Scanning Negatives and Slides

Reviewed by Major Keary


Rocky Nook, a recent (2006) entry to the field of publishing, focuses on digital photography and other areas related to modern photography and the application of computer technology to imaging. Their books stand out both for coverage of leading-edge developments and as an exemplar of fine printing and design.
Scanning Negatives and Slides, now in its second edition, is a professional-level text that deals with converting a film-based photographic archive to digital format; as the publishers say, it "provides the knowledge necessary to bridge the gap between analog (traditional) and digital photography". Dealing with a large collection of transparencies and negatives—especially where it includes different film stock of various sizes—requires a workflow, which in turn requires an understanding of many factors, such differences in scanners.

Rocky Nook, a recent (2006) entry to the field of publishing, focuses on digital photography and other areas related to modern photography and the application of computer technology to imaging. Their books stand out both for coverage of leading-edge developments and as an exemplar of fine printing and design. In particular, this second edition addresses RAW formats that enables more control of a final image.

Don't expect to find an annotated catalogue of hardware, especially scanning devices. There is an in-depth discussion of scanner characteristics that should enable readers to make an informed choice, some (top-end) scanners are described, and there are valuable discussions of scanning software.

Collections of transparencies and negatives—especially if they come from a long span of time—are likely to present a multitude of variables: different film types require specific treatment at various stages of the conversion process. The book discusses all the options and particular issues. For example, Kodachrome transparencies are a special case: not all scanning services can handle Kodachrome, and scanners in the normal range are unlikely to produce the best results. That is because Kodachrome has colour characteristics noticeably different from modern films. Kodachrome friendly scanners, such as the Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 ED, are very expensive. Black and white negatives can be either silver-based film or C41-based film, which uses the same dye technology as colour negative film; some software does not work well with silver-based negatives. This book is the best resource I have seen on the factors that have to be considered when dealing with different film types.

Even if you decide that a professional scanning service is the way to go, reading Scanning Negatives and Slides could save a lot of grief—and money. Professional scanning services are not cheap, and not all of them can handle every kind of film stock.

The author provides insights into, and explanations of, a wide range of topics, from colour management and file formats, configuring and calibrating hardware, to filters that 'repair' various kinds of damage.

Scanning Negatives and Slides is remarkably practical and technically detailed. It is not just the owner/custodian of a collection who will benefit from Scanning Negatives and Slides; anyone engaged in professional-level scanning should find much useful information, such as the discussions on workflow. An essential resource for anyone who wants to convert a significant archive. Highly recommended as an acquisition for any library with holdings on photography, digital or traditional.

The information is detailed and presented in clear language that does not require any special knowledge, but readers are assumed to be at least familiar with photographic technology and be computer literate. The book comes with a useful companuion DVD that contains scanning software, image editing software, miscellaneous tools, and sample scans.

Sascha Steinhoff: Scanning Negatives and Slides
ISBN 978-1-933952-01-7
Published by Rocky Nook, 239 pp., RRP AU$ 95.00

Rocky Nook books are distributed in Australia by Woodslane <www.woodslane.com.au>

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