In this episode we will embark on a journey into the depths of colour management and go where no colour negative film-shooting photographer has gone before. Well, I bet they have but I can’t find anything else like it on the internet…
In Scanning Colour Negative Film 101 we learned how to scan a piece of colour negative film in Nikon Scan using the standard negative mode as well as how to get a full range gamma 1.0 positive scan that we can use to do our own positive inversion with. Continue reading to start exploring how to do this in three progressively more complex but powerful ways. Because we are dealing only with processing the inversion of the positive scan the techniques discussed here are equally applicable for positive scans obtained via any scanner or software, even so-called “DSLR” scans. For DSLR scans, however, there are some special considerations that we will touch on in the third installment.
So you want to scan negative film? Well, it’s not too hard to be happy if you don’t look too far. I spent my first several years just using the “negative” mode on Nikon Scan with my Nikon Coolscan 9000ED and I was very happy. Nikon Scan does a very good and artistically satisfying job, in my opinion. It is all well and good until you want some control over the process. Let’s say, you don’t like the clipping point where your brights get cut off. Let’s say you end up with a colour cast in the shadows or across the whole image. Let’s say the shadows are crushed. What can you do? Well, nothing, my friend. Nothing unless you take over.
We live in a sea of photography. Every day a wave of tsunami proportions of new images washes over us. Every image creator competes fiercely for a few precious seconds of your eyeball time. Every new technique is done to death. To be heard you must shout!
I was reading a post by an Austin commercial photographer named Kirk Tuck. He has a good blog about photography in general and the post is here:
Basically, I think he is right. I think we are all sorely tempted to jazz up the “KERPOW!!” factor on our images.
But could we live with them?
One thing I find I have always striven for is “livable” images. If I were suddenly wealthy one of the first things I would do is have the best of my work printed mural size and fastened to my walls. I strive to make images that I could live with.
The above image is one of my recent favourites from a trip to San Francisco. I thought it was very liveable but it seems I was distracted by the lovely colours and tones. They had blinded me to the flawed composition. A few minutes at full screen were enough to tell me that. I had to fix it before linking to it here.
It takes an awful lot to make a good photograph and very little to ruin it. Maybe it is time to look at your own photographs again. Are you making photographs you could live with?
I firmly believe that you can never succeed at an art form like photography unless you can learn to see, sometimes in an instant, the finished artwork as you look at the scene in front of you. This skill, which takes years of practice to hone, is essential and no meaningful work will be produced (except occasionally by accident) without it. This skill of pre-visualising and “seeing” is essential.
The craft of photography is learning how to translate the captured scene into a finished product that matches that previsualisation. This is a suite of skills that encompass camera handling and camera settings (at capture time) as well as various image editing and other intermediate procedures that come between capturing the image and presenting a finished version. This is the suite of skills that garner most of the attention on internet sites because it is easiest to talk about and it is also the subject of most marketing by companies with products to sell to photographers. This suite of technical skills is not essential for the photographer to have, however. In a good partnership, it could even be outsourced since the vision is the essential part. However, it is necessary and if you are a photographer who does their own image processing it can often make a real difference in how close to its potential a good image can come.
I find that I have one or two images that I have never been satisfied with my ability to process into what they should be. Into what I visualised them to be. This is one of them.
This is the fifth time I am presenting a version of this image and I doubt it will be the last. I think it is good to have benchmarks for yourself. We only see how far we have come when we look back.
As a photographer I find that I respond strongly to colour. Recently, however, I had a shoot where I had great difficulty achieving the coluor I had in mind. This seeming setback, as so often happens, was really an opportunity in disguise.
Colour profiles are not something I had really been paying attention to. Apart from ensuring that my monitor is calibrated I mainly have been happy just to move around controls until I like what I see. However, the brick wall I hit on this last shoot sent my flying down the rabbit hole of ICC. It just doesn’t seem like it should be all that complicated but the world of colour, like all of God’s creation, is as wide and as deep as you care to explore.
Along the way I came across the work of a great photographer named Joseph Holmes. His gallery is here: