Camera Raw: Color Invert for Negative film

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This conversation has been merged. Please reference the main conversation: Lightroom/Camera Raw: Ability to invert negative scans to positives

I'm looking at digitizing thousands of color negatives to digital files via a high-rez camera.  I would love to have an invert color option within Camera RAW.  What better way to preserve old film that with a RAW digital file! Even better with a feature to eliminate the color cast of the film.  I think many PS users would embrace it.  I could see this being a huge draw for entry level users as well, as many are trying to figure out what to do with old negatives that are deteriorating.
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Roy Burroughs

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Posted 3 weeks ago

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Andrew Rodney

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You should be able to do so with an inverted curve but removing the orange mask is a different story and best done, while scanning with good software. Some do a better job than others. I'd look into SilverFast by LaserSoft. 
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Cristen Gillespie

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I take it you've read articles such as this one:

https://petapixel.com/2012/05/18/how-to-scan-film-negatives-with-a-dslr/

The invert bit is straightforward. Just take the curve and move what was the top point to the bottom, and what was the bottom point to the top. It's the rest of it, eliminating the color cast, that's a doozy.  Silverfast has a color negative feature for a reason—it can charge for all that work packaged up so you don't need to — much. <G>

So an entire process (script/action?) would invert and fix the color, but it's not the inverting you really are asking for. At least, according to that article. You're going to be doing so much work getting the color fixed that the invert part is hardly worth the resources to you or Adobe by itself.

I used Silverfast and a flatbed (what I could afford) when I was taking care of a lot of the family archives way back in the early 2000s. Reading this article, I'm rather glad I did, even though I didn't have the best equipment. The old film lenses and processing (not to mention aging) weren't always the best quality either. I once discovered during retouching that I'd actually scanned more bug parts than image in a small group of them.
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Steve Lehman

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I've been editing slides for years with a scanner and Silverfast or PSE.  Why do it with camera and RAW conversions?  Seems like a long route to take with RAW.   
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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Gets my vote. I'm also plowing through photographing a mountain of old negs. I think there would be potential for preset developers to use the new profiles tool to build out negative profiles to remove orange masks from different films, if Adobe can get the sliders running the right way after inversion.
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Louis Edwards

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I have been doing this for a few years. I love you suggestion!
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Jack Klaber

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There are many good reasons for using a DSLR for digitizing slides and negatives, especially the resolution of the photographed slide/negative.
Digitizing slides should be a quite simple and straightforward process. A slide/negative adapter and macro lens is however a must.
Digitizing color negatives however is a different matter. The orange mask is not simply an orange "colorcast" that can be eliminated by removing the orange color from the image. The mask is a variable color mask to offset and eliminate secondary absorptions of the magenta and cyan color dyes used in the negative. Again, it would be out of scope to discuss this issue here. 
So photographing color slides can be done beautifully with a DSLR and right equipment.
For negatives you are missing the use of professional scanning software that supports the numerous different color negative films that were during many decades on the market.
Therefore you need a transparency scanner to scan optimally color negatives. The optical resolution of such a scanner should be for 35mm. film at least 4800 dpi  and color depth at minimal 24bit.
Sufficient to mention that negative scanning software should have appropriate algorithms to set the correct colors in an optimal manner in the digitizes image.
I use personally the professional version of VueScan which has LUTs (Lookup Tables) for most Vendors such as Kodak, Fuji, Agfa or 3M, popular old film types, such as Kodacolor, Ektacolor, Ektar, GOLD, Vericolor, Agfacolor, Reala, NHG, Super HR , etc. It even has tables for subtypes of the main film types, such as: GoldII, Gold400, CII, 100 GEN4, VR GEN5, etc. 
Without these color LUTS in your photo editing program (Photoshop, PSE, etc.) you may capture with your DSLR the spatial information (visual resolution) but the colors are then just an proximate of the real colors.

If you have good reserved prints of these negatives, it might be better from a visual point of view to scan or photograph the prints (making reproductions) and enjoy the richness of the colors using the full color space the negatives and papers of way back when used....
HTH
(Edited)
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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> Without these color LUTS in your photo editing program

That's the point... the new profiles can use color LUT's, so developers could potentially build the same kind of profiles to use within Lightroom. 
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Steve Lehman

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I use a professional Epson scanner which has all the adapters for slides and any film negatives even from 1951 Brownie forward.   Some professional Epson scanners are a little expensive but we splurge for our company.  They get a direct copy.  Then I run it through Silverfast.   Also, I have a slide scanner that has a multi-slide auto-feed, cuts time and payroll in half.  I have several cams and they have macro's but I never thought of copying slides that way.   Sounds like a long-time job.   
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Steve Lehman

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Victoria,  

I have LUTs in (my) full Photoshop.  Does (my) Light Room have it?   

About VueScan:   
VueScan is a favorite among us technicians when we don't have another "go-to", and we need a driver for an older scanner.   It works even better than the software that came with older scanners.   Lasersoft makes SilverFast - replicated from VueScan (somewhat) then was updated quite a bit.  VueScan has OCR built into its software.  The OCR scans to Word without hassles or imports documents directly to Word.   Images will jump right into PSE or Light Room.   VueScan knows color from gray scale, auto.  If you want to manipulate the best image as scanned, VueScan does the trick.   It's a generic software for scanners that lost their free software a scanner came with.  Initially it was provided free with older Epson scanners and older HP scanners.  

Hamerick provides Vuescan at http://www.hamrick.com/ - basic for 40 bucks, pro for 80 bucks.  Works on any Windows and any scanner make.  

Steve Lehman, mcse
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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The new profiles announced a week ago can include LUTs - and yes, then Lightroom 7.3 can use those new profiles. 
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Vbus

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Hi,
We’ve been digitizing all sort of documents over the past couple of years with a PhaseOne digital back system and color negative have always been the most tricky. The recent update of Camera Raw / Lightroom open-up great potential. You can now explit your own LUT for processing negative! We are heavily testing some solutions and are very pleased with the first results.

We have used (and still use) Silverfast solutions for color negative but the time require to "scan" negative is definitely prohibitive when compare to "shoot" negative. The only drawback until now was post-production, but the recent update eventually solve our problem. Our test recipe is to produce a LUT in Photoshop for a given type of film and then export the LUT (.cube) file to use it in ACR or Lightroom. The results and speed of processing are simply bluffing!
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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I've been using a DSLR color negative film copier setup for about five years now to speed processing. The #1 biggest issue preventing "properly" processing negative film in LR/ACR is the invert function. Yes you can flip the LR Tone Curve or even do that using the DNG Profile Editor (DPE) Tone Curve to create an "inverted" DNG profile, but then ALL of the LR controls operate bass-ackwards AND there some anomalies in the PV2012 Tone controls around the Black and White points. This is due to the fact that the controls work on shadow data quite differently than highlight data and ditto for noise reduction, which also works on shadow noise. The raw data would need to be processed first, inverted, and then placed in a separate bitmap for linking to the GUI controls. Given the current performance issues and implementation complexity Adobe is not likely to offer this capability any time soon in LR. Here's a six year old post with the request:

https://feedback.photoshop.com/photoshop_family/topics/inverting_in_camera_b_w_negative_scans_to_pos...

The 2nd issue is removing the orange mask in color negative film. The LR/ACR WB controls have enough range for some films, but not for films with a dense mask (older Kodacolor films and others). These films can be accommodated by  "offsetting" the White Balance settings in the camera profile using DPE.



Mark Segal and I wrote an article on Luminous Landscape titled 'Scannerless Digital Capture and Processing of Negative Film Photographs.' We describe the DSLR film capture and processing with Mark using SilverFast and I using a LR and PS action workflow. It's beyond the scope of this post to go into further detail, but you can down load the article and other materials to try the two processes for yourself here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/u5pnzbesvqen1hv/AABZyaWAn33jCwEinkT45iFAa?dl=0

Many  hours were spent in developing these two workflows and they both produce very high-quality color negative raw file image output. Pay your money and take your choice! My workflow uses LR only for mask removal with further processing done in PS with multiple curves layers. One of the layers is used with the 'Auto Color Correction Options,' which does a remarkably good job of "automatically" adjusting the RGB curves with very little additional adjusting required. LR does not have this capability! I've created an Excel data sheet with detailed "settings data" for numerous color negative film types.


Please feel free to send me a PM if you have any questions. Enjoy!
(Edited)
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Roy Burroughs

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I appreciate all the comments, suggestions and interest!  I will definitely be reading through Todd's article and workflow.  But it still makes me long for a simplified solution from Adobe with an invert feature with some preset LUT adjustments and sliders.  As robust as PS is, this seems like it would be fairly basic.
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Steve Lehman

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Hey Roy,  

In my business, PixSavers, (on the web) we mostly recover photos, negatives and slides.  We also do archival work.  The largest project we had was in 2014 when we had 9841 pieces of work for a Seattle family estate.   Much of it was pictures from all over the world as far back to 1951 as the slides back then were red, not just orange.  All of it was done with Photoshop, not with our SilverFast.  I didn't get SilverFast until it came with another company owned, expensive scanner in 2016.  I was able to recover all of them with the method which Todd gave you.  I will never forget the project numbers but doing the project in different way was not remembered until Todd mentioned it.   

Now I remember, I was using a 50 multi-thread slide scanner.  We were using a large flat-scanner, we call "Gargantuan".   We recovered each image to make sure each could be printed off the disc.   It was a long time to get 9841 pieces through our system.  The family estate recovery company, as we subcontracted, was delighted.   I think you will do well.   

Steve Lehman, mcse
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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Mark Segal is a long-time SilverFast user with considerable film scanning experience and scanner product knowledge. In the Luminous Landscape article we co-wrote Mark provides details on his workflow for processing camera captured color and B&W film images. I tested his workflow procedures and was able to get good results with my own DSLR camera capture setup and color negative films. I was also able to get as good or better results equally fast using my LR and PS workflow with the same color negative films. Having said that I would like to point out a few caveats.

SilverFast works quite well with scanner output files and has a large number of film profiles that allow quickly producing high-quality output. Unfortunately, these film profiles are scanner "model specific" and only one scanner model is supported in each purchased copy of the software. LaserSoft requires purchasing a "scanner specific" copy of the software for each scanner model you need to support. In addition profiles for many older film types (pre-1990) are not included and negative film doesn't age very well making available profiles less accurate over time.

To use SilverFast with camera generated film images you will need to purchase the more expensive HDR Archive Studio version of the software. On the plus side it will work with ANY camera captured film image, but only in TIFF file format. Camera raw files are NOT supported. In addition the film profiles are not usable with camera file output since they are designed specifically for scanner output files, which have different color characteristics and toning. You will merely choose the 'Other' selection for scanner model and film type, which uses a generic non-film specific profile. IMHO you've lost 50% of the software's built-in capability concerning "automating" the workflow. Yes, it does work as Mark demonstrates. If you already have a copy of SilverFast HDR software then I would certainly recommend trying it with your camera captured film images as Mark outlines. You can also download a Demo copy of HDR Archive Suite 8.

If you already have the Adobe Photography Plan that includes LR and PS then by all means try my workflow as well.
(Edited)

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