Black and White Film Workflow with Capture One
I finally figured out a workflow that allows me to scan and then process black-and-white images with reasonable efficiency using Capture One…
The main challenge is that C1 fails to handle the 16 bit grayscale TIFF images that the scanner produces, necessitating a conversion to a 16 bit colour TIFF file before the imported images can be edited. The trick is to use ZIP compression, which leaves the file sizes virtually unchanged.
As a result, my film processing workflow currently looks something like this:
- Develop the film. For black and white, I do this at home using a plastic tank that can take either one or a batch of four rolls of 35mm film. This takes about half an hour, plus another hour or so for the film to fully dry.
- Scan the images. I am using an Epson flat-bed scanner, which can scan up to 18 images in a single pass. It takes about an hour to scan an entire film (fortunately, without much hands-on involvement!). The output is a directory containing 16 bit grayscale TIFF image files.
- Convert the files to RGB, saving using ZIP compression. This is done with a batch action in Photoshop CS6, and takes about 5 to 10 minutes to process al 38 images.
- Import to Capture One (finally!)
- Review the images, applying keywords and deleting obvious failures (out of focus, bad framing etc) to save disk space.
- Open the image (again) in Photoshop to clone-out any dust or fluff picked up in the scanning. This is the most tedious part, although the results using Photoshop’s default cloning/healing behaviour are quite good. It definitely helps to use a graphics tablet for this, as pen-accuracy with a laptop trackpad or mouse can be frustratingly poor.
- Add sharpening and final image adjustments using Capture One. Usually the scans are quite soft, and can take quite a lot of sharpening and “structure” (clarity) before artefacts become apparent – although some care is needed to avoid overly emphasising the gain in sky areas.
- Process the image for the blog, rescaling and adding watermark and copyright information.
Compared to shooting digitally, it is quite a long and complicated process. This acts as a brake on the number of images that you want to shoot, which is probably no bad thing.
For comparison, this is the original image before edits in Capture One (mouse-over to see the processed version):
The following 200% crop shows just how much the scans improve with a mix of sharpening and structure:
These images were scanned at 4800 dpi, but realistically there is still only about 10MP of actual detail – not a huge amount given the 80MB TIFF file sizes.