Hello film shooters! I was reading a friend’s blog post recently and he was complaining that he wasn’t wowed by the images he was getting straight out of the scanner. Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be! Actually with my scanner I go through extra steps to not be “wowed” by the images straight out of the scanner, and I probably should do more, at some point. From what I remember the regular PSI software for the Pakon scanners outputs at 8Bit (even TIFFs) though my Pakon F335 is capable of 12Bit or 14Bit I believe; this takes special software which I have never bothered to set up.
I’m not sure how everyone else scans their film, but I decided to write this to show how I do it. Of course a lot of the time the lab is doing it for me, and while I wouldn’t complain too much about how they do it, if you have the ability to scan yourself then there is greater control over your images and it costs less. I had my Pakon scanner out of storage for a few months while I was living in a place where there was room for it, so I had my local lab develop my film and return the negatives to me uncut, which was less work for them and easier for me to scan.
The standard way of scanning with PSI tends to render black & white film with far too much contrast, so I manually select everything and lower the contrast to at least -20, possibly -40 depending on the film (-40 is as flat as it gets). In the past I exported raw negative images but found that my inversions were losing quite a bit of the image; it’s an extemporaneous step, plus you’re losing all the benefits of working with PSI and Kodak’s experience that was brought to the color science of getting proper scans. If you own a Pakon F135 (non-plus) you’re using TLX Client Demo and the only way you can get the full 3000×2000 resolution is to output raw, I hear. But I also hear plugins like Negative Lab Pro work amazingly well.
Now probably the most annoying thing about working with the Pakon is that it was designed to only be used with Windows XP machines (I have a couple) and while that was a damn good OS and I miss it, sadly I can’t just plug my scanner into any computer, I have to have a dedicated scanning machine and then export everything onto a flash drive (formatted for Fat32) and brought over to my laptop for finishing. I have everything saved by roll and drag all 38 or so files into Affinity Photo to start working on them:
This is how a scan will look before I start to work on it:
For some reason the Pakon’s black & white scans still have some color and have to be turned grayscale, so I do that and then adjust the curves to where I need them. This image was exposed perfectly and required very little adjustment, not always the case.
Even shooting my modified Sunny-8 rule with a non-metered manual camera I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the light so I fluff very little…outdoors. Indoors is another story, much more guesswork there. PSI file names by default start with AA, AB, AC, etc, so I add my own prefix which tells me the year and season I shot them as well as where this roll fits in sequentially. So I have everything saved by roll of film in the full res JPGs, but I do a little more work to get things ready for the internet, starting with making all the images smaller.
I still use a watermark though I’m getting away from that, for right now making it much less obtrusive. Final export includes a bit more compression to keep the file size down.
And here is the final image: