For the past year I’ve been obsessed with getting the best color out of my images. I’ve slowly been altering the way I process the film to see if the results get better or worse. First it was the temperature bath, and things got better. Then it was the developer, changing from Tetanal to Digibase, and things got a little bit better. Then I tried to hone my VueScan skills, and that’s where I went insane. I don’t think I’m the only one to think this, but VueScan is the most difficult program to get accurate color from scans. Sure, it might be a great scanning program, but when it comes to color, it’s awful.
No matter what I did I could never get the color to match what I got back when I had it done professionally. Finally, one Saturday I got frustrated to the point that I spent a few hours searching opinions online, and found ColorPerfect. Life will never be the same.
Take the image above as an example. I picked it because of how difficult it was for me to correct the color in VueScan. I thought I did everything right. I locked the exposure and sampled the film base, then went in and meticulously adjusted the channels until finally, after a long arduous journey, I gave up and got the image above.
From scan to jpeg, the ColorPerfect version took me less than 5 minutes. I didn’t have to screw with it, and tell it what the grey point was, somehow it figured things out. And this isn’t unique to this one image, it does it all the time. I don’t know how. Wizardry probably. Regardless, here’s my steps:
- Save the raw scan of your negative. This is key. ColorPerfect only accepts the raw scan of a negative. VueScan can save the raw scan, and that’s what I use.
Don’t worry about the color options or dust removal, since none of that will matter. The raw scan just outputs the raw data from the scanner.
- Once the raw scan is complete, load it into photoshop and start the ColorPerfect plugin.
- When ColorPerfect starts, it’s confusing. There’s a lot of boxes, and it seems the creator didn’t follow standard UI rules. Oh well.
Change the boxes underneath the image to match the film brand and film type you used. You shouldn’t have a problem finding the film, they seem to have everything.
- After selecting the brand and type, the color should almost be right. The next thing I do is go to the color ring by clicking the box next to “Ring CC”. On the screen you’ll see your image in a 3×3 grid with different hues. Here you can easily see what color cast you need to correct, select it, and keep going. The top-right and bottom-left is for brightness, while the rest are for colors.
- If the color is still off, you can adjust the tones using the “Film Type” field. Click the field, and slowly move the vertical slider unti you find the right hues.
- That’s where I normally stop. You could adjust the black and white levels, saturation or gamma, but normally I wait to do those things in Lightroom. Once you hit OK, you can denoise, unsharp mask etc in Photoshop.
- You’re done!
The price for ColorPerfect is $67. That might sound like a lot for a Photoshop plugin, but it’s a powerful plugin. Once you consider the time savings this provides, $67 is not that much. It’s made my life easier, and I imagine it will do the same for yours.
If you need a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Color-Perfect, visit this guide. It’s thorough and has a good walkthrough on the UI.