My SilverFast Colour Negative Scanning Workflow

by May 14, 2021Photography Blog

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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My SilverFast Colour Negative Scanning Workflow

In this article, I want to share my SilverFast colour negative workflow. The SilverFast software produces excellent results when scanning colour negatives. In fact, it’s because it produces such great results that I now use it. But there is a downside to SilverFast (besides the cost) which is that it can be tricky and time-consuming to achieve good results. But there is a deceptively simple workflow when it comes to colour negative scanning or any type of scanning for that matter.

The SilverFast Interface

When you first launch SilverFast you’re faced with a screen that looks something like this one.

The SilverFast scanning interface

As you can see, the interface is a mass of controls and options in three separate locations. There are two strips of icons along the top and down the side of the main preview area. Then over to the far left is a larger panel where you can configure the settings for each scanner option you want to use.

This screenshot was taken from SilverFast Ai Studio 9. This is probably the most complex layout, but other versions are also challenging, even if they don’t support as many options. When you are scanning a lot of material, often with different films, configuring each scan or set of scans becomes time consuming.

In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time configuring and checking each scan I made to ensure I hadn’t made any mistakes. Despite this, I would make mistakes, especially when scanning colour negative films. Then I discovered the WorkflowPilot, and it immediately changed my approach to scanning.

The WorkflowPilot

The WorkflowPilot is a simple idea that works well. You access it by clicking the WorkflowPilot badge at the top left of the SilverFast interface.

Accessing the SilverFast WorkflowPilot

Click this badge and you open the WorkflowPilot screen. This looks a lot like the main SilverFast interface, but you are guided through the scanning process.

SilverFast WorkflowPilot screen

Along the top of the interface is a series of tools which you can think of as being steps in the workflow. These steps guide you through configuring your scanner based on what you are scanning. This is configured in the main panel on the left of the screen using the “Source” and “Task” settings. In this example the “Source” is set to “Negative” because we are scanning colour negative films. Below this the “Task” is set to “Web” but I can easily choose a different option by clicking the item to display a dropdown list of options.

The large blue notice on the left is the “WorkflowPilot Assistant” explaining in further detail the steps in workflow.

The other point to notice is that there are a couple of icons running vertically down the right side of this area. These are helpful tools which you might want to use as you step through the stages of the workflow. For example, the “Rot/Flip” option allows me to flip the screen horizontally as the negative scan is currently the wrong way round.

After configuring the Source and Task option click the Start icon at the top of the screen to advance to the next step.

Next Steps in Negative Scanning Workflow

The next step is in the WorkflowPilot depends on the Source and Task options chosen and your version of the software. The software only shows those options you need to use to achieve the best results for your task. It’s also worth remembering that if your software doesn’t support a feature like “Multiple-Exposure” scanning then that option isn’t shown.

In this example, because I’m scanning colour negative film for my archive, and because my software supports it, my next step is the “Multiple-Exposure” option. I can now choose whether to scan my images using this feature or not. Because this is an archive scan of a colour negative, I want to record the best possible image quality using this.

I can then click the next button to progress to the next step which is “Prescan” in my workflow.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst the WorkflowPilot guides you through the steps of the workflow in sequence, you can skip steps by clicking the icons at the top. You can also use the forward and backward buttons to move between steps.

Frames & Resolution

When the Prescan completes, the next step in my colour negative scanning workflow is “Frames & Resolution”. This is where I can define the frames that I want to scan on the current film strip or strips. Typically, a negative film strip contains multiple images and potentially you may want to scan them all.

Selecting and configuring the colour negative frames for scanning

Here you can see I have selected the three frames for scanning by clicking and dragging with my mouse on the preview produced by the Prescan. Over on the left of the interface there is an option to delete individual or all frames. There is also a “Find Frames” option which attempts to automatically select the frames to scan. I tend not to use this as it doesn’t work well with my Xpan negatives for some reason.

Also on the left of the interface I can set the scanning resolution. First select the frame by clicking it and then set the “Scan Resolution” option. This shows a coloured slider indicating the quality that’s likely to be achieved by the resolution setting.

The other thing you will need to set when scanning colour negatives is the “NegaFix” option. Here you can set the film “Vendor”, “Type” and “ISO/ASA”. In this example I’m scanning Kodak Ektar 100. NegaFix then takes care of removing the negative colour mask and correcting the colour of the scan. This is probably one of the best timesaving features of SilverFast because you then don’t need to spend time later (pulling out your hair) to fix the scan colours. I’ve found it extremely accurate with all my colour negatives.

Something else worth mentioning is that I only set the options for one frame although I like to scan all the frames with the same settings. You will see why I do this later.

Export Options

After setting the Resolution and NegaFix options I can configure the Export options for the scan.

Export Options in the scanning workflow

As you would expect, this is a flexible screen where you can set a custom file name for the scan and the location where the file is saved. You may also find the “File Format” option is limited depending on the “Task” selected. In this example I selected to Archive as the “Task” so the File Formats available are limited to HDRi RAW types.

Scanning

Having configured the scanning options, the WorkflowPilot progresses to the next step of making the scan.

Once the scan is complete you reach the “Landing” stage of the workflow. You then have the option to apply the same settings to complete the scanning for the remaining frames which is a significant time saver. At this point it’s worth opening the scan that was made to check there weren’t any mistakes before clicking to complete the remaining scans.

When you select to use the same settings for the remaining frames, SilverFast will complete the scanning of the other frames you selected.

Once all the frames are scanned you can exit the workflow to return to the main SilverFast interface.

Summary of My SilverFast Colour Negative Scanning Workflow

As I’m sure you already know, when scanning colour negative film, it’s easy to make mistakes, especially when using software as powerful as SilverFast. If you don’t regularly scan with SilverFast, it’s well worth making use of the excellent WorkflowPilot to guide you through the process. You will find that you produce good results, with fewer mistakes and potentially more quickly than configuring and scanning individual frames.

Although the WorkflowPilot is probably most valuable when scanning multiple images, it’s still an excellent tool for making individual scans. Be sure to use it, and as I mentioned at the start, it’s not only for scanning colour negatives.

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