Converting images is hard

Hey folks,
just digitised my 150th roll of film. I have been using NLP for a few years now and love the software, really makes scanning at home feasible.

But its hard. Getting results I am happy with and which look decent is just not an easy task.

Anybody feel that way too?

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Yes and no.
From time to time I have thought the same thing. But when I’m in that situation, I try to change something in my digital workflow.

In the beginning it was really hard for me to get the results I wanted. I found a workflow where I just convert the image and choose a very flat result in NLP. So I just used NLP to convert to a flat PNG and set the WB to auto balanced.
Everything else like exposure correction, colour grading, contrast and sharpening I did afterwards in Lightroom with the png copy of my scans. (I used a single preset for all the c41 conversions).

Since v3 of NLP I mostly edit directly in NLP, because I can skip the png copies.
Both options worked fine for me. So I guess you just need to find a consistent way to edit here.

It would be helpful if you could tell us what seems hard… Maybe include some examples? Are you scanning with a flatbed, a film scanner, a dSLR, or a mirrorless camera? What light source do you use? Details matter… a LOT.

In color, there is the challenge that every emulsion batch of every brand and stock of film is slightly different. As a pro lab scanning and color correction guy, 20 years ago, I learned that the hard way. There are dye fading, C-41 process control, lab-to-lab variability, film storage and aging environmental effects, and many other issues to deal with. NLP 3.0 should help a LOT with that.

There is also the challenge of color management. If your monitor is not calibrated and custom profiled on a regular basis, using the appropriate colorimeter or spectrophotometer device and its software, then you chase your tail all around the color wheel. Give yourself a good basis for visual evaluation, especially if you print.

I learned a long time ago to use a color neutral in-scene reference such as a true photographic gray card or a Color Checker chart. It helps to get a reference frame in each new lighting situation. Barring that, you learn to find features in scenes that are reasonably neutral, so you can adjust color in reference to those spots. I almost always expose a series of frames in the same lighting at the same ISO, speed, and aperture. Once I get a scene balance I like, I use it for all other like scenes.

Black-and-White tends to be easier. You’re only dealing with tonality, not color, unless you are simulating a toner or going for a special effect. I generally pick a “Tones” setting that works for a whole roll, or a whole series of frames on a roll, and copy my tweaked settings to like frames. I generally like my B&W scans better than I ever liked my B&W darkroom prints! And inkjet prints from B&W scans made on both art papers and photo papers are phenomenal.

Photography is part art, part technology, and part technique. These are inseparable. No one ever said it was painlessly easy. But it gets easier as you get more methodical and control variables one at a time. What helped me a lot in my early years was keeping a notebook of “causes and effects”. I quickly understood what I was seeing when I did something I liked — or didn’t.


I was pure digital a few years ago.

Naively one the reasons i wanted to give analog a go was i thought that the film would do the heavy lifting for the look. Well, not so.

I think post processing to get the look will always be an involved process no matter what.

If we want something instant without the hassle, smartphones exist. :slight_smile: