Sending Out for Scans

Not everyone has his own scanner, and even if you do, there will be times when you'll want to send out your images to a scanning service for "digitizing." Some of the reasons include: you have large-sized artwork and don't want to be bothered scanning it in sections, you don't want to spend the big bucks for a good camera-scan-back system, or you want a pro to do your scanning and match your colors with minimal proofing.

David Coons, who, with his company ArtScans Studio, is considered by some to be the top fine-art scanning service provider in the world, says, "Anybody just getting started with high-quality digital printing should send out some initial scanning and printing just to get their feet wet, and also to get a sense for what good quality looks like.

"When deciding which scanning service to use, make sure the shop is experienced at the kind of work you need. Talk with other artists who are happy with the services they use."

Left: ArtScans' David Coons and Caroline Dockrell; right: John Silva and Stephen Canthal prepare to scan a painting. The scanner, affectionately dubbed "Audrey 1," moves over the artwork on a track. Courtesy of David Coons/ArtScans Studio, Inc.

Drum Scanners

It used to be that using a drum scanner was the only way to have a high-resolution scan made, and many photographers-artists still purchase drum scans from scanning-service providers. Using photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) instead of CCD chips, old-style drum scanners are big, finicky machines that can take up half a room, although newer, desktop models are now available. The artwork—typically a transparency or a small print—must be flexible, and it is wrapped around a clear cylinder or drum that spins while a focused light source on a track shines through or on it and onto the image sensors. Drum scanners can produce wonderfully large, high-quality images with great dynamic range and resolutions that can approach 12000 dpi. These outsourced scans aren't cheap, though. Figure paying $50-$100+ per drum scan depending on the file size.

California fine-art photographer Anil Rao has his 6 X 7-cm medium format transparencies drum scanned at Calypso Imaging of Santa Clara for two main reasons: (1) very high-

Photoworks Creative Group imaging center in Charlottesville, Virginia, uses a drum scanner for certain scans requiring large blow-ups (they also have a Nikon Coolscan 8000ED). Left: Ron Hurst mounts a 4x5 transparency on the plexiglass drum at a separate mounting station; right: he inserts the drum into the scanner.

Courtesy of Photoworks Creative Group

Photoworks Creative Group imaging center in Charlottesville, Virginia, uses a drum scanner for certain scans requiring large blow-ups (they also have a Nikon Coolscan 8000ED). Left: Ron Hurst mounts a 4x5 transparency on the plexiglass drum at a separate mounting station; right: he inserts the drum into the scanner.

Courtesy of Photoworks Creative Group resolution scans so he can make large prints without sacrificing sharpness and density, and (2) high maximum density (Dmax) that he feels cannot be matched by other types of scanners.

"Print quality is very important to me in my photography," says Rao. "Therefore, I want to start out with the best possible scan. The drum scans from Calypso are 'raw' scans and just record what is there on the film. They are not adjusted for color, contrast, or sharpness. As a result, the scans initially seem flat and dull (they almost never match the original tranny); however, they are full of information. I often find more detail and colors in the scan than I

did when viewing the film on the light box. I like working with this wide palette to realize my vision in the final print."

While there are still plenty of drum scanners around in specialty imaging centers, pre-press shops, and service bureaus, there are now more scanning alternatives for photographer-artists.

Film Scanners

These specialized desktop scanners have become very popular with photographers who want to do their own scanning of negatives or transparencies. Film scanners have taken over the position of drum scanners for many wanting high-quality scans. Instead of the light moving past the original on a spinning drum, here the film moves ever-so-slightly past the light source, which with many brands is a cold-cathode, mercury fluorescent lamp, or, in other cases, an array of LEDs. Depending on the price, film scanners can handle 35mm up to 4 X 5-inch sizes.

Because film has to be enlarged more than prints, and also because film has a wider density range and more contrast, most film scanners have correspondingly higher optical resolutions. A maximum resolution of 4000 dpi is standard for many desktop film scanners with others going even higher.

Two of Konica Minolta's 35mm film scanners: left: DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 with an impressive 5400-dpi optical resolution and built-in Kodak DIGITAL ICE image correction; right: DiMAGE Scan Dual IV with 3200-dpi resolution and Digital Grain Dissolver.

Courtesy ofKonica Minolta Photo Imaging USA

Two of Konica Minolta's 35mm film scanners: left: DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 with an impressive 5400-dpi optical resolution and built-in Kodak DIGITAL ICE image correction; right: DiMAGE Scan Dual IV with 3200-dpi resolution and Digital Grain Dissolver.

Courtesy ofKonica Minolta Photo Imaging USA

A different type of film scanner is made by Denmark's Imacon, and their Flextight models have a unique way to handle the artwork (several models also scan reflective prints). The film is bent in a drum-like shape except there is no drum! There's only air between the sensor and the film, which is held in place by its edges. They call it a "virtual drum," and there's no need for the mounting liquids, gels, or tape that drum scanners require. The resolution is high (up to 8000 dpi, non-interpolated) and with a price tag to match.

Other desktop fi/m-scanner makers include: Nikon, Canon, Microtek, and Polaroid.

Upgrading Your Scanner Software: The software provided with the scanner you purchase usually does a fine job. However, some have found that separate third-party software does even better. The two most popular scanner software applications are VueScan and SilverFast.

VueScan: VueScan is an advanced scanning program that works with most flatbed and film scanners (it's updated continuously) to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. Developer Ed Hamrick says that VueScan is the world's most popular scanner software, used by over 50,000 people worldwide, and I don't doubt it. It's reasonably priced ($60 or $80), works with Mac, Windows, and Linux, and it only takes a few minutes to download and install (www.hamrick.com).

I've tried it myself, and it's very intuitive. Photographer Tom O Scott also uses it. "I love the incredible amount of control you have over the scan in VueScan," he says. "There are dozens of options you can configure for every type of film. One feature I like is the ability to set a different resolution for preview scans versus final scans. Also, I really like to "serialize" the output files. A '+' at the end of the file name increments each scan by one so you don't overwrite your files."

SilverFast: LaserSoft's Silver-Fast Ai scanning software, which works as either a stand-alone or Photoshop plug-in, is even more powerful than VueScan, but it also costs more (the price varies by scanner model). This is a very professional scanning application that's more like a suite of features or modules. Version 6 includes: Smart Removal of Defects (SRD), Selective Color Correction (SCC), Selective Color to Gray (SC2G), Grain and Noise Elimination (GANE), remove multiple color casts (MidPip4), adjust and process any negative for optimum results (NegaFix), and generate ICC color profiles (IT8 Target Calibration).

"I've been using SilverFast Ai for more than four years," says publisher and professional landscape photographer Jerry D. Greer. "With the additional IT8 calibration, custom IT8 targets, SilverFast guide book, and a little time to master the program, a photographer can transform a mediocre scanner into a professional imaging tool."

For Mac or PC. www.lasersoft.com Flatbed Scanners

Like photocopiers, flatbed scanners are basically boxes with a flat glass plate that you put the artwork on (face down). This can be photo or artwork prints, books, even 3D found objects like seashells (see "Scanograms" box). A moving CCD array travels the length of the bed scanning as it goes. Earlier flatbeds could only scan reflective art, but the newer generation can now do a decent job with transparencies and film negatives as well; these are sometimes called "dual-media" scanners. These either use an adapter or special lid construction that allows light to shine from above onto the CCD sensors, or they have special drawers with film holders built into the base of the scanner (see Figure 3.9).

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The VueScan interface from photographer Tom O Scott showing one of the features he likes best—the ability to go up to 12 passes on a scan. He finds this crucial for eliminating dust and noise. Courtesy of Tom O Scott www.tomoscott.com

Several manufacturers such as Microtek, Canon, HP, Agfa, Umax, and Epson make a wide range of flatbed models with resolutions from 600 x 1200 dpi to 4800 x 9600 dpi. Photographer Tom O Scott uses the transparency adapter on his Epson Perfection 3200 Photo to process photos from his Mamiya 7ii medium-format film camera. "My scans with the 3200 are fantastic," he says. "I got some cans of compressed air to keep the glass clean, and the results are far better than the photo lab was giving me for their usual 'production scan.' It takes a while when you scan at high resolution, but if it's a good photo, the wait is worth it."

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