Scanning for the highlights vs. shadows


We love when clients reach out to us to communicate what they’re wanting for their scans! One thing that is helpful to know is if you want your images scanned for the highlights or for the shadows. This is most applicable when images are silhouetted, or when you are shooting in a scenario where there is strong contrast between your whites and blacks. The first photo below is a straight scan, meaning there are no density or color corrections in-scanner.

26391 straight scan

This shooter metered well for a moody look- you can see there are still details in the shadows. The density in this image could also be brought up if the client wanted a brighter look. Certain types of lighting can yield a variety of results. In the following three images, you can see how much the scanner can impact what the final result looks like.

Scanned for the shadows:


Scanned to be neutral for midtones:


Scanned for the highlights:


You can see the first image has been brightened to bring up the shadows, causing the highlights in the window to be brighter. The middle scan shows a good happy medium, where the highlights and shadows are both pretty neutral. In the last scan, you can see the highlights in the window have been brought down in order to see the house across the street, causing the shadows to be much darker than the other scans.

Unless indicated otherwise on the order form, our scanners will scan to a neutral point like the middle image. If you are wanting something other than a neutral density scan, be sure to let us know. We love when clients are as specific as possible in terms of preserving the highlights, shadows, or both!

The best part is, this doesn’t have to apply to the whole roll. If you have some shots that you want scanned neutral, and some that you would like moody or silhouetted, just let us know beforehand. Our scanners will take the time to correct for each image on your roll.

In the end, it’s all about good communication. If you have a question about shooting, pushing, or scanning, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

 photo by Kristin Wahls | Portra 400 +1 | Canon EOS 1V