Labels: Photo or Scan? (NEW)

A little project about British record labels, had  me relooking at my record label “photography”. Russian collector Denis recommended scanning labels, something which I have previously avoided, with a preference for the flexibility of photographic techniques. However I gave it a go, and was surprised what can be achieved with the simple flat-bed A4 scanner found in a multifunction laser copier/printer.

Comparing like with like, jpg output at web-publishing size of around 1,000 pixel wide for one side record label, the scanner produced sharper and more-black text than my straight macro-photograph. Holy frowning emoji.

By enlarging the images up to view at full screen, the reasons for the difference became quickly evident. Enlarging the ® in both outputs (top right), the scanner output is actually less sharp, but the scanner has applied an edge effect, a dark line around the letter R that separates the white letter from the background red, creating an impression of a more clean transition between letter and background, compared to the more smooth but blurry transition in photographic output.  The label text of the scanned image has been sharpened by the scanner software, so looks sharper. The solid red area pays the price of “over-sharpening”, creating an artefact like wrinkled skin or reticulation, compared with the smoothness of photographic output.

With a record label, however, the text is all-important and there is no doubt the scanner is quicker with better results overall. It is necessary to hold the record down onto the glass during the scan so not to lose sharpness, and sleeving the record to eliminate any risk of vinyl scuffing on the scanner edges, a minor inconvenience.

However a scanner does not retrieve runout etchings and stamps well, which are a collector necessity, nor the all important cover shoot without resorting to photo-stitching software.

Is it possible to steal the scanner’s sharpening “trick” and apply it to photographic output? With a little bit of experimentation, I found it is possible to improve  on the scanner output, by also applying sharpening and contrast to  the original photo image.

Left and right are the previous comparative images, centre is the enhanced photo image, and it is significantly  better than the unprocessed photo image and the scanned image.

‘ll walk you through the few simple steps in Photoshop, (or the vastly cheaper and just as effective Photoshop Elements)

Copy the original label photo to a new layer (Duplicate layer)

Apply Filter/Unsharp mask  to the new layer at 500%, the maximum possible.

Increase the contrast of the new layer by +100% contrast:

Image/ Adustment/ Brightness/Contrast /  Slider Contrast +100%

In Layers Tab, change the blending mode of the new layer from Normal to Darken.

The upper layer will apply apply the sharpened text to the less sharp text below, darkening it, but will not affect any white area below.

Job Done, super sharp clean text. The world is moving to ever higher definition, 4k and 8k, hyper-realism, but for record buyers and sellers, it doesn’t seem to be moving very fast, if at all.

Digital 1/2 macro photo jpg reduced to 1000x1000pixel, applied unsharp mask and contrast, final image size little over 1mb.