Although he shoots digitally now, so much of his past work has languished silently in big file cabinets, stored away in darkness in their original format, tens of thousands of chromes, slides and negatives. Before he accrued such treasures, Lanker first developed his photographic skills at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he won the Pulitzer for his moving photographs of both the father and mother's experience during childbirth. Since then, he was twice named the National Newspaper Photographer of the Year. Lanker is also known for his freelance work with Life Magazine and Sports Illustrated, and his award winning book and exhibition, "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women that Changed America"
With such a legacy, the challenge has been to recreate the same high image quality in those original chromes and negatives in digital format at a reasonable cost. "We've been looking for a way to open those archives and tap into a revenue base that's just sitting there doing nothing, and could be making money for us," said Lanker.
Over the years, he purchased several dedicated film scanners to see if they could capture the original brilliance of his images. "But the scanners seemed to limp through the whole process, and the quality was never what we wanted," he said. When all else failed, he would send the chrome or negative to an outside lab for a drum-scanned image, but each individual scan was well over $100 making it cost prohibitive to scan in any quantity.
The photographer's scanning woes ended when a colleague suggested that he use the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro scanner. For the first time, he could produce drum-quality scans rivaling the results of commercial lab scanners that cost tens of thousands of dollars. "I was frankly surprised that we could get that high level of image quality in-house using a flatbed scanner priced at less than $900," said Lanker. "The scanner essentially paid for itself after only a few scans. We no longer have to worry about our originals being damaged or lost because we do everything here."
With a Dual Lens System, the scanner allows super-resolution (6400 dpi) scanning for 35mm, 6x22cm medium format and 4x5" film, and high-resolution (4800 dpi) scanning for transparency proof sheets and reflective scanning. He just selects the resolution, and the lens carriage automatically moves the right lens into place. The photographer can also batch scan multiple slides, negatives and medium-format film, using convenient film holders.
"I feel we have greater control over the whole process," said Lanker. "More control over the quality, the color balance, shadows and highlights of the image." An optical density (Dmax) of 4.0 yields rich blacks, while still capturing fine shadow details from the original images. Image quality is maximized with the scanner's High Pass Optics, anti-reflective lens coatings and a high-reflection mirror. Lanker also takes special note of the tonal range and smooth gradations.
As a freelance photographer, Lanker found that clients would often lose track of film at the end of assignments. If the chromes and negatives came back to the studio, they were often scratched, especially black-and-white film. "Today with the V750-M Pro, we know exactly what to do when we pull scratched film from the files," he said. He uses the scanner's fluid mount accessory that dramatically reduces scratches and other imperfections from black-and-white film.
"Because we scan a lot of black-and-white film from the files, we now depend on the V750-M Pro's fluid mount capability," he said. At first, Lanker was hesitant about putting the fluid on his negatives, but it completely evaporated, and produced both a cleaner and sharper scanned image. Built-in Digital ICE Technologies also automatically removes scratches and, dust spots on color film plus surface defects from color negatives, positives, and prints.
The phone is ringing in Lanker's studio again. A photo editor is begging for another amazing image from the archive, but this time no one is worried about sending him a high-quality image. "I haven't seen that image in years," he tells him. "But I can get you a good scan of it within the hour." After negotiating the fee, the assistant retrieves the chrome from the file cabinet, scans it with the V750-M Pro, edits and captions the image, and sends the final file to the editor. Whereas his studio once avoided scanning as much as possible, the task has become an important part of their workflow.
Now when people approach the photographer with ideas such as gallery shows, Lanker can seriously consider them. He now feels confident about going into his archives, scanning the originals, and even creating exhibition prints from high quality scans. Retrieving and scanning old chromes has now become one of his favorite pursuits.
"I have so much material that I've tried to scan over the years ? or avoided scanning because it was too expensive or the quality wasn't good," said Lanker. "I will always be very careful when it comes to the quality of those images because they represent a big part of my life's work." Nowadays, when Lanker converts a negative, slide or print into a digital file with the V750-M Pro, the image reflects the high quality of his work and has become a true income generator.