Scanning Film Negs For Stills Prints

Hello all,

I'm new to this list and hoping this subject has not been answered time and time again.

I am about to shoot a commercial from which I would like to pull some frames out to use for print. I have done this with a previous project shot on 7248. In that instance the lab cut frames from the negative ( after transfer of couse ) and I had a local company scan the frames. The results as you will expect were marginal.

The upcomming shoot will be in S35 on 5248 and 5293, so we are much further ahead than last time format-wise.

My questions then concerning how to best scan the negative to create this material for print.

Any insight is appreciated


Have you considered (far larger negative, posed, possible vertical composition, etc....) hiring a still photographer?

Jerry (Nikons in blimps and on ready, sir) Wolfe

Consider making a custom enlargement on photographic paper, then scan the print.

The downside:

1) Image size is somewhat smaller than a 35mm still negative, so quality will be slightly less (of course, the quality of the lens will have an impact.

2) Since the contrast ratio of the negative is designed for printing to positive projection stock or telecine, it is theoretically more contrasty than negative emulsions designed to be printed on paper.

Therefore, a low contrast color printing paper is desirable.

The upside:

1) For some reason, scans from print enlargements seem to come out a bit better than most scans direct from negative that I have seen. Not well enough versed technically to tell you why.

2) Since the negative stock is tungsten balanced, you will get accurate color rendition. Trying to take stills with uncorrected daylight balanced 35mm still film causes color shifts which are nearly impossible to correct without artifacts (color casts in shadows, etc.)

The ad agency I used to work for had a "wall of fame" which consisted of frames printed from negative cut from outtakes of their 25mm shoots, blown up to 11x17. They looked pretty good, especially when originated on 5248.

A few 16mm frame blowups are also posted on the wall of fame, and the results, as you already have experienced, are marginal.

Hope this helps!

Mark Schlicher

Sunporch Entertainment


Were it possible , I would hire a still guy, shoot on medium format and have no worries. I am being asked to persue this route, for budget, and time issues.

The photos would be of small size in a magazine.

Having said that, what is the best way to scan for this and what is the best results I can hope for.


Hi Stephen,

The best results I've ever seen were type "C" prints made directly from the original negative by an experienced printer. However, those people that were printing before automation and the "good enough" level work ethic are retiring and the new replacements are not as good. As in our industry, the still labs are now run by bean counters, not people that are in love with the captured image.

Consider bringing along your own still camera and after you get what you want in the "cine" mode, knock off a few frames with your medium format or 35mm still camera. The only budget consideration would be one roll of film and processing. Then have a print struck from each so you'll have a future reference.

Good luck with it,

Jerry Wolfe

WOW!!! Jerry, that's quite a blanket statement. I personally know and frequently work with a fair number of VERY professional photo lab printers, here in Orlando, in Chicago and in New York as well.

Moreover, none of the pro-labs I work with use automated printers for professional-level prints.

Jeff... I'm not personally familiar with Imagers in Atlanta so I wouldn't venture an opinion regarding the quality of their work. I'll trust yours. But we recently did comparison scans for use on VHS box cover art for an independent project. The source image was a 2 1/4 (120mm) transparency and the difference between the output from ALL the various flatbed scanners we tried and the output from a drum scanner was huge! We've always had the same experience from 35mm, 4x5 and 8x10 images as well. Flatbed scanners seem to perform reasonably well with reflective art, but have never done nearly as well with transparent art... chromes or negatives. The resolution and contrast range just are not there.

One final point. By having a 4x5 transparency struck directly from the original neg, you can always go back later and scan again at any size and resolution for any application you want. And rest assured that nothing will protect every bit of your image as well as a 4x5 chrome... except an 8x10 transparency that is.

Michael Siegel

If you're willing to physically extract the individual frames, and it's for print (as in magazine or other press-type reproduction) you have two options that spring to mind. First, you could send the frames to a professional photo lab for duping to a 4x5 positive chrome. This would protect the image and would add no perceptible grain. Then you could use the resulting 4x5 image for hi-rez digital drum scanning at your convenience. Or as an alternative, simply have the extracted frames scanned directly on a high rez drum scanner from the get-go andmake multiple copies of the file for future use.

Professional photographers shooting print work for magazines and advertising rarely use anything but chrome transparency (slide/reversal) stock. As a result, high-end drum scanners are optimized for chrome.

If it's for photographic printing (as in "Gee... that would look really cool on my wall") then have a pro photo lab strike a regular enlarged print directly from the negative.

Michael Siegel

If I'm not mistaken, the Spirit FX can output a high res data file from color neg.

Another option: find someone with a Nikon scanner. Photoshop tweak asnecessary.

Another option: mount the negs in an appropriate 2X2 slide mount, send 'em out to have a PhotoCD made ... much cheaper than drum scans an virtually identical quality, especially if they're done by a quality house, like Imagers in Atlanta ... again, back to photoshop ...

Jeff Lynch


You might also try your stocks rolled into 35mm still canisters -- shot the same stop from the camera position. I do this all the time. (also, your second AC could do it with their camera or yours... pretty easy, doesn't require an additional person...) A lab here in LA developes the 35mm ECN-6.

The scanning service I used to use is gone now - so I can't help you there,


Jay Holben

How are you supplying the images? On disk or as trannies?

If you supply to the magazine on disk you will need a four colour file.

If you want to get a transparency made you will want a three colour file.

The best result would be to clip frames from your origional neg and have them scanned.

The best scan (but unfortunately the most expensive) is a professional drum scan. The drum scan will give you the most dynamic range of any device and will give you a four colour (CMYK) image. For many other reasons it will also just look better. The poorer the image to be scanned, the better the scan needs to be. Any other device (i.e all the others mentioned) will give you a three colour (RGB) image. I strongly advise against doing the colour seps in Photoshop unless you know what you are doing.

The scan from the neg will be very unsuitable for printing (motion blur, dot gain etc..) However, all that is required is a little computer retouching, either in Photoshop or on a Scitex. In this day of cheap, poor quality, photo libries any good retoucher has had endless experience of turning unsuitable images into perfectly good ones.

Mike Vlack

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