Camera Scan Workflow

This workflow example demonstrates the workflow used to scan and archive over 50,000 black-and-white negatives for Center Stage in Baltimore using the camera scan technique.

Project introduction
Watch it in action
Workflow steps

Project Introduction

Figure 1 In this movie, Richard Anderson explains the project and the rationale for using the camera scan technique.

You can compare the relative quality of a file made with an Imacon film scanner and a file made with a Canon 1Ds MkII. We have provided scanned image files for download here.

Watch it in action

The embedded video linked below shows the entire workflow in action. You might want to watch it first, and then read about the workflow, or read first, then watch.

Figure 2 This video outlines the setup we'll be using and the workflow from start to finish.

Workflow steps

The list below outlines the steps for the camera scan workflow.

Tethered capture settings

Step One: Session name

In this case, the session is the job number found on the envelope holding the negatives.

Step Two: File naming

The file name consists of an identifier (RNA), the job number, and roll number.
Read more about file naming in this section

Step Three: Metadata

Edit the metadata template for information about this particular job.
Read more about metadata templates in this section

Step Four: Frame number

The sequence number will correspond to the first frame number on the negatives.

Read more about tethered capture in this section

Check the light

Step Five: Shoot one frame twice

Choose one frame, shoot it, flip it upside down and shoot it again.

Step Six: Convert from negative to positive

In the Develop module, go to the tone curve, change it to a point curve and reverse it. Once this is done, save these develop settings as a preset.

Step Seven: Check for evenness

Apply the preset to the second image. Rotate the second image to match the first. Check the images against one another to check that the light is even.

Step Eight: Adjust light

If the two images appear to be uneven, adjust the light accordingly.

Step Nine: Recheck light

Repeat steps five through seven. If the two images are even, move on step ten.

Begin shooting

Step Ten: Double-check tether settings

Open the tether shooting dialogue and double-check the settings.

Step Eleven: Shoot the first frame

Step Twelve: Check focus

In Lightroom, zoom in to make sure that the image is in focus. If you can see the film grain, the camera is in focus.

Step Thirteen: Make fine adjustments

Adjust the image to your liking. We suggest making a global exposure adjustment, if necessary, adjusting the ends of the tone curve for clipping, and applying a slight "S" curve.

Step Fourteen: Shoot the roll

Step Fifteen: Rotate and crop

After all the images are shot, crop as needed and sync the crop settings to all files. Then rotate images as needed.

Finish the job

Step Sixteen: Convert to DNG

Convert all images to DNG. This preserves all the edits made in Lightroom and provides a fully adjusted JPEG preview that can be recognized by your catalog software.
Read more about DNG in this section

Step Seventeen: Backup

Backup all of your work to a hard drive clone and preferably an offsite clone as well.
Read more about backups in this section


Raw conversion and file management

Adobe Lightroom 3 is shown. Additional options include Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw.

Backup/transfer software

ChronoSync is shown. Syncback and Synchronize! Pro X are also good choices.


For this demonstration we used a variety of camera and computer equipment.

Camera equipment

  • Strobe with softbox
  • Nikon PS-4 film stage
  • 50mm compact macro lens
  • 20mm extension tube
  • Canon 1Ds MarkII (16MP)
  • Rail from Really Right Stuff

Computer Equipment

  • Laptop
  • External hard drive for backup

You can read more about camera scanning equipment here.

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Last Updated September 22, 2015