Scanning Film Negatives with Epson Scan and Negative Lab Pro

If you’re using an Epson scanner to scan your color or black and white film negatives, chances are that your scanner came with the “Epson Scan” software. (If not you can always download it along with the drivers you need from the Epson website for your particular Epson scanner, like this Epson V600 downloads page.)

While Epson Scan can do a good job working with your scanner to capture the underlying film negative, you may have found that there are some MAJOR headaches with a workflow that fully relies on Epson Scan:

  • The “Edit > Scan > Wait” cycle sucks. Having to edit and adjust each image preview before capture is exactly the WRONG way to be doing it. It’s so much more efficient and more enjoyable to capture all of the underlying image first, and then be able to edit your negatives as a group anytime you want.
  • Once you hit that “scan” button, there’s no going back. Any conversion or edits you make in Epson Scan are destructive… once you hit that “scan” button, if you later decide you want to go back and change the underlying settings, you would need to drag out that negative and re-scan it. That’s the last thing you want to do when you are scanning 100s of film negatives.
  • The software and UI are outdated and difficult to use - The original Epson Scan came out 17 years ago (and the latest update is already 5 years old). You want to spend as little time in this utility as possible!

BUT again, the underlying scans of the negative are perfectly good. (Also, it has the best Digital ICE integration I’ve seen for Epson scanners - even better than Vuescan’s implementation).

So our goal is use Epson Scan to get an untouched, unconverted scan of the negative. And then we will use the Negative Lab Pro plugin in Lightroom for converting and editing the negative.

This way, you can separate the tasks of scanning the film and editing the film, all your edits can easily be updated in the future because they are non-destructive, and you can get much better colors and tones out of your film scans.

So let’s jump in…


There is more than one way to do this in Epson Scan (and later in Negative Lab Pro), so I’ll give you a few options along with things to consider.

METHOD 1: No Color Correction (but no ICE, either)

In Epson Scan, it’s possible to tell the software that you are scanning Positive Slide Film (so it doesn’t try to convert the negative) and then simply turn off all color corrections. This will give you an uncorrected and un-inverted scan of the negative (exactly what we wanted!).

Before you do this, though, you should know that there are two downsides to this method:

  • With this method, you cannot use Digital ICE. This is big downside, as the Digital ICE in Epson Scan quite good - the best I’ve seen for Epson scanners.
  • There’s no way to adjust the exposure. Most of the time, this shouldn’t be a problem, but in some situations, it could make editing later a tad more difficult.

OK, with those limitations in mind, let’s begin…


1 Set the Mode to “Professional Mode
2 Set Document Type to “Film” (if available) and Film Type to “Positive Film
3 Set the Destination Image Type to 48-bit color (if working with black and white, this can be set to 16-bit Grayscale)

Next, click the Configuration button at the bottom of the panel.

In the configuration panel, select “No Color Correction” and then click “OK

Almost there!

From here, make sure your crop is where you want it to be.

Then when you go to begin the scan, you should see the “File Save Settings” dialog below (if not, you can hit the folder icon just to the right of the “scan” button).

Set the type to “TIFF”. Then, make sure “Embed ICC Profile” is turned off. If not, you can go into the options and turn it off.

After you scan, import your scan into Lightroom and open Negative Lab Pro. It should look something like this:

Make sure your source is set to “TIFF/JPEG Scan”. Adjust the other settings as you wish (you can learn more in the Negative Lab Pro guide, and hit convert. Negative Lab Pro will analyze the negative and non-destructively set the Lightroom settings for you. You can then continue to edit in Negative Lab Pro.

That’s it! You can save these settings in Epson Scan as “Uncorrected Color Negative” (or whatever name you wish to give it) so that you can easily apply these settings to future images.


METHOD 2 - Manually Creating a Neutral Negative (with Digital ICE enabled!)

For me, being able to use digital ICE is an absolute must, so METHOD 1 is a no-go. Fortunately, this is not that difficult to do.

You begin with the same base setup:

Then hit the “configuration” button.

Change the configuration panel to the following settings:

Now you should be able to enable Digital ICE (if you don’t see it scroll down!). Then hit the “Image Adjustment” icon.

In the Image Adjustment settings panel, change the Saturation to -27.

(This number may be slightly different depending on your scanner, but basically, Epson Scan is adding some saturation to the Positive Scan, and we don’t want that. This resulting scan with this setting should look very close to the untouched scan from Method 1 - you can play with this if you want, or even leave at 0, but beware over-saturated negatives!)

These should be all the adjustments you need, BUT, if you find that you are having issues with your conversions, you can optionally make adjustments in the Histogram Adjustment panel.

OPTIONAL - probably skip unless you have an issue… Set the histogram output points to 0 and 255, Then you can adjust the input black point and white point to normalize the scene. Make sure your selected “channel” whenever making adjustments is the Red/Green/Blue combined channel. Beware that the displayed histogram when on this channel is not accurate for each of the color channels, so you may need to “peak” inside each of the color channels to make sure you are clipping any of the individual channels with your adjustment.

OK, that’s basically it. Check your crop, and hit “scan”.

In the File Save Settings", set the type to “TIFF”. Then, make sure “Embed ICC Profile” is turned off. If not, you can go into the options and turn it off.

Import the Tiff into Lightroom, and open Negative Lab Pro.

Looks pretty much exactly like METHOD 1, which is what we wanted. Make sure “Source” is set to “TIFF/JPEG scan”. And hit “Convert Negative

BOOM! Looks great AND with that Digital ICE is it perfectly clean. Hooray! :partying_face:

This method also gives us more flexibility down because we can change the scan settings if we want, knowing that we’re starting from a neutral place.

So be sure to save those settings for future use!


What’s next?

From here, there’s all kinds of things we can do with your negative scans, but using Negative Lab Pro, and using Lightroom itself. But you can find out more about those things elsewhere in this forum, or in the Negative Lab Pro guide.

Any questions of feedback? Let’s hear it below!

1 Like

Thank you so much for this! This is so helpful! I wanted to give up on scanning before because trying to find the right setting using Epson Scan was so tedious. But then you came out with NLP, which helped a lot. I then wanted to switch to dslr scanning because I still wasn’t super satisfied. Now, I don’t think I’ll need to switch after all! I definitely want to go back & rescan all my negatives now though because I was using no color correction (so no digital ice and lots of dust!)

For b&w negatives, do you still have to set the saturation to -27? Found out the hard way not to use digital ice on b&w haha

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Hi @Stefanhie - great point on black and white - should have mentioned that. Do NOT use Digital Ice on black and white, or you will be in for an unpleasant surprise! The silver crystals in true black and white films confuse the infrared sensors.

For black and white, you don’t need to worry about changing the saturation.

Good luck!
-Nate

2 Likes

Two quick samples using this method to capture in EpsonScan and then process in Negative Lab Pro in Lightroom (the originals were 14,000 x 14,000 for the equivalent of 196 megapixels, but significantly scaled down for the forum!):

These are straight out Negative Lab Pro. Color Model: “Standard”. Tone Profile: “Standard”. And on the color image, “AutoColor 2.0 - Warming” (my go-to).

Also, folks on the private Facebook group have been asking for my take on the Vuescan RAW DNG workflow with Negative Lab Pro, vs this Epson Scan workflow.

Each method has pros and cons…

The advantages of the Vuescan DNG method are:

  1. The ability to use calibrated camera profiles in Lightroom on the RAW data (which is something that can’t be done with TIFFs). Just like with regular digital cameras, this means in the future you could get different or better profiles.
  2. More up-to-date software that (I think) is a bit easier to use (but not without its own quirks)
  3. Way more feature rich than Epson scan - little things I appreciate, like being able to offset or inset the crop area.

The advantages of Epson Scan are:

  1. It’s free
  2. At least for the v600, their digital ICE is significantly better than Vuescan’s. This probably varies by scanner, but I’ve heard others having the same experience.
  3. Epson scan was built for Epsons and it seems to have a better grasp on the limits of your scanner… some of the Vuescan options appear to be available but may silently fail if Ed hasn’t figured out how to make it work with your particular model.

Bottom line: you can get awesome conversions with either… a lot of it will just come down to your own preferences and which features you want in your workflow.

1 Like

Thanks guys for this tutorial. Excited to give this a shot too (currently working on doing low quality contact sheets with the software with a camera on an ipad).

One question for you @nate : How are you scanning on the Epson in a way that you’re getting the rebate/borders of the film? Is this a third party negative holder?

Hi! In this case, I’ve just wet-mounted the film directly onto the scanner bed using Kami fluid (you can also use a piece of ANR glass to hold it flat, which may work just as well). Every scanner may be a little different in this regard to make sure that the negative is still in focus, but seems to work just fine on my Epson V600.

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Hello, I am testing Negative Lab Pro with my Epson. One question.
Which method is best for good results in Epson Scan with Negative Lab Pro: Scanning in mode with thumbnails (Auto exposure is always on) or Scanning in the mode self-choosing the negatives without Auto exposure.
All other settings like in the description above.

Thank you

Olli