one day at a time

day 327: self-portrait with my zorki

self-portrait with my Zorki © Verena Fischer 2012

self-portrait with my Zorki © Verena Fischer 2012


You probably remember that I tried to digitalise some of my pictures taken on film. Here is how I did it: I simply held the negatives in front of my computer screen and took a picture of them with my DSLR. What I couldn’t quite figure out was how to get the colours back in. For some pictures it worked alright, like the picture I posted of the vespa sprint taken on film, but for others, especially ones taken of graffiti I just couldn’t quite get the colours right. In the end I gave up and just converted most of them into black and white. Well, yesterday I finally found a method that actually works:

1. In Camera Raw I set the white balance with the white balance dropper to the white of the computer screen. Then I take the picture into Photoshop.

2. I straighten the picture to the edge of the negative and crop the picture.

3. In the curves dialog I select the preset “Color Negative”.

4. Then you adjust the curves of all the channels. These adjustments depend on the film you’re using, but in my case the picture still had quite a cyan tint, which is why I started by changing the blue channel. It’s actually not that easy, but with a bit of fiddling you can get a close enough estimate. Stop when you can’t make it any better anymore. If you want to turn more negatives from the same film type into positives you can save a preset of this curve adjustment.

5. To improve the colours further you can now add a Selective Color adjustment layer. There you can change how the different colours behave in the picture. Once you’re happy with it you can also save this adjustment as a preset.

6. In my case I still had a problem with the blues at the end, so I darkened the blues with a Hue and Saturation layer. I also saved this as a preset.

For all other pictures I applied all three presets and then made a few more adjustments depending on the specific picture. Sometimes a quick ‘Auto Tone’ also helped, but not always.

I wonder whether scanning colour negatives is easier with a flatbed scanner. I definitely find it to be way too much work like this. However, I probably won’t be doing this often anyway, since I just bought a few black and white films.

Well, since I made myself all this work I best show you some of the nicer ones. Please click on the thumbnails for the gallery view.


10 responses

  1. Very cool – I think I would like to play around with your idea at some point. You are such a creative soul.

    July 7, 2012 at 5:44 am

    • Thank you Cyndi! Buying a flatbed scanner is probably the easier alternative though. I’ll probably invest in one soon 🙂

      July 9, 2012 at 10:55 am

  2. Ah, that’s how you do it. Thanks. Brilliant!

    July 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

  3. Madelaine

    Happy to see your Zorki worked out well! 🙂

    July 9, 2012 at 5:26 am

    • Oh yes, I’m really enjoying the Zorki a lot. So far I’m still struggling with the external light meter and the parallax error, but I think I’m getting somewhere with it. Since I bought it I shot less with it than I wanted, because shooting with two cameras is such a drag sometimes. Now that I’ve decided that I can also post pictures from the archives, I have used it more because I don’t have to use my Canon every day.

      July 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

  4. Nicely done, indeed, Ms. F!
    It’s not easy getting results like this without a scanner, but it sure seems to me like you are making it work!
    Absolutely love the portrait, by the way!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    • Oh, I’m glad you like it!
      It’s definitely a bit too much work without a scanner. It kind of works, but still I think I’ll get a scanner sometime soon. They are not that expensive after all and I have a feeling that I’ll be shooting more film in the future 🙂

      July 10, 2012 at 8:39 am

  5. pretty 🙂

    July 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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