Contact Sheets vs. Scanning Negatives
I guess this is the appropriate place/thread/forum to make this query? I'm curious, how many folks here make contact sheets in the darkroom vs scanning your negatives? I just bought an inexpensive Canon 8000f Scanner for less than $140 at Newegg.com on their weekend special. Normally this is about $160-$180 elsewhere. I just generally needed an inexpensive flatbed scanner but this one also has the ability to scan negatives which occurs to me might be a good way to deal with contacts?
I make contact sheets. To me, the information ifs far more accurate, more easily obtained, and far more representative of the characteristics of the individual exposures. The contact sheets are filed in a regular notebook - in clear plastic sleeves, with the Negative file sheets opposite - so selection of an individual frame is quick and easy.
Originally Posted by porsche917k
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I've begun to scan my 4x5 and smaller negatives. It quickly lets me know of gross errors - out of focus, camera moved, poor visualization and composition, really badlyoff exposure, etc. But I don't know yet that scanning tells me enough to know if I made a proper exposure, got proper contrast, etc. But scanning does allow me to quickly, and cheaply, reject the real failures.
John, a slippery slope. Scanning in combination with photoshop could suggest the type of modifications needed in the darkroom. But I'm finding that contact sheets are actually a quicker means of determining a good negative as well as giving me necessary info (eg, exposure time) for creating a working print.
Also, scanning can give mis-leading information. I recently scanned some 35mm negatives from a vacation & was horrified that the highlights seemed blown-out. I then contacted printed them, & printed the very ones that appeared blown-out with no problem. If you're doing darkroom printing, contact sheets is still the best way to judge your negatives.
Last edited by doughowk; 05-23-2004 at 06:14 PM. Click to view previous post history.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
Contact Sheets vs. Scanning Negatives
Traditional contact sheets for me. Same paper, same lens, same enlarger height, same exposure, etc. each time. They're a nuisance to make, but they certainly come in handy; for negatives I print, the technical information goes on the back of the contact sheet.
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I don't use contact sheets for 35mm for anything other than frame id. I find it 100 times more useful to view the negs on a light box with a loop to tell me everything I need to know about an image prior to printing.
I came to this by means of a $125 scanner that could NEVER, under any configuration deliver an image of any usefulness to make definitive conclusions from. A simple waste of time.
When a printing session is over I may make a contact sheet to accompany the page of negs. But leafing thru a binder of negs identified by roll and date usually is enough to find a frame. I also maintain data bases of processing and printing information. But quite frankly the printing data base in practice is not much help because, for what ever reason, a time later will not produce the same image as was reflected in the DB.
I scan and make contacts in bulk and by batch when not in the lab. I can set the scanner up and walk away and let photoshop create the contacts. It is not as good as making contacts the traditional way, but can be very efficient. If you don't have a lab it can also be much cheaper.
I have a film processor, but my darkroom is yet to be built so making proper contacts are contingent on my time in the lab.
Contacts for me. For me they have too many benefits later on to not do it. I used to scan whole rolls of film, save the full scan, resize, etc, save... but I had to do it frame by frame and it took ages. I also found I'd maybe post a few here and there but the majority were just hogging disk space. However the biggest reason for not doing it was the scanned result was/is a lot different from my wet prints and I found I was either not being able to reproduce the tonal representation in the scan or it had confused me as to what I wanted to do with the pic (my problem but a real one for me). I now scan individiual frames for posting/emailing. I can understand doing it that way, but it didn't work out for me.
I'm in the contacts camp
In the process of switching to a nearly entirely analog workflow from almost entirely digital, I find contacts a lot more useful. I didn't anticipate this was the case, but with the current job I'm working, a commitment ceremony, I find that the index prints from the lab aren't useful for frame numbers, since they differ about 80% of the time, and aren't useful for knowing how to treat the negs in the darkroom.
I think I'm pretty close to being able to ballpark my first print exposure by looking at the neg, certainly I can judge fine focus a lot better under a lupe with the neg than the contact print, but I'm not yet able to dissern the nuances of facial expression from the neg as well as on a contact. Also, I figure a contact justifies its time and expense any time I'm able to avoid touching the neg/page of negs for something other than printing them.
Right now, my workflow is to proof negs on Azo, and use that for my first run of go/nogo as well as any kind of review of the job that doesn't involve putting the neg in a carrier. I use Ilford Multigrade for enlargements, but Azo for contact prints. Since the latter has a much longer tonal scale, I'm able to get better images from images that are a stop or so in variance from the rest of the roll. The first time I print from that job, I can use that print as a metric from which to determine the settings for the remainder of the job.
The maddening thing for me is that I can't find anywhere in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that still does so-called enlarged contacts. I want someone to stick my photo-file page in a 10x10 enlarger and give me what amounts to a 16x20 enlarged contact sheet. No one seems to do that anymore. Even the lab that I thought was the good old analog standby in this area does next to no analog work anymore. I just don't have the room in my current residential darkroom for a 10x10 enlarger just to do these contacts. Maybe years down the road, but I wouldn't have thought such a thing would be so hard to find a source for.
I had a Canoscan 8000F a year ago. I only sold it because I needed the money. It's a nice scanner. I only scanned 35mm film with it, but I understand you can actually scan medium format also, if you make your own frame for it with cardboard or something. I was generally very pleased with it, and with its FARE infrared dust removal (similar to Digital ICE).
While I had it, I thought scanning the negatives instead of making a contact sheet was a viable idea. However, if you intend to actually make darkroom prints anyway, it may take a lot less time to make a contact sheet. For best results with the Canoscan, you really have to scan at its best setting and at a high enough resolution for the picture to at least fill the screen, and to do this with a whole roll of 24 exposures of 35mm film, it takes a lot of time.
I think you will have to try it yourself to see if it's a suitable workflow for you, but quality-wise, I think it's a very viable thing with this particular scanner.