Processing

From camera to web and print

Magnus L Andersson

This is an attempt to describe our process from the raw image on a memory card or film frame to images presented in social media or as prints. It is a description that naturally evolves over time, based on lessons learned and technological improvements.

We will present processes mainly for the pure black and white digital camera Leica M Monochrom (1st generation), the digital cameras Fujifilm X100S and Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the smartphone HTC U11 and scans of analog films by the Plustek Opticfilm 120. For all these setups the process begins with turning the raw file, or scanner outcome, into a manageable negative or slide to be developed into a positive and finally enlarged for the web or a print. Even so, the process is applicable for any camera or smartphone setup. Due to our background in analog photography, the process and its terminology will borrow from that world.

The background for this introduction to our efforts is that we have not been able to find a useful one for the process from camera to print and presentation on the web, and a need to document our process to achieve consistency and a smooth process. It describes our way of doing things, and we don’t claim that it is any better than other approaches, and share it to possibly provide some ideas how you may set up your process if you don’t already have one you’re happy with.

NOTE: This page is still very much a piece of work in progress, hence will most probably both change and expand over time.

 

In the beginning there was light

 

 

If you like our work, you are more than welcome to follow us at Instagram or have a look at Fotosidan (Swedish site for photographers) or LFI (international site for mainly images captured by Leica equipment). You are also welcome to contact us at info@anderssoneklund.se for questions about our work, and to share links to this post.

 

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Collections

2.1 Library

3. Darkroom processes

3.1 Darkroom collection

3.2 Development

3.2.1 Import of negatives, slides and frames

A. Emulation principles

B. Scanning of analog frames

1. Introduction

Let’s begin by spending some time to elaborate on some basic terminology we use, as we try to adopt a traditional analog process approach to both files from digital cameras and scans of analog films. However, this is in some cases not easy and we have to make use of terms with slightly different semantics than normally seen.

In the case of a digital camera, its memory card contains files we call digital raw files. These can be read from the card and imported to Lightroom (denoted LR), and we call the resulting files digital slides since these, as their analog counterparts, can be seen as miniature transparent images. In the case of files originating from a scanning process of a negative or reversal film, we call them frames and they contain not only what we may call analog raw data, but also an additional layer describing existing dust and scratches. This layer cannot be edited in LR, therefore we create and import stripped analog raw instances we refer to as negatives and analog slides. But, we will still keep track of the frames in LR to ensure traceability from film strip to images.

Import is the first part of the development process, which aims at resulting in a positive that can be described as “a well-documented and archived image ready for use of a given ratio with mitigated technical flaws and a certain film look”. Hence, a positive shall look like an image on a contact sheet from a shot with a given analog (flawless) camera and film. This means that the development process needs to consist of adjustments to care for technical flaws of, for instance, the lens and in the case of digital slides emulations to mimic analog films. Considering negatives that look like traditional film strips, the development also consists of a conversion step to make them look like slides. A positive may then be creatively manipulated through enlargement to obtain an image ready for print or the web.

Raw files are developed into positives by importing and manipulating  negatives or slides to mimic a traditional analog contact sheet, which then can be enlarged to images for print or the Internet publication.

It’s important to note that in almost all cases the import step using, for instance, the Adobe Camera Raw (denoted ACR) application alters the raw file to achieve a certain look, thereby the semantic difference between an unaltered slide and an altered positive. Moreover, it’s not straight forward to decide which manipulations are to be viewed as development or enlargement steps. Our view is that a positive shall be the starting for creative manipulation, hence be good enough to be presented as an image on its own. Consequently, all types of adjustments and corrections to care for technical challenges with cameras, lenses, and scanners are to be viewed as part of the development process. This also holds for cropping of raw files and applying film emulations to digital raw files to mimic an analog film type. Considering the latter step as a development step follows from that in our opinion this step equals picking an analog film, and by this, we are able to treat positives in the same way independent of their origin and present them as traditional contact sheets.

This process from the raw file to an image is called the darkroom process, and in this manual, we will try to outline its steps as detailed as possible and also describe how the process is implemented using Lightroom, Photoshop (denoted PS) and color grading software like 3D Lut Creator (denoted 3DLC). In the case of analog raw files, we also rely on SilverFast Ai Studio 8 and SilverFast HDR Studio 8 for the scanning and the LR plug-in Negative Lab Pro (denoted NLP) for the conversion and metadata annotations.

Lightroom is the main solution to manage the inventory of frames, negatives, slides, positives, and images. It is also the main tool for edits like cropping and color management, and Photoshop is only used in cases where wanted effects like the addition of grains etc cannot be achieved in Lightroom.

As will be seen, one important part of the development is so-called color grading to (1) create positives of digital slides that often borrow features from analog photography’s use of different types of film or (2) to convert and adjust negatives to better mimic the “real” film look. One of the most important resources for this kind of task is a set of Look-Up Tables (denoted LUTs), that is, mappings from colors to colors, we call Affinity from its original purpose to provide film emulations for the Affinity software. These are based on the library of LUTs provided via G’Mic, and as CUBE files (link), trying to emulate different analog films with respect to a given reference image. Another resource is the commercially available set of professional LUTs from Lutify.Me. Both of these resources are the starting point for tuning LUTs to fit the purpose and characteristics of a given film or wanted look, and the 3D LUT Creator is the main tool to create LUTs which can be imported into Lightroom and Photoshop as so-called profiles. The third type of profiles we will use are ones we have created to reflect different types of analog development steps or to care for scanning deficiencies found in analog raw files. Consequently, we have that the development process consists of a series of color grading steps and topological manipulations to care for lens distortions and vignetting.

Using LR as the main management solution, we make use of its abilities like collections and naming of copies and labeling. To denote these types of concepts, and the values they are given, we use blue fonts in this presentation. For instance, “we set Copy Name to Negative” means that we assign the value Negative to the LR field named Copy Name. Consequently, we also say a file with a given Copy Name value to be of that type. For instance, a file with Copy Name equal to Positive is a positive.

In the first part of this manual, we describe the setup of collections used to manage the archive of files, as well as an overview of the process from raw files to images. The second part begins with a description of the process of importing raw files, followed by how these are manipulated to obtain positives. Then we describe the different enlargement methods to turn a positive into an image like a print or one intended for Internet publication. The last part of this manual details our approach to emulate different film-like features as part of the development and enlargement processes, and the treatment of analog films from film strips to negatives and analog slides.

2. Collections

The Library is the total Collection of all imported and produced files. The management of this collection is, as far as possible, independent of the equipment used to create its content and is the basis for all processing. In our case, it is stored on a Network Area Storage (denoted NAS) Synology 1815+ server (today available as DS1819+), which is also remotely accessible to allow management when being on the road.

A slide or negative that has been added to the Library and not been subject to any “distorting” treatment, by for instance ACR, has the Copy Name set to Slide or Negative as part of the first development step called import. If any kind of “creative” color grading has been applied during the import of a slide, the name is set to Positive and the resulting file is called a positive. Hence, any steps taken by the embedded camera or scanning process are considered to result in a slide or negative as longs as they don’t alter the input in any creative way. In the case of analogs where the SilverFast solutions are used without any adjustments to scan the film frames, the outcome will be slides or negatives, and in the case of digitals where only linear profiles, that is a mapping where each color is mapped to itself, are used the outcome will be slides.

When slides or negatives are subject to measures corresponding to what we would call development in the analog world, that is, application of film emulations etc., a positive is created with Copy Name set to Positive. Hence, the conversion of a negative to a positive using the NLP software is part of the development process, even though in theory it “creatively inverts” the colors of the negative.

Finally, an image is created with Copy Name set to Image when processing corresponding to the enlargement work takes place in a darkroom, that is, the majority of what is done in PS. The result can then be printed (Print) or produced for the Internet (Web), as indicated by the Copy Name.

It’s also important to remember that any of the types of files above may be in different stages of processing and we will use Color Label to indicate if a file needs to be cared for (To Do), is worked upon (Ongoing) or is Good to Use for next step of processing.

The Library consists of the imported FramesSlides and Negativesand the Positives and Images created by the development and enlargement processes.

2.1 Library

The Library is the set of all frames, slides, negatives, positives, and images divided into different sub-collections to reflect the different steps from raw file to the final image.

The foundation of the library are all the Photos stored on the NAS and, in our case, being mapped to the Windows 10 file structure Z:/Photos. This part is organized according to the same principle as when importing based on year and date of capture (YYYY/YYYY-MM-DD) and here are all slides, negatives, positives, and images found considered worth keeping and to always be backed up. In our case, we use the Backblaze solution for all backups. As will be seen below, the sub-collection with the frames is not stored on the NAS due to performance issues with the scanner software and is instead stored in a collection called Analogs residing on a faster drive than the NAS.

The files we want to be able to edit on an iPad to test different developments and enlargements are virtual copies called sketches stored in the collection Sketches, which is automatically synchronized via LR CC. Note, the sketches are only used to determine different parameters and do not constitute a direct part of the workflow, thereby to be deleted when not needed anymore.

The Library as a top-level collection is complemented by the Darkroom where the development and enlargement are captured, and this collection is described in connection with the corresponding processes below.

We will now briefly outline how the sub-collections of the Library are defined to allow a smooth and as automatic flow as possible.

  1. Not in archive contains all files that have not been rated as worth-to-use frames, negatives, slides, positives or images
  2. Archive consists of all files that have been rated as worth-to-use frames, negatives, slides, positives or images
  3. References consists of files used as references for development or enlargement purposes
  4. Rejected are the files that have not passed the quality audit
  5. Sketches are files used to try out different development and enlargement settings

Library

Note, as seen in the screenshot of the structure, we have introduced a numbered prefix to ensure wanted order of the collections in LR, but we exclude this fix in this document as it is only due to shortcomings in LR.

2.1.1 Not in archive

Files in the smart collection Not in archive are those that have no Rating, are not flagged as Rejected or to be work in progress. Consequently, this a collection that in the best of worlds shall be empty, or to be viewed as a fountain of unknown treasures.

Unevaluated

2.1.2 Archive

This is the main collection of files, divided per type (ie Copy Name), considered good enough to be used.  The smart collection rules all follow the same setup with filtering on the location of the files and their type. Moreover, it’s required that a file has an assigned Rating and not being work in progress (ie Label Color not equal to None).

The following types of files exist in the archive: Frame, Negative, Slide, Positive, Image, Image (album), Image (Fotosidan), Image (Instagram), Image (photography.anderssoneklund.se) and Image (print). The image sub-collections cover the different channels we use for the presentation of images.

2.1.3 References

A Reference file is one we use for tuning development and enlargement processes, including different color grading profiles.

2.1.4 Rejected

This smart collection contains all files that are not considered worth saving, but which for some reason were previously saved as part of the Photos structure. In other words, on a regular basis, these are wiped from Photos in order to minimize its size and cheaper backup etc.

Rejected

2.1.3 Sketches

A file we wish to evaluate using an iPad is stored as a virtual copy with Copy Name set to Sketch in this non-smart collection that is synchronized with LR CC. Thus, the desired development and enlargement can later be copied from the sketches and re-used in the basic processes.

The Photos of negatives, slides, positives and images are organized in the Library according to being in the Archive to be kept, and those being used in the Darkroom in a state as being work in progress as, for instance, Sketches or as Unevaluated ones for decision if to be archived.

3 Darkroom processes

The concept of a series of darkroom processes originates in our background of analog photography, and the steps of developing a negative and enlarge it to obtain an image as a print. This mindset is also used to describe our digital process beginning with reading a memory card or scanning a film strip to the point of printing or presenting an image on the Internet.

3.1 Darkroom collection

The darkroom process is supported by a collection called  Darkroom which manages the files used in the steps from importing a raw file to produced image that is printed or presented on the Internet. 

The Darkroom is divided in to the Development and Enlargement collections, where the first has sub-collections for the Import, Conversion, Adjustment, Annotation and Quality Assessment steps for analog and digital files. Hence, in each collection we find the files we either need to begin with, we’re working on or are ready for the next step.

Each of the sub-collections are described as port of the corresponding steps.

Darkroom

3.2 Development

As described in the introduction, the development begins with slides and negatives to be imported, then possibly converted from a negative to a positive to be corrected to care for technical shortcomings of cameras, lenses and scanner and to be annotated with relevant metadata and rated if it’s worth to be saved for future use.

3.2.1 Import of a negatives, slides and frames

This development begins with the import of raw files, that is, the sensor readings that are stored by a camera, scanner, mobile etc. on memory cards or net drives. When a raw file is imported to LR, a number of steps will be applied. Above all, it is worth noting that even the mandatory use of the ACR application adds a tone curve and color corrections, called the Digital Camera Profile (DCP), given the information available about the camera or scanner. Moreover, we may also want to apply additional corrections for different types of technology artifacts by the used camera lens etc. In other words, all photos seen in LR and PS. have undergone some form of processing even when they just have been added to be managed by LR. These manipulations can sometimes distort the raw file in an undesirable manner, hence we want to keep track of all changes and to make sure that the positives are as far as possible true to their subject and used gear.

During 2018, Adobe introduced the concept of profiles as global scale color maps set in the Development/Basics module as a Profile. By this, all types of color corrections and adjustments can be seen as profiles and we may talk about correction, emulation, creative profiles. However, lens corrections, noise reductions, sharpening etc are not profiles, since they change they geometry and not only the colors.

Depending on the degree of processing taking place during the import, the negative or slide will deviate more or less from the raw file. In cases where only metadata has changed and each pixel in the outcome has the same value as the one in the output, also called an application of a linear profile, we will consider the raw file to be imported as negatives or slides, and Copy Name set to Negative or Slide depending on its origin.

However, it’s more tricky how to address the question if, for instance, lens corrections are to result in a degree of manipulation which should result in the file to be tagged as a positive. We have decided that lens corrections and other adjustments that try to mitigate for technology shortcomings are to be allowed as part of the import, hence still result in imported negatives and slides. For digital raw files this imply that applying Lens Corrections and profiles which result in the outcome to equal the input are allowed. In the case of analog raw files we allow Lens Corrections and profiles which attempt to care for scanner shortcomings. Each of these paths of import will be described in detail per camera below.

After import, the negatives and slides are found in the sub-collection Import in the Darkroom and if one is considered to be of approved quality, its Label Color is to be changed from the default To Do to Good to Use. If more work is required, the negative or slide will keep Label Color set to To Do, or Ongoing if work is in progress.

Import

Photos are imported as Negatives and Slides to be rated and potentially placed in an Archive for future use. Frames are imported for bookkeeping to a its own archive.

MOVE –

After approved import, that is, Label Color set to Good to Use, a slide is annotated with keywords for equipment (Gear), location for image (Location) and if it contains known or other interesting people (People). Finally, its quality is graded with Rating and Label Color set to None, and the file is automatically moved to the collection Archive (negative, slide) in the library containing the slides that are ready for development. In the case of a negative, this annotation takes place after it has been converted to a positive since it is difficult to judge the negative.

We also want to keep track of the frames underlying the negatives and analog slides, even though they are not editable in LR or PS, and those are imported as Frame using a strict linear profile without any further annotations to Archive(frame).

We will in the following sections describe the import steps for our different cameras in more detail.

– MOVE

3.2.1.1 Leica M Monochrom

Raw files from Leica M Monochrom lacks a DCP in ACR, so they will by default be imported using the Adobe Monochrome profile in Adobe Process Version 5 (PV5) which largely resembles the Ilford Delta 100 film according to our analysis (see below on emulation of film types) and work by Erwin Putz (link) where he demonstrated that Adobe Process Version 2012 (PV3) resulted in this look. As part of the import, the raw file is also normalized with respect to the Affinity reference image (see below on normalization of raw images), that is, the tone curve for this film is subtracted from imported results using its LUT. Hence, the imported slide is normalized to allow direct comparisons of the application of different film emulations. That is, applying an Ilford Delta 100 (Affinity) film emulation to a normalized original will, more or less, equal the outcome of importing a raw file with the default Adobe settings. Hence, the imported slide aims to mimic a linear profile if such had been available for the camera.

MOVE – As discussed in the section below on the development processes, basic exposure control using the Basic/Tone and Tone Curve/Point Curve controls in the Develop module of Lightroom to care for poor exposure, but not to change contrast to achieve a creative effect, are considered part of the development as long as they try to mimic a traditional adjustment of development parameters like time, concentration, choice of developer etc. Hence, adjustments due to realizing that a shot was under- or overexposed to the choice of camera settings or poor metering are considered enlargement, and not development, steps. To further exemplify, often in tutorials one is proposed to apply an auto-toning of the imported raw file, but we consider this to be an enlargement step since with an analog mindset we would not have known if, and which settings, to imply if the raw file was a film in a canister ready for development. Thereby, any toning as part of the enlargement may be seen as areas of improvement when taking photos – better shots result in fewer adjustments.

– MOVE

Memory card

Raw files are imported from a memory card with the LR preset Digital – [1] Import – Leica M Monochrom:

  1. Only Standard and no Smart Previews are created.
  2. No import is made of suspicious copies.
  3. Imported raw files are not added to any specific collection, but will be found in Darkroom/Development/Import/Digital for further work.
  4. Imported raw files are named using the Template called Basic Filename (Leica M Monochrom) according to the principle {<Date (YYYYMMDD)>}-M Monochrom- {<Filename number suffix}>}.
  5. Imported raw files are automatically annotated (see also below on annotations) using the Metadata Preset called Digital – [1] Import – Leica M Monochrom which adds basic IPTC Copyright and Creator information, and the tag -Preprocessing Normalization (Affinity) in Camera Info/User Comment to indicate that the developer selection Normalization – Affinity has been applied.
  6. Upon import, the Development Preset named Normalization/Affinity (Leica M Monochrom) is applied to try to “linearize” the input using the Affinity LUTs, thereby also better care for film emulations. The preset also applies a Lens Correction to the imported file. (See below for further details)
  7. Since only “linearization” and lens correction take place in (6), Copy Name is set to Slide and Label Color to To Do.
  8. The keyword “Leica M Monochrom” is added when importing.
  9. The file is copied to Photos, and saved in folder corresponding to the shooting date.

Affinity (Leica M Monochrom)

Basic Import (Leica M Monochrom)

Import Metadata (Leica M Monochrom)

3.2.1.2 Other digital cameras

Other cameras like the Fujifilm X100S and Canon EOS 5D Mark II follow the same procedure as in the case with Leica M Monochrom, but with specific presets to add camera-specific information. 

Since it’s not possible to adjust imported files to be aligned with the Affinity collection, a strictly linear profile is applied in addition to corrections for camera lenses.

3.2.1.3 Analog cameras

When scanning film strips as frames we obtain 64-bit raw (DNG) files, called HDRi files in SilverFast terminology, including infrared data on dusts and scratches. However, even though LR is able to import these files it’s not possible to edit them, hence we need to import both the frames for archiving purposes and stripped 48-bit instances, called HDR files in SilverFast terminology, without the infrared data. The latter ones will be the files corresponding to the ones we get from digital cameras in the case of slides, but when it comes to “negatives” they look as weird as their physical counterparts. Hence, for those they don’t become useful until they have been converted to positives looking like reversal film strips.

An obvious question is why we don’t rely on Silverfast HDR Studio 8 to do all the heavy-lifting and convert the “negatives” into “positives” before LR import. The main reason is that we want to streamline the process with LR as the main engine and to try to only use non-destructive operations allowing experimentation and traceability as far as possible. Moreover, the SilverFast solutions are known to be tricky to work with and to us often seen as a roadblock to get rid off.

Import of frames, negatives and slides

The first step in the import process is to add the frames to a collection Analogs (F:\Analogs) in LR which resides on different drive than Photos. This is due to the fact that the SilverFast processing gains by using faster drives instead of the NAS harboring the rest of all negatives, slides, positives and images. For this we use the most basic LR import preset Analog – [1] Import – Frame which only adds the frames to the Analogs and sets the Copy Name to Frame. The reason for importing them is to associate them with their raw files and all downstream processing and keep a trace from frame to negative, and they will be found in the smart collection Library/Archive/Frames.

The second import step is to use the Analog – [2] Import – Negative and Analog – [2] Import – Slide presets to import the 48-bit raw files either looking like traditional “negatives” or “positives” (aka slides). In the case of “positives”, we make use of only the color correction and calibration available in the SilverFast HDR 8 Suite when generating the raw files. The preset adds similar IPTC Copyright and Creator metadata as for digital raw files, sets the Color Label to To Do and the Copy label to Slide or Negative. 

3.2.2 Conversions, corrections and adjustments etc

When a negative or slide has been imported the nest step consists of a number of different actions to turn into something that is true to the used gear and subject:

  • Conversion is a task we need to do with negatives to turn them into positives that look like slides to allow us judge the outcome and use in enlargements
  • Corrections are tasks we carry out to care for technical shortcoming of the used camera, lens or scanner, which where not already applied during the import of the negatives and slides
  • Adjustments such as sharpening (Detail/Sharpening), noise reduction (Detail/Noise Reduction) and cleaning (Spot Removal) to remove scratches and dust that are not of a creative nature and to normalize the input to allow a consistent downstream processing ( if not already done during the import) 
  • Features of (desired) camera, lens, filter and film using color grading by tone curves and profiles
  • Development parameters that affect exposure (Basic/Tone) and contrast (Tone Curve/Point Curve) on top of the above
  • Format by cropping (Crop) to mimic any film strip ratios and/or handle poor initial cropping in the camera

Clearly, many tasks can be carried turning negatives and slides into positive, but it’s import to emphasize that we want to keep them to a minimum and only to produce a “contact sheet” to be used as starting point for the creative enlargement process.

The adjustments are thus aimed at managing shortcomings of the used equipment, and to potentially normalize the input with respect to a given reference image. This can be compared to the 4th more creative step which tries to mimic features of a certain camera, lens, filter and film in analog photography, the 5th one which mimics the analog development solutions and timings to achieve certain aspects like “pushing” and “pulling”.

In some cases, we choose to apply certain adjustments and features already at import, for example, to normalize unwanted ACR properties that are introduced as part of the standard import procedure. For Leica M Monochrom, we choose to apply an inverted profile of the film Ilford Delta 100 and for the Fuji X100S a linear profile, and utilize established corrections for the used camera and lens, thereby trying to mitigate gear and import shortcomings. Hence, in those cases the import of a raw file ends up as a slide, but if we also had decided to directly apply a certain film emulation then we would have ended up with a positive.

However, all of these steps, and the ones to be described below, are useless if you don’t have a proper calibrated monitor. This will not lead to that anyone watching an image on an iPad will see the same things as you, but at it will at least make it possible for you to know how it would look like in the case of it being viewed on a calibrated device. We use an Eizo CG275W (not for sale anymore) monitor that is calibrated with respect to the type of work we are doing. For instance, for all basic development and enlargement for the Internet, the settings target a brightness of 100 cd/m2 with a white point of 5500 K and a Gamma of 2.2. In the case of work aiming at printing we lower the brightness to 80 cd/m2 and the temperature to 5000 K to give a more “natural” view of the future print.

The development tries to care for shortcomings by conversions, corrections, adjustments, features, development parameters and formatting to try to generate a positive which is true to the used gear and subject.

MOVE – In cases where we have imported a raw file, it is found either in Archive (Raw) or Archive (Original) and the development aims to create a negative of the raw file or original. The general process in LR starts with “moving” a copy of the raw file/original to Film development by: – MOVE

3.2.2.1 Conversion

For a selected series of negatives, we begin by making a virtual copy with Copy Name set to Positive and apply the Development Preset in the Conversion group called Negative Lab Pro (reset) to the first one which will turn off all adjustments and corrections and then manually add the Lens Corrections used for the given lens. For each of the positives with visible frame borders we use the White Balance Selector (eye dropper) to measure and adjust the White Balance. The development settings will then be synced across all originals. By this, we have made the files ready for conversion to become “positives”. As in the case with the slides, we also need to apply the correct Metadata Preset for the used gear and add film information.

The NLP plug-in for LR helps convert negatives into positives, including basic color and film adjustments and to simulate different professional laboratory scanner looks like Fuji Noritsu and Fuji Frontier.

With a positive selected the NLP plug-in is opened in LR. Depending on the value of the DNG tag named <UniqueCameraModel> in the raw file, in our case “HDR Studio”, the correct Digital Camera Profile (DCP) will used by the plug-in and applied as a Development Profile in LR. We have modified the DCP called SilverFast Raw by NLP to be triggered by the raw files by setting the <UniqueCameraModelRestriction> tag to “HDR Studio”. Based on this information the Source is automatically set to Vuescan/SF DNG and normally we set the Color Model to Noritsu and Pre-Saturation to 3-Default in the plug-in. The Color Mode results in a look that resembles the Fuji Noritsu scanner with a cooler look than the Fuji Frontier. An increased Pre-Saturation would result in cooler hues and more vividness and less saturation to warmer hues and less vividness. We also include a Border Buffer of 5% to ensure no frame border affects the process. When hitting the Convert button the conversion of the originals will then be done automatically on a one-by-one basis and the outcome will correspond to a “digital” original. We also add the tag -Preprocessing NLP on the format <Color Model>, <Pre-Saturation>, for instance, -Preprocessing NLP Noritsu, 3-Default to indicate the conversion mimics a Fuji Noritsu scanner with default pre-saturation to the User Comment field.

After the conversion, the NLP plug-in allows tuning of basic settings like Brightness and Contrast to adjustments of tone curves to better reflect, for instance, a Cinestill film. These adjustments are considered to be part of the development of a negative from the original and will be covered in another part of this document. However, we set the Tones to Linear and all adjustments to zero, the Soft Highs and Lows are unchecked, Color is NONE, Hue and Strength are zero and Sharpen is off. In other words, the original is kept as “neutral” as possible. As in the case with any original, they are to obtain a Rating and have the the Color Label set to None when done. 

This part is finished by Rating the corresponding raw file and to change its Color Label to None. Thereby, raw files worth using are found in the Library under Archive (raw).

Processing of negatives and positives

In the case of an imported slide the only remaining step is to apply the correct Metadata Preset for the setup of used camera and lens named <Camera> + <Lens> and to add relevant information on Film Stock, Film ISO, Shoot at ISO, Date and any other useful data. The import process ends with Rating the raw file and to set its Color Label to None.

  1. Creating a virtual copy of the raw file or original in the archive
  2. Jumping to the file in Library
  3. Set Copy Name to Negative
  4. Set Color Label to To Do, and moving it to Film Development
  5. Set Rating to 0

Film Development

When development begins, the Color Label is set to Ongoing and proceeds with wanted steps for the entire original to reflect some gear or analog development steps with adjustments, altered features, developer parameters and cropping. In cases we start with an original, adjustments and feature changes have already been made, but their purpose was primarily to create a basis for this particular step when, for instance, a film emulation is chosen for a creative purpose.

If possible, all development steps are carried out with LUTs and the functionality offered in LR so these may be carried out in the future on a mobile platform with LR CC and forthcoming Photoshop CC. However, emulation of different lens properties such as vignetting etc. cannot be achieved in LR at present, hence are handled as part of the enlargement process.

When dealing with negative originals being the output of the NLP plug-in, there is already a Profile in place and trying to use many of the LR adjustments will result in weird behaviors due to the underlying imported file to be a “negative” in tones of black and orange. Hence, as much as possible of the development needs to take place using the plug-in adjustment features.

After approved development, that is, the Label Color set to Good to Use, its quality is graded with Rating and Label Color set to None, to allow the negative to be automatically moved to the collection Archive (negative) in the library containing the negatives ready for enlargement. We also add information of the carried out steps to the Metadata field called User Comments.

In the rest of this section we will in detail describe the different steps we take in the development process.

3.3.1 Adjustment and normalization

These steps are about trying to compensate for shortcomings of the camera and lens, but also to mitigate “behaviors” of ACR at import by a “normalization” to create a good starting point for continued processing.

One may discuss if these are to be viewed as part of an import or development process, since they do change the sensor readings in a “non-linear” way, and we have decided to view them as development steps. However, as long as they only target shortcomings of used gear or import process, we allow them to result in an original in the case of being used as part of the import process.

Since cleaning to remove scratches and dust from analog raw files is a rather cumbersome process, we don’t do that as part of the creation of an original and view it as a development step assuming we already have an intention to use the negative in further processing.

The most important adjustments are Lens Correction and Calibration, but also to transform a raw file by means of normalization with respect to a given “profile” which can be compared to trying to create a good starting point for the continued processing of a raw file imported using ACR. The default choice is not to apply any Noise Reduction or Sharpening during import and see this as a creative later step.

In our process from a digital raw file to an image, we wish to make use of the attempts at film emulations that can be obtained free of charge via the RawTherapee Film Simulation Collection (link) in the form of over 300 Hald CLUTs for the Affinity software and thus we want to normalize the raw file to try to re-create a negative corresponding to the reference to these film formulations.

For Leica M Monochrom it has been found that the raw file imported using the ACR Profile Adobe Monochrome gives a result similar to the Ilford Delta 100 and thus by inverting this effect a good reference is obtained for Affinity film profiles. Unfortunately, as will be described in the future, this is not possible for the Fujifilm X100S and Canon EOS 5D Mark II, instead we start from a linear profile, that is, try not to affect the results via ACR. In the case of the HTC U11 there is no available camera profile and we start with the Adobe Color profile which is the standard when importing. In the case of the import of analogs, when it is a positive it can be treated in the same way as the HTC U11 since there is no available ACR profile for the Plustek Opticfilm 120 scanner and in the case of a negative original profiling is currently not applicable.

However, it is important to remember that these film emulations are not interesting based on what film they are trying to mimic but because they offer a variety of predetermined changes that come together under a name like the Ilford Delta 100 with well-known tone curves. Many photographers can describe the characteristics of an image taken with a particular film, so through this procedure we can talk about “Ilford Delta 100” development and achieve an understanding of the type of changes that have been made. For instance, we often make use of the emulation Polaroid 655 Negative HC since it achieves increased contrast by brightening the mid-tones, and then make any final adjustments to the shadows and highlights as part of the enlargement.

The aim of applying a film emulation is not to mimic a given analog film, but to achieve an understanding of the type of tone curve changes that have been applied.

3.3.1.1 Leica M Monochrom

In this case, there are lens correction profiles for both the used camera and available lenses, as well as Adobe Process Version 5  (PV5) calibrations.

For Leica M Monochrom there is no available camera profile, thus ACR uses the Adobe Monochrome profile upon import. Its tone curve is reminiscent of the Ilford Delta 100 and when we want to take advantage of the film emulations offered through Affinity, we choose to normalize the imported ACR profile using the Ilford Delta 100 (Affinity) inverse. The bottom curve in the snapshot is the tone curve for the Ilford Delta 100, hence similar to the Adobe Monochrome profile, and the upper its inverse.

As seen by the curves, the Ilford Delta 100 profile, as well as the Adobe Monochrome, slightly lowers exposure for the shadows and increases the mid-tones and highlights. Hence, the inverse does the opposite which is in line with knowing the higher risk of blowing highlights than loosing shadows.

This inverse is available as a CUBE LUT by the name Normalization – Affinity (Leica M Monochrom) which is then stored as a PS Profile with the name Normalization – Affinity (Leica M Monochrom) used as preset profile in LR (see also below on how this is obtained).

In cases where we want to apply a certain type of film emulation based on a normalized original, they are found as profiles in the Develop module with the film name followed by “(Leica M Monochrom)“. In other words, if we want to produce a series of originals as if they were a roll of Kodak T-Max 400 images, just change the Profile to this film as in the snapshot.

At present, there are a number of different film profiles based on Affinity and those that are applicable to a Leica M Monochrom original have the camera’s name in their title. The  B/W film emulations are divided into groups based on contrast change within Zone II (darkest part where structure can be discerned) to VIII (lightest part where structure can be discerned) from Contrast – to Contrast ++++ where Contrast contains those with the same contrast curve as the normalization profile. Within each group, the profiles are sorted from those with the largest total exposure reduction to those with the greatest increase in Zone 0 to X.

There are also a number of groups that are intended for originals in color, but where the tone curve can be applied to the B/W original, and some of them also introduces a toning of the resulting negative.

An ACR import with the Profile named Adobe Monochrome emulates the use of an Ilford Delta 100 film, hence by first applying its inverse the application of Affinity profiles will result in negatives mimic the use of different types of films.

Tone Curves (Leica M Monochrom)

Normalization – Affinity (Leica M Monochrom)

Kodak T-Max 400 (Leica M Monochrom)

Profiles (Leica M Monochrom)

3.3.1.2 Other cameras

Sadly, it’s not possible to adjust the imports from other cameras to fit the Affinity collection of LUTs as well as in the case of the Leica M Monochrom, but in these cases, a strict linear camera profile is applied as part of the import process. For details on this, see the section on Emulation principles.

3.3.1.3 Analogs

As discussed above, positive analogs don’t differ from digitals and can be treated as such. However, for those trying to emulate a film is not the goal of using profiles. Instead, it is to mimic different development features discussed below. Negative analogs on the other hand suffers from already having an assigned profile to convert negative raw files to originals, and since LR does not allow stacking of profiles mimicking development features have to treated as an enlargement step requiring PS as when, for instance, introducing grains to a digital original.

Analogs need to be cleaned from scratches and dust and we do it using the Spot Removal brush in LR, and add the tag -Cleaned to the User Comment field.

3.3.2 Feature emulation

Emulation of different film types is one way to mimic different features of gear, but we also have those of cameras and lenses. However, we have not really spent that much time on these aspects, but one solution is via the Nik Collection by DxO Software. The problem is that this implies the use of a layered approach in PS, and not via LUTs.

Two types of feature mirroring that are better suited for implementation using LUTs are emulation of different film types and filters, since both are at large about how rays of light are to be captured on a medium. However, in the case of film, aspects like grains fall into the category of modifications better treated as part of the enlargement process.

Basically, the emulation of different films and development parameters (see below) are easy to encode using the 3DLC software based on existing emulation profiles like the ones provided by Affinity or by just interpret data sheets of films in terms of tone curves and color mappings. The process of achieving this is described in the section emulation principles below.

Whenever a film emulation is applied as part of the development, a note shall be added to the User Comment field stating -Film followed by the used emulation. For instance, the comments -Film Polaroid 665 Negative HC indicate an emulation of key tone curve features of a Polaroid 665 high-contrast negative.

3.3.3 Development parameters

In the good old days of analog photography any tweaking of development times, temperature etc. to care for poor exposure had do be done before knowing if it was needed for all frames, or being able to foresee the the outcome. Today, we are able to review every raw file or original before deciding any adjustments as part of developing it into a negative.

We want to keep things as simple as possible and the only adjustments carried out are to control and care for exposure by the principles of Adams’ Zone System, that is, placing shadows, mid-tones and highlights in the motive at the wanted places on the tone curve. However, we try to avoid changing the contrast to achieve a wanted creative effect corresponding to applying a characteristic curve of a film.

We have already described that normalization with respect to a reference image and correction for shortcomings of the used camera and lens were applied already during the import and creation of the original, and we add to the generation of an original the application of basic exposure control. Hence, any original with adjustments in the Lightroom Develop module Basic/Tone and Tone Curve/Point Curve reflect ones to mitigate poor exposure, that is, a photographer that should do better the next time.

Any changes of the tone, or contrast, curve of an original are viewed as part of the development of an original, and being noted in the User Comment field by –Development followed by a brief description.

If features of the used gears are possibly best covered as part of the enlargement process, ones corresponding to different development solutions, timings etc are better managed via LUTs using, for instance, the 3DLC software. The principles of this is covered in the section on emulations below, hence if possible, changed tone curves are encoded and packaged as part of preset Profiles like Kodak T-Max 400 +1 (Leica M Monochrom) to represent a 1 stop overexposure of a Kodak T-Max 400 film in the context of raw files generated by the Leica M Monochrom.

Since we wanted to keep negative originals as “neutral” as possible as a result of the NLP conversion, Tones were set to Linear and all adjustments to zero, the Soft Highs and Lows were unchecked, Color set to NONE, Hue and Strength were zero and Sharpen turned off. However, it is difficult to say when a change to any of these parameters are to be considered a development or an enlargement step, but we have decided that as many of the parameters intend to mimic certain laboratory scanner looks or to care for film characteristics changes to Tones, Soft Highs and Lows, Color and Sharpen are to viewed as development parameters as longs the intention is mimic the look of the used film and scanner. The used settings are also captured in the User Comment field using the tag -Development and a brief description on the form <Tones>, <Soft Highs>/<Soft Lows>, <Color>, <Sharpen>, for instance, -Development Standard, Soft Highs, Fuji, Lab to indicate that the standard look scanners is mimicked with softer fading for the highlights ans laboratory sharpening assuming a Fuji film.  

3.3.4 Format

The concept of format, or size, is not only about the height and width of an image, but also its resolution and if it is going to be printed or presented on the Internet. An obvious question is which types of cropping that are to be considered part of the development process, and we have decided to use the following formats (and their rotations) 1 x 1, 1 x 1.33 (3 x 4), 1 x 1.5 (2 x 3), 1x 1.67 (6 x 7), 1 x 2, 1 x 2.83 (6 x 17) and 1 x 4.. In other words the formats of frames obtained by traditional, possibly panoramic, analog 135 and 120 films.

However, at Internet there are limitations like Instagram allowing horizontal images up to 1.91 x 1 and vertical ones up to 1 x 1.25 (4 x 5) and with a width of 1080 px and height between 566 (1 x 1.91) and 1350 (1 x 1.25) px.. Other common site, Facebook, suggests images to be uploaded at the resolution 1200 x 628 px, hence ratio 1.91 x 1. These limitations are, if needed, applied during the enlargement, and not development.

Whenever a cropping is applied as part of the development it is noted in the User Comments field as -Format 1x followed by the ratio of the longer side, and we also include any needed alignment adjustments in this step. For instance, -Format 1×1.25 indicate a negative with the size ratio 4×5. In the case of analogs, formatting also includes removing any existing frame borders.

This is implemented as a step in the development process, but in this case no changes are made to the resolution or aspects like sharpening if they aren’t intended to reflect features of a given type of film.

The negative is the outcome of applying film emulations and creative tone curve adjustments, and mimicking gear features and cropping, to an original to correspond to a choice of gear, film and development parameters in an analog terminology. It also includes the cleaning process of analog originals.

3.4 Enlargement to an image

The development of a raw or original file resulted in a negative with adjustments like camera and lens corrections and possibly a film emulation and cropping being a digital counterpart of the steps described in the book “Negative” by Ansel Adams in 1981.

The next step is then to carry out the tasks needed to present the negative as an image in print or on the Internet, corresponding to the steps in the “Print” by Adams or the more advanced descriptions by Lambrecht & Woodhouse in “Way Beyond Monochrome”. Hence, the choice of presentation medium, the “dodging” and “burning” and decision on enlargement parameters.

Current solutions like Lightroom and Photoshop, and color grading tools as 3DLC, offer tremendous abilities to more or less creative processing. We have as everyone else gone thorough the phases of trying out every possible modification, but have ended up with sticking to different film-like emulations and possibly some “dodging” shadows and “burning” lighter ones.

The image processing is divided into one part that is independent of choice of medium and one that targets printing and one aiming to result in publishable images on the Internet. Each of these are then divided into different sub-process, mainly when it comes to Internet publications at different social platforms.

3.4.1 Basic enlargement

When we have developed a negative it is found in Archive (Negative) and the first phase of the enlargement aims to create an image that can be archived as basis for both prints and Internet. The process in LR starts with “moving” a copy of the negative to Image processing by:

  1. Creating a virtual copy of the negative in the archive
  2. Jumping to the file in Library
  3. Set Copy Name to Image
  4. Set Color Label to To Do, and moving it to Image processing
  5. Set Rating to 0

Since we want a smooth process that will work in a mobile setting using, for instance, the Photoshop CC for iPads, we prefer if possible to make use of Profiles to achieve a consistent look and feel among negatives.

The process begins with setting the Color Label to Ongoing and ensure the negative is normalized with respect to the wanted reference image. Before browsing and comparing profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop to find the wanted look, it is important that any shortcomings in the negative due to, for instance, incorrect exposure have been handled if not done during the development.

Then any dodging or burning is carried out with the regular tools, and when done the Label Color is set to Good to Use, its quality is graded with Rating and Label Color set to None, to allow the image to be automatically moved to the collection Archive (image) in the library containing the images ready to finished for printing or the Internet.

Different types of enlargements will be described below (forthcoming), but a description is provided in the User Comments field as -Enlargement followed by a brief summary or tag like Tone/Auto to indicate that auto-toning was applied.

An interesting question is if any introduction of noise in the sense of “film grains” is to be done as part of this step or in the finishing one, and we have decided that it’s better suited for the latter as it’s not the grain in the archived image that is of interest, but the perception in the print or the Internet.

3.4.2 Internet publication

Today, visibility on the Internet has taken over the rule of the family album of photos you gathered around in the past. However, each arena of social media has its own ins and outs and requires dedicated steps to obtain the wanted results, for instance, to care for the brightness and color temperature of the viewing devices and resolutions of Internet images.

Whenever any enlargement takes place, the used monitor calibration is noted in the User Comments field as -View followed by a brief summary like 100 cd/m2, 5500 K, Gamma 2.2 to support external viewing the intended way. Hence, when an image is published it will contain metadata on used pre-processing, film emulation, format, enlargement process and intended monitor settings for viewing.

Here we will only cover our three main media – this website, Instagram and Fotosidan (a Swedish site for photographers).

3.4.2.1 Our portfolio and blog

At this website the two main parts with images are image and blog posts. The first one corresponding to, in WordPress language, the media attachment files, and as featured images in blog posts.

Creating images for the website takes the same road as described above by creating a virtual copy of an image in the Archive (image) with Copy Name set to Image, that is the basis for Internet and printing, rename it as Image (Website), label it as Ongoing, carry out the wanted enlargement steps and the finishing management steps and it will end up in the archive of images again.

In the case of publishing at this site, we base our decisions on images viewed at 100 cd/m2. 5500 K and Gamma 2.2 and the results are slightly sharpened and saved as jpg at the doubled size as to be viewed. That is at least, if possible, a width of 4096 px when intended for “retina” viewing of normal 1024 px images.

The flow from Lightroom to this WordPress site is implemented using the Meow app WP/LR Sync to transfer images from Photos to the Media Library at the site. With Media Library Assistant and Advanced Custom Fields we have then created a Layout in Divi (Elegant Themes) that is used to easily establish a post per new image and associate it as the Media Attachment. This process is seamless and takes just a few minutes from image in LR to a fully annotated image at the site, where the time spent is to provide information like description, background and comments for the image.

3.4.2.2 Instagram

In the case of Instagram we make use of the LR/Instagram plug-in for LR to transfer images that are named Image (Instagram) and created as virtual copies of ones named Image.

However due to the size limitations of Instagram, we often re-crop the images to 1×1 or 1×1.25 format to better suit the medium. Moreover, since we also extract some basics like geographical information from the images as part of the publishing, we also need to remove spaces in names of places.

Fotosidan

<Work in progress>

Printing

As in the case of publishing on the Internet, printing processes depend on used printer, paper and intended viewing, and in our case we only print for ourselves and friends using an Epson 3880 and the Imageprint 10 (newer versions exist) printing solution.

<Work in progress>

A. Emulation principles

This appendix describes the different types of emulations used to reproduce film (including developer parameters), camera, lens and filter features.

The principle is to package the wanted features in a number of reusable LUTs and tone curves (.acv) that can be combined in 3DLC to finished LUTs or with the help of LR.

A.1 Film emulation

In order to mimic, or emulate, a particular film and its features, the raw file needs to be normalized vis-à-vis a reference if possible. This is currently possible for raw files from Leica M Monochrom where we know that import by ACR using Adobe Monochrome gives a result similar to the Ilford Delta 100 film, but unfortunately, as will be presented in the future, this is not as easy for, for instance, our Fujifilm X100S and HTC U11.

In the case of Leica M Monochrom we can, using the Affinity film profiles and 3DLC, create an inverse to the emulation of the Ilford Delta 100 and apply it when importing raw files and obtain a normalized original. Similarly, we can package this normalization with an Affinity film profile and thereby obtaining a negative for the desired film, and also include different types of developer parameters.

In cases where it is not possible to normalize vis-à-vis a reference, the application of a film profile will correspond to the underlying tone changes of the film, so if possible we start with a linear camera profile.

A.1.1 Normalization vis-à-vis a reference film

If we know, or can show, that the default import of a raw file has a result corresponding to a particular film profile, its tone curve and matrix can be inverted and the resulting LUT be used to create a normalized original.

A.1.1.1 Leica M Monochrom

Since a raw file imported with the Adobe Monochrome profile is considered to result in an original corresponding to an Ilford Delta 100 negative, we create a normalization LUT by inverting the profile of Ilford Delta 100 in 3DLC.

Verification of Ilford Delta 100 original

Erwin Putz (link) offers a color chart image for Leica M Monochrom in LR 4.1 (ACR 7.1 = PV3 2012), here called Monochrom-100, and one for Ilford Delta 100, here called Delta-100.

To verify that the past Adobe Monochrome profile and today’s ACR import process result in similar outcomes as presented by Putz, we loaded the Delta-100 image into 3DLC and created a 8×6 Custom Matching palette and saved it as the color chart Delta 100.cie. Hence, we just created our own color “passport” with 48 colors based on the Ilford Delta 1oo image. Then we loaded the image Monochrom-100 and matched it against the palette. It gave a linear transformation Curve (RGB) with y = x , that is, Putz’ results still hold and Leica M Monochrom imports can be equated with using an Ilford Delta 100 film.

Then we needed to verify that these results also hold with the current Adobe Monochrome profile. To achieve this we used an image taken with an X-Rite Color Passport (cf. the section above with snapshots from the LR interface on using profiles) called Color Chart (Sunny) – Original in PS with Calibration PV3 (2012) and transferred it to 3DLC. Then we created a 50×50 Custom Matching palette called  PV3 50×50 which was saved as the color chart PV3.cie. The Open “Color Chart (Sunny) – Original was opened in PS again, but this time with the Calibration PV5 (2018) setting and we carried out a matching to the existing palette. The resulting Curve (RGB) gave a tone mapping for PV5 to Delta-100, which turned out to be linear y = x. That is, the ACR (PV5 = Monochrome) provides an image that can be equated to the Ilford Delta 100 for Leica M Monochrom.

In conclusion, we have shown that the current standard import via ACR with PV5 calibration and the profile Adobe Monochrome gives a result similar to the Ilford Delta 100 film as provided by Affinity.

Normalization LUT

Given the current standard import process by ACR for Leica M Monochrom results in an outcome similar to applying an Ilford Delta 100 emulation, it was straight forward in 3DLC to open the Affinity LUT Ilford Delta 100 as a so called external LUT and extract and save the Channel Mixer and RGB Curve. By this we have decoded the film profile into its RGB curves, and by Switch Master and Curve RGB with M -> RGB and Smooth RGB Curve until the number of points in Master was max 14 (3DLC limitation) we obtained an “invertable” Ilford Delta 100 profile. We inverted the curve and saved it as Normalization – Affinity (Leica M Monochrom). Thereby we obtained the curve and LUT to apply as part of import of Leica M Monochrom raw files, or as the Luminance Curve in 3DLC when creating new film profiles based on Affinity for direct application as a part of the development of a raw file to obtain a negative with given film features.

A.1.2 Linear normalizations

In some cases like for the Fujifilm X100S and Canon EOS 5D Mark II it’s not possible to normalize the raw file with respect to a given reference image. In those cases we make use of a strict linear camera profile.

<ONGOING>

? Film emulations

Emulation collections like Affinity are based on the the existence of a reference image and then comparing it to different film negatives to obtain the tone curves, or LUTs, needed to transform the first into the latter. Hence, when it it’s, as in the case of the Leica M Monochrom, start of with normalized original the application of the emulations become more “realistic”.

As described above, using the 3DLC application it’s trivial to create LUTs for any kind of emulation and then import it as a Profile to be used in LR and PS. The principle is to import the film emulation in the application and divide into its tone curve and matrix. Then we may add the normalization tone curve as the first step of applying a luminosity curve, and the two curves and matrix exported as a LUT to be used instead of the normalization LUT used at import.

B. Scanning of analog frames

In this appendix, we describe the process of setting up and scanning 135 film strips using the Plustek Opticfilm 120 scanner and the SilverFast Ai Studio 8 and HDR Studio 8 software.

Note, currntly only 135 negatives are covered, and positives (aka slides) are to be added in the future.

B.1 Scanner setup

To begin, we need to place the negatives in the scanner, and no scanners look the same. In our case, we use the first generation of the Plustek Opticfilm 120 scanner. It has some nice looking film strip holders for 6 frames per strip, and for this setup the first steps are as follows:

  1. Always use gloves (eg Kinetronics Anti-Static Gloves) when treating the negatives.
  2. Use a light board (eg Art Slim Light Board) to better review frames and place them in the holder.
  3. Try to clean the strips with a blower (eg Giotto Rocket Air) before placing the negatives in the holder, since the holder limits the ability to clean the strips.
  4. Place the strips with the duller side facing down and with the first frame of the first strip at the lower-left corner (has a white marker out-of-the-box) and with the holder fringe at the top of the holder.
  5. Re-clean the strips with the side being cleaned down-facing to better get rid of dust.
  6. Gently place the holder in the scanner.

This is not intended to be a review of the scanner, but it has a fixed focus which is known to be a risk for out-of-focus issues, hence always try to keep the strips under pressure for a couple of days before scanning them to reduce the risk. Moreover, the scanner is terribly slow and noisy, but that’s the price to pay when you want one which also works with other formats than 135.

B.2 Software setup

We use the latest version SilverFast Archive Suite 8 with the solutions Ai Studio 8 and HDR Studio 8. The first is used for the actual scanning of so-called HDRi files, frames in our terminology, and the latter for processing these to generate analog raw files in our to be imported by LR.

In this section, we focus on the use of the Ai Studio 8 solution to scan the film strips, and we need to admit that the SilverFast software is far from the easiest one to use with often useless manuals and you have to learn by trial-and-error. However, this will not be a training session, but we will only highlight our way of working.

There are several different types of settings, many that can be saved as presets, even though they have a tendency to work in a random fashion, and here we will cover the main ones found under the tab Edit/Preferences (Ctrl-,) to set up the overall behavior of the software and scanner.

B.2.1 General

The first tab under Preferences deals with General settings and the key settings are that the Color Model is set to RGB, the Default Setting to be 135_Negative_HDRi which is our default frame settings for scanning (see below) and the Persistent tool dialogs preset set to 135_HDRi which makes sure all dialogs to look the same whenever we use the software. The HDR RAW option shall also be turned on to save files to be processed by the HDR Studio 8.

B.2.2 Auto

We are currently not using the Auto settings intended to push-button color correction of negatives, since we hand over all post-processing to the HDR Studio 8 application.

B.2.3 CMS

The Color Management Settings (CMS) are important and the Working and Monitor Spaces are set to Image Color Matching to ensure alignment with the rest of the image processing solution and hardware, and the Output space is set to RGB.

The Internal color space is set to ProPhoto RGB and the Rendering Intent to be Perceptual, with an embedded ICC profile.

However, our current process does not really make use of any of these aspects as it passes all processing to the HDR Suite 8.

B.2.4 Special

The Special tab consists of several options and we have turned off Multi-Exposure preview as it improves performance. Moreover, the HiRePP option is turned on to decrease the loading time of images in the HDR Studio 8.

B.2.5 WorkflowPilot

This tab is used to set up workflows to automatize parts of the scanning process, but we have not yet made use of it.

B.3 Default settings

We will in this section highlight the most important settings we normally make use of to scan 135 film strips.

B.3.1 Main settings

The most important settings are to make sure the Scanmode is set to Transparency 35mm film, the Image Type to be Negative and the Color Depth to be 64 bit HDRi RAW.

Another core concept in the SilverFast solutions is the Frame used to define certain parameters of one or several frames, called a FrameSet, to be scanned. However, using a scanner like ours with a fixed holder, this option is mainly used to save a snapshot of other settings to be used as Default Settings in the Preferences for the startup.

We have defined a Frame setting preset called 135_Negative_HDRi which will load presets for all important settings including Scan dimensions (incl naming conventions). However, it will for unknown reason not load the default NegaFix settings (see below).

The Multi-Exposure (ME) option shall always be turned on to further improve the scanning quality.

However, due to our setup the only one of these settings that actually matter is the last one as the raw analog is saved as part of the HDRi file to be processed by the HDR Studio 8.

An obvious question is why we save the HDRi using Scanmode set to Negative when will export it as Positive from HDR Studio 8, and the reason is that by this we are able to judge the image already at scanning to see if it is worth to proceed with. 

B.3.2 Scan dimensions

The Scan dimensions set of options cover naming and formatting of outputs, as well as basic IPTC data to be saved together with the image.

To begin with, the basic naming format for the field Name is YYYYMMDD-CAMERA-HDRi-MM-NN, where the date information is either the shooting data or scanning date depending on the circumstances, the MM to be the film and NN the frame indexes. The camera information follows the standard used in Lightroom with the string Leica MA for the Leica M-A which is our main analog camera. The film index is normally 01 and only used in the case of several films with the same date stamp. Finally, the frame index starts with 01 and reflects the frame identifiers on the film strips. Hence, the Name is a unique identifier to a given scanned frame.

The Path for analogs resulting from the scanning is not set to Photos, but instead a faster hard-drive F:\Analogs for post-processing than the NAS harboring the Photos. Before scanning a set of negatives a new sub-folder has to be created corresponding to the date of the frame. 

The Resolution is set to 5300ppi and the output Format to be the one obtained when maximizing the frame (Alt-A), thereby resulting in a huge file of around 300 MB to be used as the starting point for the post-processing in HDR Studio 8. The reason for taking this approach with negatives is that if possible we want to keep as much frame border as possible to improve the color corrections during the conversion to originals in LR.

The settings above are saved as a preset called 135_Negative_HDRi to allow consistent management of 135 negatives.

In addition to the physical settings of the frame to be scanned, this tab also contains settings for IPTC data to be saved as metadata in the output.  The metadata fields deal with Caption, Keywords, Credits (not used), Origin and Copyright and we make use of them to both add crucial date information, but also to pass information to facilitate more smooth management in LR when adding EXIF data using the NLP plug-in. Hence, we have one IPTC preset per camera, lens and film accordingly named on the format CAMERA-LENS-FILM.

A default IPTC preset has for the Caption section the fields Caption Writer set to Magnus L Andersson and the Special Instructions set to the name of the film, for instance, FUJICOLOR PRO 400H. The Keywords follow the ones used for Gear in Lightroom, for instance, Leica M-A, Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH and Fujicolor Pro 400H.  It is important to set the origin information since it will be used in LR to Date Created and, if wanted, City, Province and Country. We also add basic Copyright information to the file.

B.3.3 NegaFix

The NegaFix tab is used to set the Vendor, Filmtype and ISO/ASA of the negative to be scanned. By default, the setting is Other, Other and <Linear>, respectively. By this setting we get a “neutral” presentation of the raw data without any attempts to crrections with respect to a given film. Normally, no Exposure compensation or Tolerance (default is 16) adjustment are applied and the automatic color cast correction CCR is turned on. The latter two are used to try to remove any dominant color cast from the negative. Note, it’s important the frame is inside the image part of the negative to preview the corrections.

However, since we scan the negative as an HDRi raw file these settings are only for preview and can be changed in the post-processing of the scan in HDR Studio 8.

B.4 Batch scan

When the setup is done it is time to begin the actual scanning by adding all the frames in the scan to a frame set, starting by clicking the Overview icon to load a preview of all frames. Whenever the frames have some white margins on the left or right side, this can be fixed by clicking the arrows beneath the frames.  Then Add Selection is clicked to add the frames to the Job Manager. This pre-scan of the images does take quite long…

When the loading of previews is done in the Job Manager, we re-load the frame default settings 135_Negative_HDRi to ensure we get the right starting point. Then we need to add the correct filename on the format YYYYMMDD-CAMERA-HDRi-MM-, where, for instance, CAMERA is set to Leica MA. The correct IPTC has to be loaded, created by copying and adjusting an existing preset, and the Date Created, City and Country Name to be set.

It’s also important to make sure the ME option is turned on and the NegaFix set to reflect the given film for accurate preview before scanning begins, or to use the default settings for a “neutral” look. 

Thereafter the settings above are copied to all frames using the Job Manager, and the necessary adjustments are done to every frame id in the filename and any other IPTC fields. Moreover, the frames may have to be rotated and maximized with respect to each frame.

Finally, we select all frames in the Job Manager and begin the scanning, and wait for very long until the batch is done.

B.5 Post-processing of scans

When the frames are scanned and archived as HDRi files, the next step us to turn them into files that can be managed in LR. To achieve this we use the SilverFast HDR Studio 8 to extract the core frame readings without any adjustments and save it as a 48-bit raw DNG file. By this, we will have two files with one being the HDRi file of all core and infrared data and necessary IPTC data, and the other being a striped instance intended for LR and to create images for the web or print.

Setup and settings

The setup is straightforward since all data is obtained from the HDRi file and the only thing that needs to be done is to set the Image Type to Positive, the Color Depth to 48 Bit HDR RAW HDR and the file format to be DNG, then to remove the “i” in “HDRi” of the file names, ensure the frame is of maximal size (Alt-A) and the Path to be to the corresponding folder in Photos. If need, as in the case with the first scanning step, we have created a Scan Dimensions and Frame presets named 135_Negative_HDR to ensure consistent naming of files etc.

All the HDRi files are then added to the Job Manager and processed to add the set of raw files in the right place ready to be added to the LR Library.

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