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  • Scanning FAQ
  • Chromira FAQ
  • FAQ about WCI
  • How We Ship
  • Print Handling Tips
  • More Charts and Info

Common Questions About Scans and Scanning

Should I scan my image only to the file size I need for my specific project, or should I scan to the highest resolution possible?
Read about West Coast Imaging's scan once for many purposes philosophy.


Why do I need to use a drum scanner? Can't I just use a flatbed or desktop scanner?
Compare and see. If you are happy with what your flatbed or film scanner gives you, then use it. We find that we are only happy with the quality our Tango gives us. It resolves more detail, and gives cleaner and more accurate color. It makes the process of printing easier and better. In every art, the quality of your raw materials affects the quality of the final piece. In digital imaging, the scan is the raw material. We choose to start with the best available.


What's so great about the Tango™ Drum Scanner?
It truly resolves up to 10,780 dpi--capturing every single detail in your film. The software that drives the scanner allows for the cleanest, most accurate scan available from your piece of film. Many companies offer drum scans from less expensive scanners--there is a visible difference (do a comparison test between the Tango™ and another drum scanner to view for yourself). If you start off with a less-than-superior scan, you will sacrifice the integrity of your digital image. The other advantage to using our Tango™ is that we have a vast amount of experience making digital fine art photographs. From the scan to the finished image--we know what you need for an excellent print.


Why do you recommend scanning 35mm to 200MB 16-bit RGB?
Scanning a 35mm frame at 5000dpi in RGB creates a 200MB 16-bit file. At 5000 dpi, we've reached the point of diminishing have to scan much larger to pull even small amounts of additional detail from the film. The exceptions are images captured with X-pan cameras, Zeiss lenses and Leica lenses.


Should I scan my larger format film to 400MB 16-bit RGB or 600MB 16-bit RGB?
It's up to you. With a 400MB 16-bit RGB scan you can make a 30x40 print at 200dpi. You can also make a duplicate transparency using a digital film recorder.

A 600MB 16-bit RGB scan allows you to print a 30x40 print at 300dpi or a 40x50 at 200 dpi.


Can you FTP scans to me?
We can do better than that! Our online services allow you to upload files to us, and download scans, using your web browser - no FTP programs necessary. Sign up for a free account today. There is a $15 online delivery charge for each order delivered online.


I only need one image scanned, but the image is on a strip of film. Do I need to cut out the individual frame, or should I send the entire strip?
Yes, please trim out the individual frame we need to scan. It is easier and less clumsy to mount, which reduces the chance of damaging your film.

If we receive a strip of film, we will contact you to see if we can trim out the individual frame you need us to scan.

If you DO NOT want to cut the film, we can mount the entire strip on our drum. Since this requires more work and time, we charge $10 per strip of 3 images mounted (larger strips will be billed at a higher rate), and turnaround will be longer.


How do Tango scans compare to scans from other scanners?
In a world where you can buy scanners for a few thousand dollars, we decided to spend $70,000 on our Tango because it delivers THE BEST scans we've ever seen. Making an excellent print requires an excellent scan. We weren't willing to compromise on this critical part of the process.


Why does the scan not look exactly like my slide, or my print from my negative?
When we make scan decisions, our first goal is to make a scan that will make an excellent print. We scan images to RETAIN detail and information, and NOT necessarily to match your film because this makes the very best prints.


Is a smaller scan of lesser quality?
No. It's simply scanned at a lower resolution, so you won't be able to print it as large as you could print a bigger scan.


If a 6x7 and a 4x5 piece of film both generate a 600MB 16-bit RGB scan, then they should make a 30x40 print with the same amount of detail and quality, right? Film size doesn't matter?
Let's say you took a picture of Yosemite Valley with your 6x7 camera, and the same image with your 4x5. On your 6x7 film, the size of Yosemite Fall would be maybe 1.3cm tall. On your 4x5 film, Bridalveil Fall would be 2.35cm tall. That means it's nearly twice as large on the film. There is a lot more information and detail recorded on the 4x5 film, simply because there is more space to record it. The scanner "sees" this additional information, as because of that, it makes a sharper scan from the 4x5 with more resolution. View an illustration of this example.


Why do my scans look pixilated in some areas?
If you are not used to looking at digital files, you can mistake individual pieces of grain for pixels. When you scan an image, the grain on your film looks very different than when you view it on a light table because of the magnification (unless you regularly view your film under a microscope!) What looks like an even blue sky actually has many different colors and densities of grain making up what the eye perceives as blue. You especially notice this phenomenon in deep shadows and large dark areas. It's completely normal, since the scanner is actually capturing the subtle nuances of your film!


How big can I print from a 100/200/300 mb scan?
Here is a chart with general guidelines of how large you can print an image at 200dpi and 300dpi.

  Maximum Print Size at 200dpi Maximum Print Size at 300dpi
200MB 16-bit RGB Scan 24x36 18x22
400MB 16-bit RGB Scan 40x44 24x32
600MB 16-bit RGB Scan 44x60 30x40



I have a very dark slide. Will a good scan be able to lighten it?
The best scans come from properly exposed film. If your film is underexposed in highlights and shadows, we can lighten it. But if your shadows are dark and heavy because the brightness range of the scene exceeded the latitude of the film, there is less we can do because you need to make local changes that can't be made on scanner. You have much more local control in lightening or darkening a transparency by working on the scan in Photoshop.

If you have an underexposed image, we'll do our best to capture as much shadow detail as possible--but if your shadows are completely black, we can't capture detail that isn't there. If you are trying to "save" an image that it extremely difficult, there are special techniques we can use on scanner, but you will have to tell us ahead of time to use them. We generally don't use these techniques unless you ask because they can make your files more difficult to print.


I've heard it is much more difficult to get a high-quality scan from color negative film than chromes. Is this absolutely true ? Is there a way to expose film to optimize it for scanning? I prefer to continue shooting negative film because of its contrast ratio and exposure latitude. As I contemplate having my images scanned, I'd like to know the best solution for future film, and the projects I'm embarking upon.
Chromes scan more easily than negs for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a positive, and we have an accurate reference to what it should look like. With a negative we have no such reference. Also, the grain structure of chromes holds up much better, and gives a sharper file than negs.

The wider latitude of negs is part of the problem, as well. Compressing that range into a print flattens contrast and destroys local contrast...things that make a print sparkle. On the other hand, using chromes in flat light stretches out the contrast range and makes nice local contrast happen automatically.

We have scanned thousands of chromes and negs from beginners to professionals with decades of experience. In looking at what works, we have found that negs from studio photographers who light flat for chrome, make the best the very reason you want to use neg is in direct opposition to creating the type of lighting conditions and neg that scans well.

Now this doesn't mean that the chrome is always better, but with a chrome, what you see is what you get, and we can always make a good scan from a good chrome. With NEgatives there is a little bit more variability and uncertainty. The type of neg film really doesn't matter very much.

You will choose what tools and workflow will work best for you and your work. I don't know the type of subject matter you photograph, but the look you see in Outdoor Photographer of landscapes is a direct function of using chrome film or digital cameras in those early morning and late evening light with a latitude, color, and contrast that create those looks. If there was an easier way to obtain that look, we'd all be doing it!


Is it possible to drum scan APS negatives? Does this require removal from the cassette?
Yes! The cassette must be opened, and the frame cut out. We have scanned some, and we were very surprised by the quality it held.


Can you scan small film like Minox, 16mm motion picture frames, or Kodak Disc Film?
Yes! It has to be cut from the disc. We have scanned some, and we were very surprised by the quality it held for a 20-year-old emulsion that's so small--but we don't see it making a comeback anytime soon. Even James Bond has abandoned his trusty Minox and gone digital!


What is the highest resolution scan you could get from the 24mm APS image?
We can scan up to 10780 dpi which will give you a 400mb 16 bit RGB file if we scan the whole frame. If you can give us the crop, we can crop on scanner. At this resolution you will have pulled everything possible out of the film.

Unfortunately, the lenses on most APS cameras are not very good, and they don’t have a lot of real resolution on the film.

Common Questions About Chromira Prints

What is a Chromira?
The Chromira is a Digital Enlarger that exposes type C photographic paper with LEDs. The photo paper is then processed in RA-4 chemistry, creating a continuous-tone, true photographic print. The LEDs use the numbers in your digital file to determine how to expose the paper. The Chromira is different from inkjet printers because it exposes photographic paper (no ink is involved), whereas inkjet printers physically lay ink on paper or canvas.


Why we chose the Chromira as our primary output device for Fuji Crystal Archive Paper:
Both the Lightjet and the Chromira expose Fuji Crystal Archive paper, so we’re printing on the same paper we've used since 1997. The main difference between the machines is how they expose paper. The Lightjet uses lasers; the Chromira uses LEDs. In our comparison testing we found that with an accurate profile, both could make prints that we considered to be a match. We decided to go with the Chromira because the prints seemed to consistently have a little more brilliance and a little cleaner color. We also think the Chromira is more flexible for us, when it comes to its ease of use in producing Fine Art prints.


How prints off the Chromira compare to prints off the Lightjet:

• Sharpness: Chromira prints are as sharp or sharper than Lightjet prints

• Both the Chromira and Lightjet accept standard 300 dpi files. The Chromira can accept any resolution file.

• Gamut: In our comparison tests, we are seeing richer blues and cleaner colors.

• Can it print from low-res digital camera files? Yes! The Chromira can interpolate any DPI file up to printing resolution. Optimal results are achieved by following the steps in our IMAGING TIP: Gaining Maximum Sharpness from Digital Camera Files.

• Exposes Fuji Crystal Archive paper: Yes! The Chromira prints on the same paper we used on the Lightjet.


Do I need to profile my prints to your Chromira profile?
No. Unlike the Lightjet, the Chromira can read your working space and convert it on the fly to the proper output profile. This saves you a step, and saves you time. Please read the new preflight requirements.


Can I use my existing profiled files to print on the Chromira?
Yes, but only if it's necessary. Because they’ve been confined to the Lightjet colorspace, they may not be able to utilize the full gamut of the Chromira. Your prints should look better if you send us a targeted file in it's original RGB workingspace.


How do Chromira prints compare to prints made through more traditional methods, like Ilfochrome?
Ilfochrome is a beautiful analog process, but notoriously difficult. Even at its best, Ilfochrome printing requires much more time than Photoshop. Every time we've been asked by a client to "match" an existing Ilfochrome print, we've gone beyond a match, and brought out aspects of the image the client never thought possible. If you are still using Ilfochrome, you should see what our process can do for your photographs--otherwise, you'll never know what you are missing! Quantitatively, digital prints will be sharper, which allows you to make larger prints; the color is cleaner; and the contrast problems so common in Ilfochrome prints are removed by the scanner.


Is there any difference between the gloss and matte finish in terms of apparent sharpness or quality, or in terms of file size?
Both papers produce the same color. In terms of sharpness, the sheen of the gloss paper makes the image appear slightly sharper (though you wouldn't notice the slight difference at first glance). The matte paper is less fragile than gloss, scratching less easily. Both papers are beautiful, and deciding which one to use is a personal preference.


How do you recommend mounting Chromira prints?
Any process that can mount color photographic prints can work with Chromira prints. We suggest checking with your framer to see what process they use. Many customers have had success with dry mounting or T-hinge mounting. Here's what you do to T-hinge mount: Take four strips of archival linen tape, about .75" wide, and 2-3" long. Tape one strip to the back of the print, on each of the upper corners. The tape should be perpendicular to the top of the print, and the sticky side should be up. Then take the other two pieces of tape, and apply so each piece is parallel to the print, over the other strips of tape. Now press these pieces of tape onto the mat board. Your print is now fixed to the mat board. Now take two plastic corner mounts, and apply them to the bottom corners of the print. These mounts should not be supporting the print, but anchoring it gently to the mat board. You're done!


How much can I sell my Chromira prints for?
It depends on where you're selling them. In a fine art gallery, here are some general prices for a matted Fuji Crystal Archive print (unframed):
16x20: $350
20x24: $550
30x40: $1200

Common Questions About West Coast Imaging

Why should I send my images to West Coast Imaging, instead of another lab?
In 1997, we opened our business to offer the care and attention photographers deserve. Coming from fine-art gallery backgrounds, we have a high standard for quality print making. We are not a lab, but a studio. We built our business from the ground up around one goal: to offer the best quality prints to photographers from their images.

There are several factors that set us apart from other labs in the country.

  • We treat printmaking and scanning as an art, giving each image intense individualized attention. We are a studio that helps photographers achieve their goals, rather than a lab that pushes images through a fixed process. Fixed processes work well for E-6 lines, but not for fine art printmaking.

  • Our staff members offer extensive backgrounds in photography and digital imaging. Whether you're a photojournalist, commercial photographer, portrait photographer or landscape photographer, we talk the same language, and we understand the value of your original transparency. When you call to talk with us, we'll understand what you mean if you say, "I'd like the foreground a stop lighter."

  • We offer personalized service. One of the best parts of our job is chatting with clients. We want to get to know you, your photography, and your vision. This is the best way to make prints that please you.

  • Our Tango Drum Scanner delivers exceptional 8-bit or 16-bit scans. Starting out with an excellent scan makes everything else in digital imaging significantly easier.

  • We offer a wide variety of digital printing options, including Fuji Crystal Archive Prints and the latest Epson printers with a wide variety of papers. Offering many high-quality options gives photographers more creative control over the look and feel of their final prints.

  • We offer full service printing to photographers who would rather be in the field making new photos than working in Photoshop. All we need is your film or digital camera file, and any direction you would like to give us. We'll put our imaging talents to work, delivering a final print you can sell or display.

  • Photographers who want to do their own Photoshop work can use our Print Lab, and we'll make prints directly from your files. This is a great way to make prints of your images without having to spend the money (or space) to have the printer in your own studio.

  • With digital imaging changing virtually every day, it's important to stay on the cutting edge of all new developments. We take this task seriously, and are constantly implementing new services and technology as the industry evolves.

  • And if you need more reasons, read what our clients have to say about us.


What kind of equipment do you use?
Our studio uses primarily Macintosh computers. All of our monitors are calibrated using EyeOne Photo by GreytagMacbeth. We own two Tango™ Drum Scanners; Epson 11880, 9800, 9600, and 10000 model printers; and a Chromira ProLab...and that's just a short list!


Where can I see examples of your prints?
You can request samples, and we will mail you small sample prints for your review.


Where is Oakhurst, California?
Oakhurst is located on California Highway 41, about 15 miles from the south gate of Yosemite National Park. We're also about an hour north of Fresno--where the closest airport is located. View a map of the area.


Why are you located in Oakhurst as opposed to LA or the San Francisco Bay area?
Our staff is comprised of photographers and artists who are motivated by beautiful scenery and time spent in the outdoors. Digital printing requires a great amount of creativity, clarity and patience--which are easily found when you step outside our studio. Shipping companies like FedEx allow us to conduct business overnight with our vendors and our clients. Turn-around times wouldn't be any faster if we lived in a large city. We can't find a good reason to NOT live in the Sierra Nevada mountains.


I am an amateur photographer, not a professional. Can I still send my work to West Coast Imaging?
Yes! We welcome work from ANYONE who wants an excellent scan or print of their image. Our goal is to help all photographers tell their story better, and to make their vision a reality.


Can I come in for a tour of West Coast Imaging?
We'd be happy to show you our studio during our regular business hours (9 to 5, Monday through Friday). Since we work on deadline almost every day, please schedule an appointment for your visit by sending us an email.

Shipping Information

We are a mail order pro lab. We know that every damaged package causes problems, delays, and frustrations. Therefore, we take great care in packaging your prints and film. We package to ensure success with every order.

How we package your prints
After inspecting your prints thoroughly, we package them carefully using archival bags, archival interleaving, and a variety of materials that are necessary to protect your print. We have custom boxes and cardboard pads for prints up to 20x30 in size. We roll larger prints around the OUTSIDE of a sturdy cardboard tube, wrap the tube with bubble wrap, then place it in a large rectangular box.

How we package your scans
We sandwich your originals between two pieces of thick cardboard. The CDs are attached to the cardboard sandwich with rubber bands, and the entire package is slipped into a plastic sleeve and sealed with an "originals enclosed" sticker. Small scan orders are shipped in a Fedex envelope. Larger orders are wrapped in bubble wrap and slipped into a Fedex box.

We charge a handling fee on each box we ship
Our shipping materials cost money, as does the labor it takes to package your prints. Our handling fees exist to cover these costs. This fee is charged whether you have one print in the box, or five prints. This fee is charged IN ADDITION to the shipping charges charged by the carrier. If you are unsure about how much you will be charged, we are always happy to provide a quote for you.

The handling fee is based on the size of the box, and how much packaging is required. Here are some sample handling fees:

No handling fees for DVDs
$6 for prints or other small items that fit into a Fedex Envelope
$8 for orders that fit into a Fedex box
$10 for a box of 16x20 prints or canvas wraps
$18 for a box of rolled 24x36 prints
$20 and up for oversized and custom boxes

We can insure your package at your request
Our default policy is to ship your package without any special insurance. If you would like us to insure your package for a certain amount (such as the amount of your invoice), please let us know when you place your order.

FedEx Second Day is our default shipping method for prints, and for packages containing film:
FedEx is our carrier of choice, and we can ship using any of their express or ground services. If you do not specify a service in the "shipping preference" section of your order form, we will ship by FedEx Second Day delivery for print orders, and packages containing film. Shipping charges are billed with your invoice. We charge Fedex's retail rates for your shipment. We can also bill shipping directly to your FedEx account. For an additional fee, we can ship your package so a signature is required for delivery. Please boldly write "signature required" in the shipping preference area of your order form to request this service, or contact us to request it on an order already in-house. If you are ordering prints larger than 24x30, or if your prints are rolled, you will be charged by dimensional weight, which increases shipping costs with most services. You can usually reduce your shipping costs for these large prints by choosing to ship them FedEx Ground.

USPS is our default shipping method for DVDs and proofs:
Since the USPS offers exceptional rates on shipping small packages, we use the USPS as our default shipping method for proofs and DVDs. If you prefer a different shipping method, please indicate this on your order form.

FedEx Ground is the least expensive option for most packages:
FedEx Ground can take anywhere from a day (in California) to a week (to the East Coast) rates range from $4 on up, depending on your ZIP code and the package weight. If you would like to ship using FedEx Ground, please indicate this on your order form.

We also ship via UPS, OnTrac, and freight shipping for large pieces, and upon request.

International Shipping
We ship internationally. Since each country has different postal regulations, please tell us the carrier you wish to use. We can quote different carriers upon request. Also give us instructions on how to fill out the carriage value forms, and any other information we need for customs.


Handling Your Prints

Be assured, prints from West Coast Imaging are packaged to withstand the tortures of transportation.

We package prints up to 20x30 in several layers of cardboard, which are placed in a custom-made flat box. Large prints are sent rolled, wrapped in bubble wrap, then sealed in a sturdy cardboard box.

A few precautions should be taken when opening your package:

• Keep all food and liquids away from your work area.

• Check all layers of cardboard for originals, CDs, or paperwork.

• Carefully remove the tape that secures the prints to the cardboard.

• Handle your prints with clean hands. Wearing white cotton gloves is an even better idea.

Slide the print out of the protective plastic bag on a large clean table.

Be sure to keep your print flat. When lifting the print, hold by opposite corners ONLY!! Holding the prints in any other way will cause a crease, and ruin your print (an expensive lesson).

Last but not least, enjoy your beautiful photos from West Coast Imaging.

- Text and Illustrations by Ron Iudice, West Coast Imaging staff member

Plastic Bag
Carefully remove your print from the plastic bag on a large, flat surface.

Don't Handle like this
Do not handle your print by two corners on the same side of the print. You will damage it.

No No!
Do not handle your print with one hand. You will damage it.

Corner Handling
For best results, handle your print by opposite corners.

Charts and Helpful Information

How Will My 35mm Print at 16x20, Compared to a 4x5?
Excellent 16x20 prints can be made from 35mm, but 16x20 prints from larger formats will have better resolution and sharpness. This chart will help you compare film formats versus print size.

Print Permanence Chart
View the longevity of various types of Epson Inks on a variety of papers.

Glossary of Terms
Digital imaging is full of jargon and abbreviations. Our glossary will demystify some of the more common terms.

6x7 versus 4x5
See a comparison between a 6x7 transparency and a 4x5 scanned to 300mb 8-bit RGB scan


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