789 words on Black and White
After developing my recent photos yesterday night, I stopped by at the library once more to scan those negatives in. It wasn’t a good experience.
To begin with, that scanning is dead slow. Yeah, I know, high-resolution, quality and all – but it’s still slow. And then I struggle with the Nikon scanning software that comes with the scanner. To begin with, I just don’t understand it properly. With all the options it has, I am never really sure which one of them has which effect, which ones are significant and which ones aren’t.
One lesson I learned the painful way today was that it’s definitely worth the extra wait to make the scanner evaluate every single negative to get the best brightness and contrast settings. The photos for which I skipped this just don’t look good. Unfortunately I couldn’t really tell that in advance from the UI as I thought the scanner will do some evaluation of the whole strip of negatives and apply that to each of them. But that was overly optimistic.
The next lesson I learned the ultra painful way was that even if the software offers to save your scans in a RAW format (Nikon’s NEF in this case), it’s probably a good idea to not use that feature unless you really know why you want it. Let’s just say that things worked all right for the first ten photos I scanned, but the files generated for all the other ones just couldn’t be opened by any sofware I could access – not by OS X’s RAW reading libraries, not by GraphicConverter, not by LightRoom, not by Nikon’s own Nikon View application. The only application that could read those files turned out to be Nikon Scan, the application that saved the files.
Thanks a lot, I thought, and wasted some more time converting everything to TIFF files after all, just so I could look at my photos, you know. Needless to say that this had to be done manually for each photo as Nikon’s software doesn’t batch convert or offer scripting features. And to make my life even worse, I couldn’t even use it to properly crop the scans while I was at it. Yikes!
And my list of gripes with that scanning software goes on and on. After inserting the film into the scanner it lets you adjust certain settings regarding the scans you want to make. There you can choose between colour and black and white scans, set the bit depth and the resolution to use for the scan. But to make things really fun those settings aren’t applied to each of the negatives you scan after that but only to the first one… so to get things exactly the way you want, you end up having choose at least two menu items which are conveniently hidden in a submenu (and submenus seem to be slower to use on Windows than they are on the Mac) and do some extra clicking and typing in yet another location. I somehow suspect that those settings can be saved in theory but unfortunately the Windows computer that the scanner is attached to claimed I wasn’t allowed to do that for some reason – save scanner settings on my own account…
No, I’m not happy with that at all. Scanning shouldn’t neither be rocket science nor a royal pain. So now I can’t judge the contrast properly for many of the photos I scanned. Oh, and I even read the ‘manual’ for the scanning software. But as manuals of bad software go it mainly gives extensive listings of the very same menu items that are visible on screen anyway but doesn’t really tell what they are there for and in which way they are significant.
Ah well… one of my films must have suffered quite a bit while developing – probably the one that was sticky. So there are some scratches on some of the negatives. But amusingly, scratches and graininess are nowhere as enraging as bad software. Might even make the photos look more analogously ‘authentic’.
A final lesson to learn is that I’ll have to do some more practice with my 24mm lens. When using a flash with it, people end up being overexposed. I guess that’s quite logical as you have to stand closer to them when taking the photos than with a normal 55mm lens. But I’m not quite sure how to deal with that with the mostly automatic flash I have. (Possibly new cameras can adjust the strength of the flash for the lens you are using but my early 1980s camera just isn’t automatic enough for that yet.)
The bright side of that effect is that overexposed faces don’t look unshaved…
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