A lot of people ask me how I edit my film scans when I get them back from the lab… I actually do very little. I may crop very slightly, but never more than about 10% off an image. This is normally to straighten horizons or to shave off something that was unseen outside the viewfinder (most of the cameras I use only show 80-90% of the image anyway). Adjusting anything else, such as contrast and colour, would completely go against my own personal ‘Analogue Ethos’: if you’re going to start messing around and post-processing film scans then you my as well just shoot digital.

I love shooting film in artificial light, and especially a mix of artificial and daylight – as with the top image, which is a combination of tungsten, fluorescent and diffused daylight. The bottom image, made on 35mm film, was shot in Spain, lit only by that classic sickly orange street light we’re all used to. Again, adjusting the colour in these photographs would, I think, defeat the object of shooting film in the first place.

I have read that within the next decade most artificial light, including street lights, will be made-up of daylight balanced LED bulbs. I suppose it’ll look nice, if not a little boring…


Top – Pentax 67/105mm 2.4/Kodak Portra 800. Model – Lucy Knox
Bottom – Nikon FM3a/35mm 1.4/Kodak Gold 400. Model – Benedetta Orsoli

All my developing and scanning is entrusted to UK Film Lab, because they know exactly what they’re doing.


  1. GailyVacation85

    I think you credit far too much of your talent to the tools you use – there aren’t many photographers, anywhere, that can make an image look the way you do. You connect with your subjects and they connect with you – just look at that bottom image – she’s yours, she is TOTALLY captivated by you, I see that in so many of your portraits. You can’t learn this skill, it doesn’t come in a box or as a digital download – it’s in you, or it isn’t. And it’s in you, Phil.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi Phil – I think your approach makes a lot of sense when using good commercial scans and it definitely fits with my own ethos.
    My problem is scanning my own film and resolving a colour balance that I think should exist. These days I am doing totally flat/neutral scans and then editing in post to get what I want. I have not found a workflow with my scanner (Epson V700) and software (have tried several like Vuescan, Epsonscan, Silverfast) that gets me there any other way. I think the process I go through more or less replicates in post the adjustments that are made during scanning by a lab, or a competent home scan.

    As you know it is possible to make a wide variety of colour and contrast and similar corrections/adjustments and just pure fakery during scanning so one has to not view scans as pure things that should be left as is. Though if I had commercial scans of the quality you are getting, I wouldn’t be doing much of anything to them.

    When you did your own scanning (if I recall correctly you were using a V700) were you making more adjustments, or did you get good results from your scanning that did not require much adjustment in post?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey ho!

    > I have read that within the next decade…

    I dunno, I’m still waiting for my jet pack…

    Seriously though, Patrick La Roque mentions on his blog that the new Acros film sim in the latest generation X-Series cameras (X-Pro2 & presumably X70) has adaptive grain, that changes depending tonal values and on camera settings, to better simulate real film and he hints at a future where in camera film sims like this could be the norm. He also touches on, a little, the debate this will bring, and indeed, has already brought.



  4. Emma Scarlet

    Edgy – it’s an overused word, but your work is edgy, you get away with compositions that most other photographers wouldn’t get away with. Your use of space is stunning, you can fill emptiness with emptiness and make it look jam-packed.

    The top image – the way the lines create a frame within a frame… deliberate? Maybe, maybe not… but you saw it and you made it.

    I’d love to see your work in a big fat coffee table book, better still, printed and displayed in a huge exhibition space… you deserve this, you know that, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. J.J. Sommer

    Well you’re lucky. You really are. Here, in Canada, I have been through one lab after another and it’s always the same. Streaks of noise from the scanner’s light, terrible prints, and today… oh man, today! I went into a camera shop in a nearby city, drove a bit to get there. I say to the girl behind the counter, “TMax 400, please.” She tells me they’re all out. “Ilford, then,” I say. When she opened the fridge, I see a box of TMax 400. I point it out to her. She then says she thinks that’s colour. Colour TMax. COLOUR… TMAX…!

    I gotta get everything done in the US now, and the Canadian dollar is tanking so bad that everything outsourced to a foreign country costs twice as much. So sad. I can see why so many people, including me, flock to digital and share photos digitally. I miss high school. I miss shooting B&W only, printing in the school lab. Fuck it… I think I need to renovate one of my bathrooms. I don’t need two, one can be a darkroom, right? *sigh* Sorry Phil. Just frustrated and my wife won’t listen to me anymore, but your blog allows comments.

    Liked by 1 person

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