A few scanning tips

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VueScan

VueScan is inexpensive third party scanning software which supports many (if not almost all) current film scanners, and several flatbeds too. Visit www.hamrick.com and if your scanner is supported, try the free trial. There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

VueScan's major claim to fame is its simple and accurate color correction from color negatives. This is often difficult, and VueScan generally makes it easy. VueScan supports the scanner's special hardware, like batch scanning, auto-focus, any infrared channel for dust and scratch suppression, and multi-scan to reduce scanner noise in the dark areas of slides. VueScan can often multi-scan with scanners that do not support this, using multi-pass scans. VueScan can often retrieve the full bit depth of data from scanners that otherwise only output 24 bits.

VueScan is a standalone program. A TWAIN interface is not provided, it instead accesses the scanner hardware directly at low level. VueScan is often faster than the scanner's original software, both scan and focus. You can still use the scanner's original software if desired.

Selecting negative film type helps correct the specific orange film mask color, and VueScan provides over 200 film types. But it's a harder problem because any irregularity in film exposure or film processing shifts the color balance of the film. Correction of color negative film is rather difficult in general practice, but VueScan specifically addresses this problem.

VueScan is an easy program to use, it is largely automatic, and its defaults are preset for the goal of achieving best results with the most accurate color. If it seems difficult to use, you're likely diddling too much, trust it more, try the defaults. All you really need to set is scan mode and perhaps film type, and it can do the rest. You can size the preview and histogram window as large as you like.

You may sometimes want to tweak Brightness to affect midrange brightness (VueScan Brightness works as a multiplier to Gamma, same as any histogram Midpoint control). But otherwise, the main tone setting you may want to change is the Color Balance. Depending on the image content, one of these may be better than the others.

White Balance adjusts the RGB settings to try to make the image look white, often very desirable. Auto Levels adjusts the RGB settings from the histogram maximum data values, which then map to white. If the scene lighting was sodium lamps or an orange sunset, Neutral probably works best. Images without neutral colors such as gray or white, perhaps images of all green foliage or flowers, may not like White Balance mode, but more nearly typical images (people and places) likely will love it. Then the Auto Black and White Points clip away the specified percentage of the total pixel values. VueScan's defaults clip minimally, if at all, to retain the full data, to NOT discard shadow detail, giving all the range that a negative can give, perhaps a flatter image than you are used to, but it's all there.

You can set the Auto Black and White Points for greater contrast by clipping more, say 0.5% at Black. My own preference is to use the defaults for its magic (good color balance), and tweak contrast later in Photoshop (retaining that data allows choices). For typical scenes, following up with Photoshop Auto Levels (0.5%) is often fantastic. That clipping often enhances image contrast and colors perfectly, but sometimes it's the wrong thing to do. It does discard some shadow detail that VueScan tried to retain.

VueScan is not an image editor; you can use Photoshop for that. VueScan's strength is to provide very good color, easily. That is no small feat, especially from negatives.

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Copyright © 2000-2010 by Wayne Fulton - All rights are reserved.


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