What's the right way to make digital representations of prints?

by tfb   Last Updated October 17, 2019 12:18 PM

I'm mostly a film-and-paper photographer: I take pictures, process the film and then make prints in the darkroom. The end-product of what I do is very definitely a bit of paper.

But I'd like to be able to show representations of these prints digitally (ie on the internet...). I'd be interested in knowing what the best way to do this is, and also how it's done professionally.

There are three obvious approaches:

  • scan the neg (I can do this) and then process the digital copy of it in such a way that it looks like the print I would have made;
  • take a very careful photograph of the print, controlling white-balance and so on (so I get a good representation of the paper colour), and use that as the image;
  • scan the print with a flatbed scanner (this is a variation on the previous approach, really).

The first of these is both hard and unappealing: it requires me to do a lot of work I'm not very interested in to reproduce what I already do in the darkroom, and also may or may not do a good job of representing what the print actually looks like.

The second I can do, and it should be reasonably easy. Keeping the prints flat is the hard bit, but I can mat them if need be.

I can't currently do the third, but I could buy a flatbed scanner if it's clearly the best approach.

I'd be interested in knowing two things.

  • What other people do who have the same problem but don't have access to the resources that, for instance, people making expensive photobooks have?
  • How this is done professionally – if I look good photobook by someone whose product was physical prints and for whom the qualities of the print were important, how are these currently turned into images on the page?


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