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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.
In this session let's discuss scanning slides. Now, scanning slides is in many ways very similar to scanning reflective work in terms of the concepts of the image and the tools that we are going to use, but there are some differences in terms of the amount of magnification and the loading of the image. First and foremost, one of the fundamental differences or challenges we have with scanning, particularly small dimensional films like slides, is that we are going to typically engage in a lot of magnification. Because you can imagine the dimensions of a slide and say we are going to magnify that up to 5x7 or 8x10, where there is a lot of magnification.
And that means that if there is any dust or dirt or any foreign object on there, where they are going to be enlarged, they are just going to pop and show up. So the first thing you'll want to do is don those lint free gloves, and when you mount your slide inside your film holder, you want to make sure that, that slide is now nice and clean. Start off with blowing it off with your canned air or your hand pump, and then I almost always clean up the slide with my lint free Q-tip and the emulsion cleaner. Make sure you use the proper emulsion cleaners for hard film emulsion. If you have an older slide, then you have to have a different cleaner for that.
So make sure it's very, very clean, because everything is going to show up. Then the second thing that's a little bit different working with slides is that you're probably going to be loading your slide into a specific film holder, whether it's a dedicated film scanner, which is what we are using here, a Plustek, or if you are loading it into a flatbed scanner, your slide is typically going to go in a slide holder. And what you want to pay attention to is two things. one, the orientation, the direction in which you load your slide into your film holder, and then how you insert that film holder into the dedicated film scanner. Typically with the flatbed scanners, there is kind of a clicking position, so you can't get that wrong, but with a dedicated film scanner, you can put it in the wrong way.
And the reason why this is so important is that when you are working with slides or any kind of film, there is a natural curve to it, because of the emulsion, the difference between the emulsion side and the backing side, and film scanners are built in such a way that they naturally can accommodate for that, and if you put it in upside down, it won't focus properly. So read about the mounting of the image in your film holder for your particular scanner, and if you don't have the instructions, go to the website and download it and read it, and if you're still not sure, you can run a test and see. Scan the film two different ways, and here let me show you a demo.
Here we have an image that's scanned with exactly the same settings, but one right side up and the other right side down. And the one on the left has the proper focus, and this was scanned on the Plustek with the emulsion up and in proper direction. And the one on the right was scanned in the improper direction. And just looking at these two images, you can see that this one is overall sharper than this one. They were scanned at exactly the same way. This has an overall softness to it, where this has more sharpness. And you can see this in detail if we Zoom in here, and let's take this to about 450% or so.
There we go. And we are going to put this right up here. I am going to take this image and we'll Zoom in to about the same amount, about 450. And then we are going to juxtapose these two images. side by each is the French- Canadian saying, I love that expression. And let's look at the hair. Look at the details of the hair here. Notice how much sharper this hair is and how much softer this hair is here, and just kind of move your head back from your monitor and look here, you can see more detail, more sharpness here than you see here.
These two works were scanned exactly the same, but this one is slightly out of focus, because the film is in upside down. So it really does make a difference, and you can't recover all of that detail with just sharpening the image, because you've lost it during the actual scan process. Back to SilverFast, really pay attention to how you load your film. Next, we are going to go to the General tab, as you see here, and make sure we have the proper device, which if you don't SilverFast probably wouldn't be working anyway. We are just going to scan one image here rather than working in Batch Mode, and make sure this is set on Positive.
Now, remember, I mentioned that one of the issues with scanning small pieces of film is we're going to have lots of magnification, so one of the things I typically always do is I'll go into my Options, which is SilverFast Preferences, as we've talked about, and I always set a High resolution prescan of at least 4x. And sometimes if I'm doing big magnifications I'll go all the way up to 8x. And the reason for this is so I can zoom in and look at critical areas if I need to without having to re-perform the preview scan, as we've talked about. Oh, one of the thing to mention is sometimes with films I use a different Gamma-Gradation, and a lot of times with the flatbed scanner I use 1.8 to 2.0, and sometimes I go up to 2.2, and it really depends upon the film and the scanner.
If overall your images are coming out a little bit darker, you're always having to do a lot of lightening with your Curves tool when you're working with films, come in here and you can set a different Gamma-Gradation. you go to a little bit higher number and overall your scans will be lighter. Okay. Good! Let's move over to the Frame section then and let's talk about setting up the Frame. And we'll choose our bit depth, and as we've been typically doing, go 48 to 24, so this is one of those things that's no different, and use the same kind of decision making for our properties here. Absolutely going to go with no Sharpening here. And the reason is two things.
one is, I have told you in my workflow, I like to sharpen after the scan, because I can see the entire image and things go a little bit faster. Plus, if I am going to do some image editing, I don't want to apply Sharpening until after I finish with that. Also, for this particular image, this is a soft focused images, isn't it. It's the sunset image, and we don't want a lot of Sharpening anyway. And if I am going to apply Sharpening to this image, I really want to do it when I can see all the pixels. So no Sharpening. And then we'll set the Name Sunset Portrait _RGB, and then I am going to set my Scale. And what I want to do is I am going to do a square frame on this image, and then I am going to take this up to 8x8 here. Here we go.
And notice the Scale is 838%. Yikes, wow, that's a lot, right? And if we want maximum quality, say we are going to go to a commercial printing press and this is going to be on a page and printed, so use a Quality Factor of 2.0 times 150. And notice this says 300 pixels per inch, but the real optical scan resolution, if we hold down our Ctrl key, is going to be 3600. This is another reason to use dedicated film scanners. They typically have very high optical scan resolutions, because they expect to be doing a lot of enlargements, because we are starting with 1"x1" and going up to an 8"x8", so it's over 800%.
So I may come back up here. I am going to put in my scan resolution post scale on this image, so I am going to put in 300 pixels per inch to remind me what the final output resolution this file is going to be after scaling, so Sunset Portrait_RGB_300. So now we are ready to evaluate and do an image adjustment here. When I look at this image, first I do a qualitative adjustment and I ask myself, are there any neutrals in here? And there really aren't. I really think this is kind of a beige dress. It's not a white one. You might think it was white, but even if it were, it's probably going to have a colorcast because it's a sunset shot.
And this is one of the issues that you always ask yourself is, does the image have a colorcast? Here the answer is obviously yes, we can see that visually. And then the second question is, do we want to keep it or do we want to get rid of it? Well, even if we had some neutrals in this image, which we really don't, maybe something back here is a neutral, but it's not a critical portion of the image so we wouldn't use it for evaluation anyway, but even if we had neutrals, we want to maintain the colorcast of this image. It's a nice sunset shot, so it's going to have the yellow reds in there, so we would want to maintain it. So the question becomes more of a qualitative one or a creative one, how much of that colorcast do we want to maintain, do we want to modify it a little bit? Let's see.
Also, let's look for Highlights and Shadows, as we always do. Critical areas in this image, I'll look right here and I wonder if this is a blown out highlight area. And let's use our Densitometer, remember, this is Photoshop's Info tool called the Densitometer. I'll look through here and look at the RGB values right here. We're actually in luck. When I looked at this, I thought, ooh, it's blown out, too bad. But no, there is detail in there. Everything is in the 240s and 230s and 220s. That's terrific, so that's good. And of course we'd want to make sure we maintain all the shadow detail here, but really what the key part of this image is the Skin Tones.
Most of the Skin Tones are really not well lit, they're kind of in shadows, so we might want to take two different sample points. one on her cheek and one down here and kind of compare them and then split the difference between them in terms of what the RGB values are. So let's set Highlights and Shadows and then set some Skin Tones and go about adjusting the image, and we are going to use our wonderful tool here, the Highlight and Shadow tool. We click on that, and we can see, oh boy, that's great! The brightest portion of the image is right in the hair, and if we hold down our Shift key and click there, boom! It places our first color sampler point right there in the hair.
And then we decided we wanted to have two Skin Tone sets right there, number two and number three, and then we're going to go set our Shadow Point and we'll Shift and click right there, in this place right down here in the darker area of the hair. Perfect! I mean, those are kind of the two areas we'd want to maintain and evaluate and make sure we get correct. it's the highlight in the hair and then the shadow area. So now let's take a look at our values and discuss them. We expect there to be a colorcast here, and it should be pretty large Red colorcast in probably all these, but particularly in the Highlights and the Skin Tones, let's look at the Highlight value. 239, 226, 245.
Well, the high number here, 245, is just about at a 4 or 5% white Highlight, so we don't want to go any lighter here, because if we do, then we are going to be blowing out the Blue portion and then it won't print properly. We could adjust the colorcast here, but the colorcast adjustment we would make, if we make one, it's probably going to be more likely in the Skin Tone. So we're going to leave the Highlight pretty much the way it is. Let's look at the Shadow, move over there. 46, 32, 32. If we want to increase contrast in this image a little bit by darkening the Shadow, we've got some room to move here, don't we? We can go all the way down to about 15, if we want to.
We don't need to go all the way down to 15, maybe down 20, so maybe we'll do that. Now let's look at Skin Tones. All right, 219, 188, 172, so here we've got about a 16 point difference between the Blue and the Green, and then the Red is much higher, as we expected. It's in point number two. And point number three, we have about a 12 point difference here, and then, oh, almost a 40 point difference in the Red here. So it's pretty high in the Red. Now, this certainly meets our criteria for Red being greater than Green being greater than Blue, doesn't it? You bet! But the red is very high.
The question is, do we want to maintain all that redness in the skin or do we want to just back it off a little bit? Well, let's see, so we have done our kind of a qualitative and our numeric analysis. We know where we are headed. Look at the Highlight, when we go to our Histogram tool, which is like Levels in Photoshop, we're not going to touch the Highlight, we've already decided that, we don't want to blow it out anymore. But the Shadow, we've got some room to move here. So let's move the Shadow up so the lowest value is about 20, so I just monitor that point number 4 as we come in here, and then take a look at the image.
And this is when it's really super helpful to have a calibrated monitor, so that you really get a pretty good representation of what that image is actually going to look like. And notice we have increased the Contrast, but it's not a super increase in Contrast. It just gives us a little bit more punch to the image. So I'm happy with that. That's the only adjustment I am going to make here in the Histogram. I am going to click OK. Let's go to our Curves tool now and take a look, and let's start with working on our Reds a little bit. I think I'd like to maybe reduce our Reds just slightly. Still maintain that colorcast, but where that 40 point spread down here is pretty high.
So maybe just lower this about 5 points and let's take a look at the Skin Tone. You can use this slider here remember, do a raise and lower if you want to. Or you can use the Command key and click to drag the whole curve down, whatever you like. And look what happens just on screen, if we just lower this about 5 points, you see how it softens that overall Red just a little bit? So let's just lower it, just a little bit, maybe 5, 6, 7 points. There we go. And then, because it's a nice soft portrait, let's lower the Contrast just a little bit and let's just lower this to maybe 5 points in the Highlight, and then go to the three-quarter tone and maybe raise that about 5 points, just a very subtle flattening of that curve to give you even more softness to the Skin Tone.
Typically with portraits remember, we don't increase Contrast on the quarter tone to the three-quarter tone, we lower the Contrast. Well, there we go. So we've made a nice little fine-tune adjustment to our image and we're ready to go ahead and scan. So just check the name, check to make sure the output and resolution is properly done, and boom, we're ready to scan. And we'll save this as a TIFF of course, as always, so that we don't get any compression. You can see how valuable performing a numeric analysis of our image is. We use both our creative sense as well as the numbers to produce an image so it's pretty much exactly what we would like to have.
And here is the image in Photoshop.
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