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Review the scanning techniques graphics professionals and photographers use, while delving into workflow considerations and the advanced image-quality controls available in most scanning software. Author Taz Tally explains the core concepts, such as how resolution and interpolation affect scans; introduces the industry-standard SilverFast scanning software; and shares the settings to achieve the best results from a scan. The course also covers keeping your scanner and its parts clean and free of dust, and includes a variety of start-to-finish scanning tasks.
Here let's discuss setting the proper exposure control for capturing a continuous tone grayscale image. At this point, we've already selected the scan mode and we're going with no filters, no sharpening. I'm assuming we're going to do that in the post-scan and we'll address sharpening a little bit later. We've named our file, we've set our frame, we've enlarged our image so we can see the amount of detail we need. We know where this image is going and we're assuming this is going to go to the highest quality output device at prepress. So 300 pixels per inch, so we're going to focus on exposure.
So I want to begin our discussion with setting the exposure by a visual evaluation. I always look in the image and say, okay, what's the important part of this image. Well, here obviously, this is a portrait so the face is the important part, the background is of little consequence. We might want to address the contrast between the hair and the background and address that issue. So we've got a portrait, the face is very important. We also have neutral areas in here. So we've got some white highlight areas, we've got some shadow detail in the hair that's important. The coat may or may not be important in terms of maintaining shadow detail and we can see if there's any shadow detail there to begin with.
By the way, one of the tools that you can use if you're kind of wondering, you can use your Densitometer because sometimes if you look on screen, you can't see if there's detail or not. And if you move your cursor around like this and then watch the values over here, if there's only one or two point change, it means that there's not much detail. Watch when I move it over the hair, there's a tremendous change in the value because we can see lots of detail there. So in this particular image as part of my eval, I'm going, face important, shirt important, hair and hair contrast at the background important, jacket not so much because there's not a lot of detail in there.
But if there's any texture at all, we'll want to maintain it, but it's not going to be a focus of this image. If in fact, this were a product shot where the coat was important, we'd probably want to get this re-shot different photography. But in this case, it's a portrait shot. That's what this is really important here. So the photography is quite appropriate. All right, So we know we're going to have some highlights, we've got some skin tones, we've got some hair, some shadow detail. Where I like to start and there's lots of tools we can use here, but here's the ones that I like that I'd like to introduce you to. First we're going to start with this tool right here, and when I click on the very top of this, notice it shows me where the lightest portion of the image is.
This could be a specular. It could be a diffuse highlight, we'll talk more about those a little bit later when we talk about product shots, and then when I click here, it shows me where the darkest portion of the image is. That's nice. So I'm looking at this, I'm saying okay, the teeth turned out to be one of the lightest portion and also looking at this image and going the white shirt is typically part of the white highlight of the image that I want to pay attention to. So I'm going to look at the teeth, I'm going to look at the shirt. And when I look at the teeth, I can see there's a little bit of reflection on those teeth. So I'm thinking that's a little bit of a specular highlight.
And a specular highlight is a portion of the image that has not as much detail or no detail. The diffuse highlight that is the light portion of the image that still has detail is the one we really want to focus on. By the way, as I'm moving my hand over here, I can see the detail here in my Densitometer and see there's a little bit of reflection right there. I'm going to look at the teeth, I'm also going to look down here in the shirt. The nice thing about this tool is not only does it show you where the highlight is by clicking on it, but if you hold down your Shift key, it places a color sampler point right there.
And notice, it is on a kind of a specular highlight, a little bit of a reflection area there and it gives you the current RGB value. Now I mentioned I was also interested in the shirt. So I'm going to go down and look at the light areas of the shirt and look at this. I'm getting about the same highlight values, the high 210, 209, 211. So I'm going to hold down my Shift key again and I'm going to put a second color sampler point there. Notice these are both 211. So I can use my shirt or I can use the teeth, I'm going to trust the shirt because there's a little bit of reflection on the teeth and I don't like to use reflections for color sampler points.
Then I'm going to come back up here to my Pipette, put my Densitometer up here so I can see both of them. And these are values that I can monitor. I can set these as color sampler points. in this case, just grayscale sampler points. Then as I make adjustments, I can monitor them. Then I'm going to hold down my Shift key, click here, and that gives me that value down there. That's the darkest shadow portion of the image, and then I'm going to investigate up in the hair here, put that in the 50s and I'm looking at these values right here these starting values. See in the 60s, we've got some of the 50s in the high, 40s.
All right, And then we've got some 38s and 39s. Not a lot of change in values right there. See as I move back, it just goes from 37, 38, to 40. So I'm going to put up here at the top of the hair, I want to maintain shadow detail up here. I want to make sure that that doesn't get too dark. So I'm going to put my fourth color sampler point there. So I've got two highlight points, we'll move things up here. And then point number three, we've got the deep shadow and then we've got kind of three quarter-tone shadow right here.
So we're going to monitor these points. And I always like to put my diffuse white highlight as point number 1, I do that in all of my images. So when I'm working with these fixed pipette. in Photoshop it's called color sampler points, the number one point is always going to be my highlight which is really one of the most critical portions of the image. Okay. So now what tools we're going to use to kind of adjust these points to get them where we want them to go? Well, there are some automatic tools but we're going to stay away from those for right now. We're going to use primarily these tools right here. It's the Levels tool and the Curves tool and you're probably familiar with those in Photoshop if you've worked in Photoshop.
And these days, we tend to work primarily in the Curves tool in Photoshop, but in SilverFast, these two functions of setting highlights and shadows are really designated for the Levels tool. And then we're going to go to the Curve tool to do our midtones adjustments for brightness and contrast. So let's start here and what this shows us is a very well-defined, easy-to-see histogram of the distribution of the data in our image. Now right now I'm going to pay attention to these two values right here and particularly value number 2, which I know is a diffuse white highlight. I'm going not quite so sure about this.
A really well-defined specular highlight, like a real strong reflection will be much lighter than the diffuse highlight. Here they're about the same. But I'm just going to trust this one a little bit better because I know that's flat, there's no reflection there. And what I'm going to do is I'm going to monitor this value. Here is the starting value and here's the ending value. And I'm just going to take my highlight curve and I'm going to move this in until I get to the high 230s, low 240s. See it's right at 238, 239, 237 right in there. Notice, that's close to the beginning of this data. Sometimes you'll find little strings of data in here and sometimes it's just noise.
Now this is how you can tell. You can do it by the numbers, and why am I going for the high 230s, low 240s. Well, that 242 is a 5% white highlight and I know on my inkjet printers, I can hold a 5-7% white highlight so I tend to set my highlights in the high 230s, low 240s. We can shoot for around 240, I'm going to put it 239 right now. I know in a commercial printing press, I can hold 5% all day long, and some of the papers that I print with my inkjet, I like to have it around 6 or 7. So you can be anywhere in the high 230s, low 240s, but don't go above 242 because then you're going to be getting around into four, three, and two and we may lose the detail in the highlights.
All right, Now let's work on the shadow. I'm going to move this forward, and in this case, I'm monitoring the darkest point in the image, point number three. And I want to make sure that the very darkest I want to have this is 12 which is a 95% shadow. But typically, in my shadow areas, I don't like to go quite that low. So I typically shoot for around 17 to 19 for my Shadow value. See I'm not judging this visually, I'm doing it by the numbers. Absolutely! And then we put this number four point up here because this is an area that we want to make sure we get detail in. That's up at 43 which is a nice three quarter-tone.
So we're going to maintain real nice detail in that area right there. Here we've set our highlights, our shadows, and we're monitoring kind of a three quarter-tone area, we want to make sure that there's plenty of detail coming out there. Click OK. So that's our highlights and shadows which addresses our overall brightness and contrast, but most importantly, make sure that it gives us as bright white as we can go in the diffuse white highlight where there's detail without losing detail. And we've maintained shadow detail here and in the three quarter-tone which is where we have more detail in the three quarter-tone, and we're doing it by the numbers.
Don't go above that is lighter than 242 and certainly never go below 12, but up around between 15 and 20 is a good value for a nice shadow that gets you about 90%. And depending upon the paper and the press and the stock and so forth that you're printing on, you can vary these numbers and I would encourage you to run some tests to see exactly where you want your numbers to go. Now when we set highlights and shadows, we're going to go to our Curves tool and we're going to do overall brightness and contrast. And we do that by adjusting the distribution of tonal gradations between the highlight and shadow.
We've already set these two points. The way the Curves tool works in SilverFast is that you set these two points and then you adjust things in between. Now there's two ways to go about doing this mechanically. One is we can come down here and we can adjust the overall Luminance value. You can see how it moves the entire curve. That's one way to do it and it's fine, and sometimes I use that. This adjusts overall contrast and notice when you adjust contrast, it holds the midpoint stable, and then you increase contrast by creating a curve. And notice how the contrast increases here, by increasing the quarter-tone value and decreasing the three quarter-tone values.
A little tip about doing portraits with lots of skin tone in them, typically you don't want to increase contrast of anything. You might want to decrease contrast a little bit which gives you nice flat, lots of tonal variations right in the midtones, gives you nice smooth gradations in the skin tone. So we can do this with these curves, we can also address the quarter tones by moving this and the three quarter-tones by moving that. Now there's this Overall Brightness tool, just stay away from that. Notice how it destroys the highlights and shadow points when you move this tool. Just stay away from that puppy, just don't use that one at all.
The other way we can make our adjustment here is we can just manually move the curve here. Let me give you some keyboard shortcuts that you might find helpful. If I hold down my Command key and I click, I can move my entire curve. It's very much like moving this curve here. But if I just want to primarily focus on the midtone, I can move that up. If I hold down my Option key, Alt in Windows, I can deactivate a point. And then I can hold down my Shift key and drag just that three quarter-tone point right there.
And what I'm doing here, I'm going to do a couple of things. Option key to activate that point again, Command key, I'm going to move the whole curve up, but I want to do two things. One, I want to overall lighten the image just a little bit. You can see the visual impact on there. Plus this kind of tends to flatten the midtone just a little bit which smoothes out the skin tones, which is a nice thing to do. And then I'm looking at the contrast between the hair and the background and I'm thinking I'm going to Option+click there and then Shift+click here just pull that vertically, and see how that just increases the contrast a little bit between the hair and the background because I'm lightening that three quarter-tone background just a little bit.
I can also choose to move up here and darken the quarter-tone. Let's move things out just a little bit more. Although I'm pretty happy with the way things look right here, so I'm going to leave that about where I left it. So we can utilize these sliders right here or we can come in and do manual manipulation of our curve. Notice, if you move your cursor over one of those points and just let it sit for a minute, the keyboard shortcuts that I was just using will come up and then remind you how to use those. There we go! So that's addressing overall brightness and contrast, and then what I like to do at this point, and particularly that's a critical image, I like to come back and take a look at my points, particularly in my highlights and shadow points.
And notice, we move from 237 to 240, 238 to 240 because we lightened the overall curve. And that's okay, so long as we don't go above 240, 242 in that range there, for our shadow point we're at 28 because we really lightened that three quarter-tone, and that's okay, that's good. You can if you want to come back in here and if you want to just back off on that highlight just a little bit to get it back down in the low 230s, you can fine-tune the highlight and/ or the shadow if you want to. If you decided, I'd like to just darken the shadow just a little bit down to about 20, you can do that.
So go back and forth between those two. And there we go! Now we've got a nice adjustment of highlights, shadows, brightness, and contrast and we've lowered the contrast because of the skin tone. And other images such as landscapes, a lot of times I'll enhance the contrast, get a little bit of an S-shaped curve. So there we have setting highlights, shadows, brightness, and contrast on a continuous tone grayscale image. Now that we have completed our tonal adjustments, we're ready to complete the scan, we'll just take a quick look down here to make sure we have the proper scan mode, and we're not going to apply any sharpening at this point.
Make sure we have the proper name assigned and scaling and our frame is correct to make sure we have the proper resolution at 300 pixels per inch for the highest quality scan. And then we'll just click the Scan button to complete the scan. And we'll save the file and notice that we can choose the file format and of course we're going to go with TIFF because it's an uncompressed file format, no quality reduction. Then the scanner does its thing, scans the image with all the settings that we've applied, and there we go.
We open up this image in Photoshop and here's the beautiful portrait of Kim, and notice we'll just check our highlight values here and notice we've got the low 240, 237, 242 for our minimum value and beautiful nice smooth skin tones. Got nice shadow detail in the hair and we've got nice separation between the hair and the background.
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