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  • Writer's pictureNick

How Do You Like Your Film Scanned?

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Shot on 35mm Cinestill 800T rated at 500 and processed normally. Scanned with low, medium, and high contrast.
Let's talk film scan preferences!

Did you know that there is more to how your film scans look than just which film stock you choose and what is in front of your lens? Once your film has been processed, our scanning techs scan your rolls while making frame by frame adjustments for brightness, contrast, and color balance. Each of these adjustments are controls that are available to us on our Noritsu film scanners that help us get the best results that we can from your film.

Through years of scanning hundreds of thousands of frames, our scan techs know how to make the best of your negatives and our house style is a balanced look that is ready for viewing, sharing, and printing. That said, different photographers may have different preferences when it comes to the general aesthetic of their images. That's where your scan preferences come in!

If you're one of our mail-in customers, you've probably seen the Scan Preferences section on your order form. Marking the options that you prefer gives us an idea of the kind of aesthetic that you are trying to achieve with your scans and your choices will apply to all rolls in your order.

In the matrix below you can see some examples of how different brightness and color preferences can change the appearance of the final scan. The sample image was shot on 35mm Portra 160 rated at 100 and processed normally. If you don't choose any specific scan preferences, we will use our best judgment and you will get neutral color/contrast/brightness. As you can see, there are a wide variety of looks that you can achieve just through scanning.

Looking for light and airy scans for a golden hour portrait shoot? Warm+Light will help you get there. Want moodier scans with rich contrast? Dark+High Contrast might be for you.

It's important to remember that your scan look is achieved only by your choice of film stock, your exposure, and the controls we have available on our film scanners. We don't do additional Photoshop editing or add color filters after scanning.

Dialing in a scan aesthetic that you like can be helpful if you shoot a lot of portraits and want your skin tones to be a little more peachy, golden, or cool. There is not a specific place on your order form for this so just write in the special instructions if you have any specific preferences and we will use your notes as a guide during scanning. If you drop your film off in-person and don't use our order forms, just let us know what your scan preferences are and we can add those notes to your order. One of the beautiful things about film is, that if you shoot in consistent light and exposure your film consistently, you can use scan preferences to ensure all of your work has a similar aesthetic.

Scan preferences can also be important for other kinds of photography. You might want to make sure that your photos showcase the rusty red of the rocks in your desert shots or that your landscapes are more green yellow and don't have any strong red casts. Just remember that your preferences will alter the entire image, we can't make adjustments to specific areas or only certain colors!

Layout of 6 landscapes shot on film and scanned with a Noritsu film scanner. Consistent color.
An example of landscapes scanned for stronger yellows and blues with a preference for blues to lean a little more cyan

It's also important to note that it can be difficult to get good results from underexposed negatives, let alone results that match your color preferences. Sometimes we might have to add a lot of contrast and color adjustment just to get an acceptable result from an underexposed frame so remember to pay attention to your meter and err on the side of overexposure whenever you're shooting color negative film.

How To Communicate Your Preferences

•Indicate on your order form your preference for contrast, temperature, and brightness.

•Provide clarity in the special instructions area.

•When you come into the lab, let us know your preferences when you drop your film off.

•Remember that your preferences affect each image as a whole.

•Talk to us if you have questions or feedback after you receive your scans.

We are always looking for the best ways to help all of our photographers achieve their visions so we hope these tips help you get the best scans you can!

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