The key to making a good digital print from a B&W negative is getting as much of the information from that negative into your computer as you can. Scan at 16 bit if your scanner is capable, use the highest non-interpolated resolution, and work with a photo editor that’s capable of manipulating 16 bit images.
As I said in an earlier tutorial, lie to your scanner and tell it you’re scanning a positive. I’ve found this to be the best setting. The idea is to scan with little or no interference from the scanning software. Instead, do all your tweaking using a good digital photo editor where you have the most control.
I set my Minolta Scan Dual III to scan B&W positive at an input resolution of 2820 dpi (dots per inch), the max for this scanner. Here’s the resulting negative scan after I cropped out the black borders.
I used the negative transformation in Picture Window Pro (PWP) to flip the image from negative to positive. This image had all the information I needed but was too light.
I used the gamma transform to darken the image. I set the input at 1.0 and the output at 1.8 (next time I may use 1.4 for the output). The idea here was to move the entire histogram more to the left.
The image is dull and flat so I used curves to give the image more contrast.
Here’s the result. I also cropped the photo from full frame 4 X 6 to a 4 X 5 ratio and zoomed in just a bit. I saved my file as an 8 bit jpg at this stage, plugged my USB stick in so I could copy and move the image to my main system with the Internet connection.
The image still looked a bit dull on my larger, LCD monitor, so I tweaked it again (using auto levels) when I opened the file in the Gimp. Then I scaled the image for the Internet and added my watermark.
I’m happy with the final image — at least for now. Each time I scan and edit, I learn something new. I was playing around again this afternoon and decided that I’ll crop my images first thing. That way, I’ll only be dealing with the values I’m interested in when I manipulate the file in my editor.
The Picture Window Pro website has a library of articles and tutorials that might be of interest. It’s a great resource.
This tutorial may give you a good starting point for your own explorations. I learn new stuff every time I dive into another project and I’ll continue to share my discoveries. As always, I welcome your comments and will do my best to answer your questions. Don’t be bashful.