How To Scan Color Transparency Film With Vuescan

Updated August 10, 2023


Vuescan software screenshot with a completed prescan.
Screenshot of Vuescan with a completed prescan of a slide.


You can also watch a video version of this tutorial on YouTube.


My Scan Settings:

I use a Nikon LS-50 (Coolscan V) scanner with Vuescan software. The information that I give below should work perfectly for any Nikon Scanner, and should be pretty close with other film scanners. I use Vuescan, rather than Nikon's scanner software, because Nikon stopped supporting Nikon Scan years ago. It tends to be unstable on later versions of PowerPC OS-X and Windows, and will not work at all on the Intel Macs and Apple Silicon Macs. My instructions below are for the Professional Version of Vuescan, using the advanced control set. Vuescan's Mac and Windows versions are identical, so these settings work on either OS.


Screenshots of Vuescan showing all of the settings for color slide scanning

Vuescan is a very powerful program with a lot of settings. The controls are divided into several tabs. These are the settings that I use for scanning color slides and transparencies.

Click on the thumbnail to the left to see the settings in a larger image in a new window.


Explaining the settings:

Why I use the settings that I use.


Input Tab

-Source: If you have more than one scanner connected, you'll need to choose the one you want Vuescan to use.

-Media: This tells Vuescan what type of film you're scanning. For color slides and transparencies, there are actually two choices that will work. You can choose IMAGE or SLIDE FILM.

Vuescan's instructions used to say that if you choose IMAGE, it will try to make the scan look as close as it can to the colors in the slide; and if you choose SLIDE FILM, it will try to make the scan look more like the actual colors in the scene. I have no idea how the software would know what the actual scene looked like, but that's what the Vuescan Users Guide said.

In actual practice, I can see no difference between the two settings. In earlier versions of Vuescan, I did get different results, and for some images I liked the scans using the IMAGE setting, and for some I preferred the SLIDE FILM setting. In the current version, I see no difference.

I used SLIDE FILM for this tutorial.

-Batch Scanning: This allows scanning more than one image at a time. See my Vuescan Batch Scanning Tutorial for directions.

-Preview resolution: Set this to AUTO.

-Scan Resolution: Whatever your scanner's highest is. My Nikon does 4000dpi. Don't scan lower thinking you'll make smaller prints. You'll regret this deeply when you decide to make a larger print and have to rescan and redo ALL your post-processing, dodging and burning, retouching, etc.

-Auto Focus: Always (if your scanner offers this...flatbeds don't usually). On the Nikon scanners, you can choose a point on the image for the autofocus mechanism to lock on to. This should be a detailed area, not a flat tone.

You must do the preview scan before you can set the focus point. On the preview, you will see a circle with crosshairs in it. Move this with your mouse to set the focus point. You'll usually want to find a focus point in the area around the center of the image. If the film is not perfectly flat (and mounted slides often aren't), choosing a focus point near the edges of the image can make the center out of focus.

-Fine Mode: Some Nikon scanners, such as the LS-8000ED, have a bug that produces banding in the final scan. Fine mode increases scan time a bit, but eliminates the banding. I don't think this is needed for the last generation Nikon scanners, like the 9000ED and 5000ED. If this option is available, check it. It won't show if your scanner doesn't support it. You won't see this in my screenshots because my Nikon LS-50 does not support it.

-Multisampling: This improves dark tone noise in dense slides. It also increases scan times. I don't use it for photos that are mostly light or middle tones, but ones with lots of dark tones, or that are underexposed, can benefit from it. Try 2 or 4 times multisampling as a starting point. Note that 2x sampling doubles scan times and 4x quadruples them.

-Default Folder: This lets you choose the location on your computer where you want Vuescan to save your finished scans.


Filter Tab

-Infrared Clean: Infrared cleaning removes dust and scratches. You should try to keep your slides scratch-free and you should clean them as well as you can before scanning, but this does work well for those with scratches or embedded dust.

I use the LIGHT setting most of the time. The high settings reduce fine detail resolution, especially the HEAVY setting. The tradeoff is worth it to save a very badly damaged film. The LIGHT setting does not impact image quality.

The Infrared Clean does NOT work with Kodachrome film, and should be turned off when scanning Kodachrome. It works fine for any E-6 films.

-Restore Colors/Restore Fading: These are for old faded films. RESTORE FADING fixes loss of contrast and RESTORE COLORS fixes color shifts that happen when color films fade.

-Grain Reduction: I don't use this, it reduces fine image resolution. Film has grain, that is the nature of the medium. Don't like it? Shoot digital.

-Sharpening: I don't use the sharpening built into Vuescan. Sharpen in your image editor (photoshop, lightroom, etc.). The sharpening tools in most editing software is a lot better than what's built into Vuescan.


Color Tab

-Color Balance: For most things, I use the NEUTRAL setting. You can try the others and see you like one of them better.

-White and Black Points: Set both white point and black point to 0% to avoid clipping of highlights and shadows.

-Leave Curves and Brightness settings at default

-Output Colorspace: For color scanning, you have a choice of output colorspaces, like sRGB and Adobe RGB(1998). The color gamut of color film is much wider than the sRGB colorspace.

Because it has a wider color gamut than sRGB, and many printers today can reproduce the Adobe RGB color gamut, I use Adobe RGB(1998).

-Film Type: This option only shows if you set the Media Type to Slide Film. The choices are Generic Slide Film, Ektachrome, and Kodachrome. Choose Kodachrome for that film. For other films, try Generic Slide Film or Ektachrome and see which works best for your film. Most of the time, the Generic Slide Film setting works identically to the Ektachrome setting.

-Monitor Color Space: Set this to ICC PROFILE if you have calibrated your screen using a device like the Datacolor Spyder, Xrite i1 Display, or Calibrite Colorchecker Display. If your screen isn't calibrated, choose sRGB.

-Monitor ICC Profile: This control shows if you have chosen ICC Profile under MONITOR COLOR SPACE. You'll have to manually choose your screen's ICC profile. Most image editing software automatically gets this from the operating system; Vuescan doesn't.


Output Tab

-Default Folder: This is duplicated from the INPUT tab. I don't know why they put this setting in two places. If you already set it in the INPUT tab, you don't need to set it again here; the setting will carry over from the INPUT tab.

-Printed size: Scan Size, 100%. You'll get a file the size of the negative (about 1x1.5 inch for a 35mm neg) at whatever resolution you scanned at.

-File Type: Use TIFF. JPEGs use compression that reduces image quality, especially if you do much editing of the scan later in Photoshop or another image editor.

-TIFF File Type: 48 Bit RGB. Yes, you set this in the INPUT tab, but Vuescan does not carry that setting over to the OUTPUT tab. You need to be sure it is set to 48 Bit RGB in both tabs!.

-Tiff compression: None. TIFF Compression is lossless, meaning quality is not reduced, unlike JPEG, which does lose data to reduce size. However, TIFF Compression does not save much file size and makes the file open and save slower.

-Metadata: The DESCRIPTION, COPYRIGHT, DATE, and CAPTION fields let you type in information about the photo that will be saved in the file's metadata. I don't use it. Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and most other image editing software has much more comprehensive metadata capabilities than those offered in Vuescan.


Prefs Tab

You can leave the stuff in here at default settings.



The Final Scan:


Screenshot of Vuescan with the final, uncorrected scan.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the final scan is pretty good.


The completed image, scanned from a color slide with Vuescan. A pair of red metal motel chairs with a brook laying across them.

This is the unedited scan. It looks very, very good. Earlier versions of Vuescan gave slide scans that were too flat; not enough contrast. The current version is much improved!

The color balance on this one is very warm. I like this; it matches the original slide, and the slide looked that way because this was shot in the early evening when the light was very warm. You can use CURVES in Photoshop to adjust the color balance if you have a scan whose color isn't to your liking.


The completed image, scanned from a color slide with Vuescan, after applying local contrast enhancement using unsharp masking. A pair of red metal motel chairs with a brook laying across them.

As an experiment, I decided to apply some local contrast enhancement to increase midtone contrast. I did this using the UNSHARP MASK filter in Photoshop.

Unsharp masking is usually used for sharpening, but it can be used to increase midtone contrast without affecting the highlights and shadows much. This is done by setting the unsharp mask filter to a very wide RADIUS setting, with a relatively low AMOUNT setting. I used 38.4 as my radius setting and 19% as the amount setting. Threshold is set to 0.


If you have read my Black & White Scanning Tutorial or my Color Scanning Tutorial, you'll notice that the slide film scan required much less adjustment in the final editing than negative scans do. This is because film scanners are made for the wide density range of a color transparency. Negatives, BW or Color, have a lower density range, and are lower in contrast than transparencies are. This makes them scan in looking very flat.






The knowledge that I am sharing took many years of study and practice to attain. If you find it valuable, please donate through my Paypal button below. My creative work is how I support myself and my son. Thank you!




©2023 Christopher Crawford