As a film photographer, one of the things I often struggled with was getting film scans back from the lab that looked similar to so many photographers I admired. Obviously some of them were getting a lot more attention from the labs they used but I also realized that there was a certain level of editing that was necessary to get consistent results.
One of the main issues I ran into was the fact that I occasionally shot with film that was expired but even fresh film can have issues with color casts depending on the environment and lighting you are shooting in. Another issue a lot of film photographers encounter is exposures that aren’t always consistent. I’m sure a lot of us have had those random frames in a roll where the light has changed before we noticed it or sometimes we just shot in a way that resulted in a look that wasn’t quite what we were after. After spending quite a bit of time scanning my own film, I realized that there isn’t a lot that labs are even able to do without custom software or a workflow step like what happens with premium scans where the lab edits your film scans in Lightroom or Photoshop. I usually do basic scans and do my very best to ensure my exposures are good but knew that I would usually need to edit at least a little bit and sometimes a lot. It was worth it from a cost standpoint but let’s face it, the idea of shooting film to reduce editing time is pretty awesome!
Enter the Magic Button by The Archetype Process…
Dustin from The Archetype Process developed this crazy Photoshop action that reduces color casts and anchors the black and white points of film scans that gives what I consider to be the best possible starting point when editing film scans. Remember, it’s a starting point! I still do edits to my film scans after running The Magic Button except on the random occasion when the stars align and everything works out just right. The benefit to using The Magic Button is that it helps my film to look way, way more consistent than I’m capable of doing on my own and on the occasion that I underexpose images or shoot expired film it does an incredible job of removing color cast problems while also correcting contrast that is lost with underexposure or old film.
So does it really work and are there only certain images that it should be used on? That’s going to be completely up to you. On some images it makes a drastic difference while on others it’s very, very minimal. I personally run it on every single scan I get back from the lab or scan on my own before I even bother editing them or in a lot of cases even looking at them. All of the images in this post did get a slight amount of editing in the basic panel in Lightroom but it was minimal! It is really that good and in my experience over the years it has been beneficial no matter what. When I was scanning my own film on a Frontier I still used The Magic Button on every single image because the Frontier isn’t very adjustable and no matter how much time I took trying to perfect my scans in the scanner they still needed a little bit of extra work. It will also work equally well with Noritsu scans.
The next thing I want to cover is how I go about applying The Magic Button to all of my images. I recommend running it on every image you get back from the lab. Like I mentioned, it will give you a much better starting point when editing scans which not only speeds up the editing process but will give you more consistent results. I have used two ways to do this. The first is by batching the images in Photoshop. Use the following steps… File > Automate > Batch. Then select the action and choose where you want the images to go. The other way is by creating a droplet which is a shorter version of the same process but you drag the images onto the droplet and it will run the action for you. There are a lot of tutorials on how to create a droplet on the Google and it is well worth taking the small amount of time to create it. Those two methods will get you on your way!
The bottom line is that this action will benefit your film images and I highly recommend it. You can find it on The Archetype Process site starting on October 28th. 🙂