I love the convenience of film labs. Although pricey, being able to drop off rolls of film and leave them there and be confident that it’s in good hands and that my images will be treated with care is a good feeling.
Most times, labs do a great job, but every now and again they miss the mark when it comes to color correcting. It’s hard to blame them – they weren’t there when you shot the images and can only color correct to a certain point.
Scanning is an important part of the analog process in this digital age, and the color and quality of a scanned negative directly affects the final image. Below are three tools I find useful when color correcting film scans that didn’t come out exactly as I intended.
1. The White Balance Tool in Lightroom
Sometimes all a scan needs is a white balance adjustment.
Have you ever had an image that is tinted a little too green or a little too magenta?
Try compensating for the cast by moving the White Balance slider in the opposite direction of the offending color.
The HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) slider in Lightroom is a powerful tool that can completely change the palette of your image. This is typically my second stop if a basic white balance adjustment doesn’t work.
Let’s say, for instance, there is too much green in an image and white balance alone isn’t helping to correct it. With the HSL tool, you can select only the green tones in the image and desaturate them to your liking.
Conversely, if you needed to bring out more of a specific color in an image, this tool is useful.
Be mindful that this is a universal edit, meaning it will affect everything in the image that is that color. If you want to change the color of one specific area or object in a photo, I find it best to use Photoshop.
There is a similar tool in Photoshop’s Camera Raw under the Color Mixer tab in the main editing panel.
The Selective Color tool is a layer adjustment tool in Photoshop that allows you to make subtle color and contrast adjustments to your image.
This is a tool I use in most images to nudge colors and tones to where I think they should be.
Selective Color allows you to edit the image in separate red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, white, neutral, and black categories. Each category has adjustment sliders for cyan, magenta, yellow and black channels.
The best way to use this tool is to go color to color, move the slider, and see how it affects your image.
It’s a very powerful tool that’s best used in small doses!
Film labs provide us an excellent starting point for our images, but they aren’t always perfect out of the box.
At the end of the day, as photographers, we want to make the best image possible, and these tools are a great method to ensure your scans match up with your vision for the final image.
Please remember that these tools are designed to be customized to your own specific image, and there is no one size fits all setting or preset that will work for all images!