Scans washed out

Nov 22, 2010
Washington, USA
I'm fairly new to shooting film, and just got back several rolls of film (develop & scan), a mix of Portra 160VC and Velvia 100F.

The Velvia scans turned out really really dark. I think this is a mixture of me screwing up the exposure and also the scans being too dark. When I hold the slides up to a light they don't seem so horribly dark. But anyway, for now I chalk that up to poor technique with demanding film.

The Portra scans were quite a bit better, but seemed to all have a washed out foggy look. I had to bring down the darks and shadows a lot to get the black point right. Is this typical of scans of negative film, or did the place that did the scanning get lazy?

Original scan
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After some processing
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Apr 2, 2008
It seems they didn't do a proper levels adjustment on the scan. Every scan of film needs adjustment for exposure and contrast. Perhaps their software doesn't like your particular film or your exposure. If your film looks right, blame the scanner. If you get serious about film you really need to do your own scanning.
Feb 2, 2005
Real Name
Actually the first scan looks like it's properly done. There is room on each side of the histogram for adjusting the image. The main problem encountered when printing from a scan is that shadows will block when the image is converted to the profile for the print. By allowing sufficient leeway, you can adjust the contrast yourself so the print neither blocks the shadows, nor blows the highlights.

Back in the day before digital printing, an internegative was made from slides in order to print them on regular color paper. This internegative was made on special, low contrast, film to preserve the highlights and shadows. If one was making an r-print, especially a high-quality one such as Cibachrome, then a mask was often made to reduce the contrast.

All this effort is done because the contrast range of slide film is so high, as slides are optimized for projection, where the much larger dynamic range can be seen and appreciated. When scanning from negative film - in the case of your Portra - the problems are similar. Without knowing what printer (and paper, thus the entire printing profile) you will be using, they give you plenty of room to adjust for the final print.

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