Original Film Negatives Can Be Improved Significantly With Digital Scans

The previous blog talked about salvaging a completely useless print by scanning the color negative and processing the image in Photoshop Elements. With this method it is possible to salvage even the worst photo lab disasters and digitally create something presentable.

Even a Decent Print Can Be Digitally Improved

But what if that print from the lab is more or less acceptable but not quite up to today’s digital standard? If you’re a photographer who can’t resist tweaking your photos on computer, you might consider doing the same to your film images of long ago. It is an opportunity to bring them up to your current standard of perfection. A high resolution digital scan of a negative (or a decent print) provides the same raw material as a modern image shot with a digital camera.


Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Original print of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

The image above is a scan of a photo lab print from the mid 90’s. It’s not a bad print but the sunlit areas are washed out and lacking detail. It’s about as good as could be expected from the one hour photo lab used at the time. But it could be better and Photoshop post processing offers significant improvement.

Court of Lions, Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Court of Lions photo of Alhambra has been post processed in Photoshop to improve detail.

This photo is a post processed scan of the original negative. Notice that the areas in direct sunlight are not blown out and have considerable detail. The near columns have been straightened a bit and don’t lean inward as much. Also the annoying horizontal line of barrier rail at the bottom has been cloned out. The differences are subtle but the overall effect results in a much more presentable image.

Bring Your Analog Film into the Digital Age

So you see that those images from the days of film need not languish in a box in the closet. They can be brought to life and improved to the same level of perfection that any modern digital camera image can achieve. All it takes is a high resolution scan and a bit of digital post processing.

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