Tip for scanning

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by The Bill Mattocks, Jan 19, 2004.

  1. Many of you probably already knew this, but I had to learn the hard
    way, so perhaps this can be useful to some...

    I have been processing some of my own B&W film at home prior to
    scanning it. I don't have a darkroom or enlarger, so I just process
    the film and scan it. I've noticed that the film I process myself is
    noticeably less scratched than the C-41 film I have processed

    I've tried a lot of film processors, from the grocery store across the
    street to local Walgreen's, Walmart's, and the like. I also use
    Albuquerque's one and only 'pro' processor, Albuquerque Color Lab.
    All have been disappointing in the sense that when I scan the negs,
    they are frequently very scratched up. And the scratches are not
    horizontal and consistant as they would be if my camera body were
    doing the damage. They are diagonal and random, indicating that the
    damage is done by the processor. I've complained, I've asked them to
    'be gentle' with the negs, all to no avail - even at the expensive
    'pro' shop.

    Yesterday I went out and shot a test roll on a new (old) camera that I
    wanted to test. I dropped the roll of C-41 off at a local Walgreen's
    Drug Store, but when the guy asked me if I wanted one print or two per
    neg, I asked him if he could do ZERO. I told him I'd pay for
    single-print one-hour processing, but not to do the enlarging or
    printing. Just cut and sleeve the negs. He agreed to do so.

    Surprise! I scanned the negs, and there was so little damage, I was
    amazed. I always dust and use compressed air to clean my negs before
    scanning, but my scanner is the Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III and it
    does not have much in the way of 'scratch repair,' certainly no
    digital ICE. With either Vuescan or the Minolta software, the negs
    are almost always in bad shape and need of serious fixup in Photoshop,
    which gets tedious. This time, no problems at all. Couple of 'dots'
    of white that needed to be fixed, but NO SCRATCHES!

    Just thought I'd pass that along. I don't need prints anyway, most of
    my photos just get scanned and the good ones (if I ever have any) will
    eventually be put online. Maybe some rare few will be printed, but I
    can do that myself as well - so no need for the prints that the
    processor makes, and as it seems to be turning out, that act may be
    what was scratching up my negatives.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 19, 2004
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  2. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    It will depend on the place. There is a Wolfe near my house where the right
    person treats all negatives as if they were his own - but he us there on a
    kind of random schedule as he is a working photographer. When the usual
    droogs are on they toss rolls of film onto the top of the printing machine
    in a sort of snake pile and pull them out randomly -- I suppose because it
    means they don't have to walk over and get them off the hanger -- and the
    negatives are scratched to hell before they even start to print.
    Consequently I get my stuff processed at a good lab where all film is
    treated well - however my wife gets prints made at a drugstore - we are
    careful to only drop stuff off when the woman who runs the operation is
    there - and her film comes out fine too.
    Tony Spadaro, Jan 19, 2004
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  3. I don't know much about the post processing of a film at a developers,
    but could it be that the machinery involved in handling the film during
    prints could be well-used or in need of a servicing?

    Or is this just down to people treating the film badly?


    Andrew McCall
    Andrew McCall, Jan 19, 2004

  4. Gonna tag onto Andrew's reposnse here, since the original post didn't
    make it through my server.

    Post-processing handling (as in, the printing process) is responsible
    for the greatest amount of damage in a lab by far. The processing machines
    are usually designed for careful treatment of the film throughout the
    development, with the possible exception of the exit, where they may be
    dumped unceremoniously into a plastic bin. Most labs then match the ID
    sticker on the negative to the envelope and hang them for printing. Good so
    far, and hanging is a good practice.

    When printing, the negatives are usually slid through a small metal
    frame, backlit, on the operator's console. They are handled by hand, and I
    have never seen any mechanical provision to keeping either end of the film
    out of contact with other surfaces. Thus it's up to the operator (and the
    manager training the operator) to ensure that the negative is not dragged
    along the floor, console top or edges, or any undusted surface. The metal
    frame needs to be kept very clean and dusted frequently, as does the
    console surface, and all handling should be done with gloves.

    Bad habits or uninforced training in this area is what does most of
    the damage. A 36 exposure negative strip is over five feet long, hard to
    keep out of contact with surfaces, and the metal frame needs to be
    reasonably snug against the film to provide sharp prints, so any foreign
    matter gets the opportunity to drag across your negative with more than
    casual pressure.

    Additionally, the cutting/sleeving process drags the negative strip
    along the table as they are inserted into the sleeves and cut - the faster
    this needs to occur, the more damage can result. Thus, one-hour labs where
    the operator may be rushed to meet the deadline (customers can get really
    cranky about the "one-hour equals 3,600 seconds" bit) can induce further
    lack of careful handling.

    This is not to say all labs will do this - some are diligent about
    proper handling. But during the printing it's far more up to the human
    operator, since adequate safeguards usually don't exist.

    Preventing it? Chose your lab carefully, first. Watch for the
    religious use of gloves - these are usually a good indication of decent
    training. Develop a relationship with the techs, explain your concerns in a
    friendly manner, maybe even drop them a small tip. Show them what happened
    to the negatives, and ask if it can be prevented somehow (sometimes all it
    takes is the realization). Go to the manager only if you feel you're not
    getting a response from the techs - if the techs have both your trust and
    the opportunity to correct their performance without 'official' attention,
    they're more likely to believe you're on their side, and they'll be on

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, Jan 19, 2004
  5. I hate to disagree, Tony, but that has not been my experience. I have
    had work done at one lab, "Process One" in Overland Park, KS, where my
    negs consistantly came back clean and scannable, but overall, even at
    the 'pro' labs where I have gone, that has not been the case. At
    "Albuquerque Color Lab," they know me - I've spent a ton of money
    there. It's family-run, and they DO treat the negs with great care -
    and they're aware of my complaints - but they still come back all
    scratched up. Sure, they print nicely, but when you scan them at
    2800+ dpi, there are scratches all over. That's just one example -
    I've had the same experience at 'pro' labs in NYC and CA as well.
    All I know at the moment is that I just picked up 3 rolls of processed
    film today at the local grocery store. Once again, I asked the guy to
    NOT print at all, just process, cut, and sleeve the negs. NO
    SCRATCHES! I'm so pleased!

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 19, 2004
  6. Based on my limited experience (yesterday at a Walgreen's, today at a
    local grocery store), that may well be the case. Or it could just be
    that the machinery inherently will scratch film, albeit in a way that
    was not really detectible prior to the age of home scanning at higher
    That may well have something to do with it, but I've also had
    scratched negs when dealing with a high-end local lab where the owner
    knows me and is well aware of the problems I've had - promising to be
    VERY careful with the negs, they still came back scratched.

    Therefore, I think it is less the people than it is the equipment.
    This looks promising to me - I will not be having prints made again if
    I can help it, and we'll see where that goes.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 19, 2004
  7. The Bill Mattocks

    ericm1600 Guest

    Ask how much "develop only" is. They may have to look up the price, but it
    should only end up being a couple bucks per roll.

    ericm1600, Jan 19, 2004
  8. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    As I have said many times - you have to look for the places that do
    things right - they won't always be obvious. The guy at Wolfes used to run a
    local lab, and all the film he put out was always beautifully clean. He sold
    it to a guy who I think has poker parties on top of the machines - you know,
    cigar ash and potato chip dust along with a bit of spilled Bud Lite - and we
    had to look around again for labs. In fact we were both using the pro lab I
    use until I dropped off some test shots at the drug store for a new lens. It
    was Saturday and my lab was closed. What I got back was as clean as the
    negatives my lab does despite the fact I had prints made. My wife has been
    using the place ever since - it's about half the price as prints would be
    from the pro lab, and always faster since it isn't a 15 minute drive across
    Tony Spadaro, Jan 20, 2004
  9. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    Here in chapel Hill it runs 2.50 to 3.50 per roll. I've never seen it
    higher - but never lower either.
    Tony Spadaro, Jan 20, 2004
  10. Al, I appreciate the kind and detailed response. This makes me think
    even more that the answer to my particular problem is not to get
    prints made, so I may have lucked onto a solution that you're leaving
    out - eg, why have them make prints at all?

    I don't particularly need them, I don't really want them. What I want
    is to take my negs home and scan them. If I really like something
    I've done, I usually post it online. If I really, really, want a
    print, I can do that at home too - or even take it back to the photo
    shop on a memory chip and print it from that (post crop and whatever
    else I wanted to do to it first), as if it had come out of a digital
    camera in the first place.

    You're proposing a solution to a problem I don't have. My problem is
    not 'how to get prints without damage to the negative' but rather 'how
    not to get the negative damaged'.

    Anyway, I hate to take such issue with folks here - you've all been
    very kind and considerate in helping me ease my way back into
    photography over the last year or so, and very generous with great
    advice. But I still have to disagree with a portion of what you've
    said above. I've DONE the 'be nice to the techs' thing. I've DONE
    the 'find the best quality lab' thing. I've seen them wear the
    gloves. I've talked to the owners. About all I haven't done is tip
    them, and frankly, I think that would be seen as a bit odd in
    Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even after doing all you recommend, my negs
    are STILL mostly damaged when I scan them. I suspect that even
    careful treatment by professional labs and highly-trained technicians
    is going to cause at least some such damage when the scanning being
    done reaches the standard that such tiny flaws become evident.

    My solution seems to be working, based only on two samples, but the
    difference is so 'night-and-day' and from two sources, so I tend to
    think that this will work for me. I don't want the stinking prints.
    And even if I did, I'd sacrifice them to get clean scans.
    I certainly appreciate both your time and the benefit of your
    experience. Thanks!

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 20, 2004
  11. Good! I spend a lot of time in Wilson, NC. I'd love to know where to
    take my film when I'm there!

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 20, 2004
  12. Tony, look. I appreciate all the help and good advice you've given me
    over the last year or so as I got back into photography - you've been
    a big help. So please don't take this the wrong way.

    You have to understand my situation. First, I live in Albuquerque,
    NM. I travel for a living though, I'm home maybe one day a week (this
    week is unusual, I have no assignment). I don't have time to chase
    all over town trying one lab after another until I find one that can
    print AND not scratch my negs. Nevertheless, I have tried a bunch of
    them, including so-called 'pro' labs all over the USA (I fly 100,000
    miles a year, mostly in the US). All have had the same problem, with
    one exception (Process One in Overland Park, KS). I've even tried
    mailers to some of the high-priced labs recommended on this newsgroup.
    Same results. And I'm not a stickler or a perfectionist - I just
    don't want scratches on my negs that my camera didn't put there.

    I spend a lot of time in Wilson, NC - your neck of the woods, I
    believe. You know how many pro labs there are there? None. Not even
    a Wolfe Photo. Not even a 'camera store'. You get Walmart and uh,
    Walgreens. That's pretty much it. You probably know how far Wilson
    is from Raleigh-Durham, and I work a day job - not going to spend my
    entire evening driving back and forth for a roll or two of film.
    Sometimes I stay over the weekend instead of flying home - in that
    case, I might drive as far as Chapel Hill to try out a recommended
    lab. But mostly, I don't have the time.

    Now, I happened to discover that apparently (based on a small sample,
    admittedly, but I'll keep trying this solution) that I can resolve the
    problem by just not getting prints made. I thought I'd pass that
    along to whomever else might be experiencing the frustration I've had.
    Maybe it's not a solution for anyone but me - maybe everyone really
    wants prints AND unscratched negs. And if that's the case, then your
    solution is probably the best, time-consuming though it might be.

    But I don't really *want* prints. Never did, in most cases. I just
    took them because that's what was offered. I stupidly never thought
    to just have them processed, cut, and sleeved with no prints made -
    until last weekend. If I *do* discover a particular photo that I want
    printed, I can scan it and copy the file onto a CompactFlash card and
    take *that* to Walmart or whatever and have them print just that one

    So your solution is great, but it's a solution to a problem I don't
    have. I just want unscratched negs. If I can get that by not having
    my negs printed, cool! If that works for anyone else as well, that's
    all I was trying to say.

    I'm sorry if we're talking at cross-purposes here. I never meant to
    post and ask for advice on how to find a decent lab - I was just
    trying to pass along some info that I discovered that maybe someone
    else might find useful.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 20, 2004
  13. Bill, the thought intrudes that given your mode of image making, and your
    work and life style, you need to go all digital and kiss the labs good
    It is rare that I tell someone they need to abandon film, but you are the
    Dennis O'Connor, Jan 20, 2004
  14. The Bill Mattocks

    The Wogster Guest

    Depending on your scanner, I would have them do the least work possible,
    just process it, roll it back up and stick it back in the plastic film
    can. Then under your own (relatively) dust free conditions, with a good
    pair of scissors and canned air, cut the negatives and sleeve them AFTER
    scanning. This way you know the scan is with the minimal amount of damage
    done. You should get a discount price though, ask for the store manager,
    and ask him to get you a price, negatives only, uncut.


    The Wogster, Jan 20, 2004
  15. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    Rolling it up and sticking it in a film can is a guarantee for
    scratches. If they don't use long sleeving it is better to have the film cut
    and sleved as they normally do. I will not use any lab that does not sleeve
    the negatives in one way or another, and the reason I don't just drop film
    at the drugstore where my wife has hers done is because I don't want my film
    cut to strips of four frames.
    Tony Spadaro, Jan 20, 2004
  16. Denny,

    I have a digital camera (Olympus D-40 Zoom) and I like it as a general
    rule, but I am just far happier shooting film at the moment. Perhaps
    when the price of a Pentax *ist D drops down to where I'd feel
    comfortable buying it, I can do it. I am really looking forward to
    using all my M42 lenses, etc, with such a beast.

    I actually started out (when I took this job seven years ago) with an
    Olympus sub-megapixel digital camera, which I took everywhere! It was
    only in the last year or two that my need to shoot film has been
    re-awakened. I have nothing against digital, I just like film better
    at the moment.

    But it is excellent advice for road-warriors in general, I'm just a
    horse of a different color, I guess.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Jan 20, 2004
  17. But sooner or later you are going to want one or more of your negatives made
    into a print. When that time comes, you will either have to know a lab that
    can do it without scratching the negative, or you will have to get your
    negative scratched..... Or....There is a third alternative. You can scan the
    negative into a digitizer, and print out the digitized image on a digital
    color printer.....
    William Graham, Jan 20, 2004
  18. The Bill Mattocks

    Busrider Guest

    Hi Bill - I hope you don't mind me jumping in, but I'm a fellow Tarheel and
    shoot quite a bit w/ M42 lenses. I even know where Wilson is. I bought
    myself a Pentax ZX-M for Christmas, and have had great results with the
    older Takumars used w/ an adapter. Best $150.00 +/- I've spent in a good
    while. It's considerably easier to focus w/ a camera designed for manual
    lenses. Not that I'd turn down a *ist D, but that $1500.00 +/- will buy a
    lot of film and processing...

    Best of luck to you. I solved the scratched negative problem by developing
    my own black and white and sending the occasional color roll to Ofoto.

    Best Regards,

    Busrider, Jan 21, 2004
  19. The Bill Mattocks

    MikeWhy Guest

    Won't they give them to you uncut? All I had to do was ask... They preferred
    that more than anything else. Apparently, they long sleeve the roll before
    doing anything else. I think they even scan through it. At least, the girl
    doing the scanning didn't bother to unsleeve the uncut roll before shoving
    it into the scanner. (That alone might explain the extremely contrasty
    scans, but I think that's an unrelated problem. This was at Wolf in Chicago.
    It's a real stretch to consider Wolf a "pro-lab" of any stature.)
    MikeWhy, Jan 21, 2004
  20. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    The drugstore doesn't have long sleeves, and at Wolfe's they told me
    that if I cared to buy a roll of sleeving and bring in the proper amount
    with each roll of film they would be happy to sleeve it for me. Judging by
    the way they treat film, however, I felt that by the time they got around to
    fishing it out of the mound and sticking it into the sleeve it wouldn't be
    worth sleeving any longer.
    Someone once brought me some film with that glue on sleeving and said the
    lab where he gets stuff done would scan through it and everything looked
    hunky dory, but one look at the gummy glue and I refused to put it into my
    scanner, so I have no proof of that at all. With normal sleeving the film
    will not fit into the holder so I've not tried that either.
    Tony Spadaro, Jan 21, 2004
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