My post-processing workflow


There’s a lot of steps one could take after they develop. They can use a “one stop shop” software like Vuescan or Silverfast.  They can use more techie options like negfix or Photoshop balancing and custom scripts.  I’ve tried a lot of these things, and most of them left me frustrated or dumbfounded at how long it took to get the best product possible.  My current workflow takes me from scanning to final product in less than a minute a frame.  So here’s what I do: 

1. Vuescan

I scan with Vuescan, but like all things it’s not that easy. There are so many options that when you scan with Vuescan you need to think about how you’re using the image once you’re done. In my case, I’m using it in ColorPerfect, which requires the raw scan.

I preview the negative, then select a black area of the film strip and select “Lock Exposure” on the input tab. Next, I’ll choose these options on the following tabs: Input tab | Filter tab | Color tab | Output tab

This will give me a 48bit raw file with the additional infrared channel.  Vuescan will apply it’s infrared clean to the output file, so what I get is a nice clean raw image to work from.

2. ColorPerfect

Next, I open it in Photoshop.  I don’t do much here with Photoshop, but it’s all in the plugins.  The raw scan gets opened in the ColorPerfect plugin.  I already wrote about how I use ColorPerfect to correct for color.  If you haven’t read it, you should check it out.

3. Noise Ninja

This, admittedly, is an ancient and obscure Photoshop plugin.  Originally made for scrubbing the noise out of digital camera files (back when noise was evident even at 100 iso) it works great for film. Why do I use it?  I like grain, but there’s something weird about my scanner. When my scanner (Epson 4490) scans highlights it has a tendency to introduce “salt and pepper” grain. It’s an obnoxious noise that is really obvious. You can read about it at the ColorPerfect site. They say that the use of digital ice or infrared clean, but it doesn’t. It’s always there staring at you. So I use Noise Ninja.

I have Noise Ninja profile the image. It analyzes the chroma and color noise in the different zones, and then allows you to adjust how much noise is filtered and smoothed. It also applies an unsharp mask, helping you to deal with the noise and sharpness in one step.

There’s a problem with you possibly using Noise Ninja though, they’ve stopped developing it and have shifted development to a program called Photo Ninja.  You can still download the “legacy” program, but who knows how long it will be available.

4. Lightroom

The last step is importing to Lightroom to adjust just like you would a digital photo. I don’t like to be heavy handed with film adjustments in Lightroom, because that kind of defeats the purpose of using film (at least in my mind).

That’s my workflow. Things are changed and adjusted from time to time, but I think this is what I’m sticking with for a while. It’s fast, easy, reliable and accurate. To speed things along after the scan, I view all the files in Bridge, rotate as needed, then open in Photoshop. I have a quick action set that I recorded and set to the F1 key that allows things to go from ColorPerfect to Noise Ninja and then save to the directory that Lightroom scans for auto importing.  All said, I can scan and correct a roll of 36 images in less than 30 minutes, and most of the time is spent scanning.

If you have other workflows, or see places where mine could be improved, leave a comment and let me know.  I’m always willing to try something new.

2 thoughts on “My post-processing workflow”

  1. I’m working with a drum scanner and some larger formats(4×5 and 6×6), so I haven’t had to use a filter like noise ninja. But drum scanning is much slower. There’s no way I’m getting 36 shots scanned and corrected in 30 minutes.

    I do love the scans I get, but a faster process like what you’re using would probably be necessary if I’m doing more 35mm work.

  2. Scanning with a drum scanner will take forever, but you’ll have some amazing scans when you’re done.
    I don’t really use Noise Ninja anymore. It was my workaround for having a scanner that gave me some horrible pepper in highlights. So I switched scanners to a Minolta Dimage Dual Scan IV, and now I rarely have to get noise out of the image. If I do, I’ve switched from Noise Ninja to Nik Dfine.
    ColorPerfect also does a great job with B+W scans, reproducing paper grades very well.

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