Home Scans vs Lab Scans

I’ve purchased a flatbed scanner awhile back in order to scan my developed negatives at a higher resolution. In this way, I can upload some of my better shots on to redbubble to be sold in the form of prints or posters.

After my initial scans, I’ve come to realise a thing or two that I will like to share with those who are looking into using flatbeds for scanning their films. Hopefully, it will help in your decision making and give you a better picture of what to expect from your home scans.

1. Your home scans will definitely be different from your lab scans
There is a reason why this photo labs are called professional. That is because their scanners are top of the range, easily costing 100 times more than a flatbed scanner. Of course the results are going to be different.

Machine aside, man also plays a part. The technician has a certain perception and may correct the shot as he deems fit.

Personally, I was abit bummed out after scanning a cross processed negative. It looked nothing like the lab scans. To be honest, it looked plain and unappealing. It was like a blow to my balls after seeing the result. Then came the next struggle…

Exhibit A – Lab Scan

Exhibit F (for failure?) – Home Scan

2. Expect to spend a considerable amount of time fine tuning scans
Alot of work comes into setting up for the scan. Setting up the frames, dusting and cleaning the negatives and scan surface, tweaking the scanner settings, photo-editing, etc.

Yes, photo-editing. You heard me right. To me it was hard to come to terms that I will have to edit my scans to even have it look remotely like my lab scans.

Firstly, it is time consuming. I rather be shooting than sitting behind the computer adding contrast, adjusting brightness, blah blah blah.

Secondly, there are so many permutations that the perfectionist freak in me will be kept wondering if this is the best possible version.

Lastly, doesn’t it kinda defeats the point of shooting film? Might as well just use digital and apply a Lomo effect via Photoshop.

3. Accept the fact that every photo has been edited one way or another
When the film is developed and put through the scanner, some form of editing will always take place, either through machine, man or both. There is no one scan that is the truest form. Scanning the same negative on different machines will definitely churn out varying results. So there isn’t really any point to seek out that one scan of absolute perfection.

Hopefully, that will put the perfectionist in me to rest. As for the point of analogue/digital. I guess we’ll save that debate for another day.

To summarize,

Home scans = better control, saves cost, time consuming.

Lab scans = no control, costly, saves a hell load of time.

Ok, off to work on my scans now :S


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