to determine if you could get maximum toning affect without so much of a stain on the paper.

Cyanotype supplies that we are using - stuff you need to do this at home


The only two chemicals that are really needed:
2 x 1lb (smaller quantities are available)
Ferric Ammonium Citrate - Green

5 lb (smaller quantities are available)
Paper - you can use just about any paper you want. See the other posting on Cyanotype for a list that papers that work particularly well with the process. 

9x11 sheets
Crane 90 lb Cotton Rag

Also nice to have some Hydrogen Peroxide on hand to preview how the print will look when fully dry. Some tea or coffee is nice if you want to tone your prints. Sodium Carbonate can be used to bleach your prints prior to toning. It is sold at larger grocery stores as Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.  You can also use TSP, but it isn't good for rivers and fish when it gets into waterways.

You can use a glass clip frame, a regular frame, or a sheet of glass with some clamps to keep the negative flat against the paper.

We are using Ultra Premium OHP Transparency Film to print the negatives on. We are using a 17" roll of it, but it is available in 8.5 x 11 sheets to feed through just about any printer. You can use of overhead transparency film/paper (commonly available at just about any office store) but the image won't likely to be as fine using the Pictorico stuff. Epson also makes a clear film named CrystalClear Film. It isn't as common though.

In summary, for very little money you can obtain what is necessary to make Cyanotype prints at home.