Lightroom/Camera Raw: Ability to invert negative scans to positives

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I would dearly like to see the Lightroom 4 Beta team implement an additional feature in the final release. That feature would be the ability to take a camera+macro lens image of a B&W negative -- essentially a camera-based scan of a negative -- and invert the negative image to a positive image at the beginning of the development process in such a way that the resulting sliders in the LR4 Develop Module would not operate in reverse. As I understand it, this capability exists in Photoshop, but I don't own Photoshop. I do own Photoshop Elements 9, but that program only supports an 8-bit workflow, not 16-bits per channel, and round-tripping between LR & PSE9 requires the reimportation of a TIFF file that is more than twice the size of my NEF RAW files. Since this programming wizardry already exists in Photoshop, I would think that it would be a relatively simple matter to transfer and adapt that code for LR4 -- but then, I'm not a programmer, so what do I know...

I've been digitizing 40-year-old Kodachrome slides from my Peace Corps days in Africa, using a 55mm Micro-Nikkor (macro) lens, coupled to a Nikon ES-1 Slide Copy Attachment, and even on a D300s body, I can get truly excellent results. I can't wait to continue that work using the pending 36 megapixel Nikon D800 body with an upgraded f/2.8 macro lens (mine is the old 55mm f/3.5 design). I really, REALLY want to be able to camera-scan my many B&W negatives without having to generate huge intermediate TIFF files.

You can respond to this request by emailing me, Jeff Kennedy Thanks, in advance, for taking the time to review and consider my request. I LOVE Lightroom 3, and from what I've seen, I'm going to love LR4 even more. I REALLY appreciate the effort that Adobe takes to solicit input from the photographic user community.

BTW, if the feature I request *can't* be implemented right away, could the LR support team provide detailed, interim instructions as to how to use the "backwards" sliders, and in what sequence? That would be very much appreciated. I'm sure many older LR users have considerable analog image collections that they would like to digitize, and doing so in-camera is both 1) of surprisingly high quality, 2) MUCH faster than using flatbed scanners and 3) of much higher quality and resolution than flatbed scan and MUCH cheaper than professional drum scans.
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Jeff Kennedy

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  • excited by the prospect of adding this feature

Posted 6 years ago

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benjamin wong

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I would also appreciate this feature as well as an extension to colour C41 film to remove the orange mask.
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jdv, Champion

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This capability exists in Lightroom already, because about the only way to do it is to use a develop preset.

You would have to cook up a preset for every process you want, of course.

See here (though there are others, if your web-fu is good):

http://www.lightroomforums.net/archiv...
http://photography-rod.blogspot.com/2...

Personally, I've found that the scanning software I use with the process/negative specific plugins makes perfectly good raw positives.
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Kaffeesegler

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Which scanning software do you use?
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Lee Jay

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The "right" was to implement this as a user is to develop a new profile using the DNG Profile Editor, which Adobe provides for free.
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Jeff Kennedy

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This is an amendment to my original post:

Everyone seems to be making this **way** too complicated. Look, at its heart, every digital image file is a matrix of rows and columns representing the illuminance values (e.g., 0 to 255 for an 8-bit file) for each pixel in the sensor (a physical matrix array of sencels). In a color file there are, in essence, three matrices, one each for R, G and B values. And yes, I know that there's a Bayer array of sub-sencels that makes it a bit more complex, but I'm simplifying here. That level of complexity doesn't change the basic concept.

In a B&W image, regardless of whether it's a negative or a positive image, the three matrices of R,G and B values are combined into a single set of gray-scale values using a weighting algorithm. (I'm simplifying here. NIK SilverEffex Pro allows the user to select how each R, G and B channel is weighted and combined to produce the final gray-scale matrix, but we don't need to concern ourselves with those details, here.)

In essence, to convert a B&W negative image to a positive image one merely needs to subtract each matrix value from 255 (assuming an 8-bit file for this discussion). Zero values become 255, values of 255 become zero, and so-on in a linear fashion for in-between values. It's simple, basic matrix math. I do mean "simple," and I do mean "basic." The only complexity may be the different formats that proprietary RAW formats use to store the matrices, but these differences are certainly well-known, otherwise current development adjustments could not be done. This is not rocket science.

Once that simple matrix subtraction process is done, one need only decide whether to save the result as a virtual copy, or as an overwrite of the original file (in appropriate RAW format, without changing other RAW data, of course). The user could select which option they prefer via simple check boxes. The user then proceeds to use the regular development sliders **in normal fashion** on the virtual copy or the overwritten file from there on out. Problem solved....

Adobe, please don't force your users to tie themselves in knots with kludgy solutions, when a simple and elegant solution clearly exists, as it does in Photoshop. The basic problem is that you (Adobe) need to decide that this functionality is a high enough priority to devote limited programmer resources to its solution. That's where feedback from the user community plays an important role. If you're a user who really wants this functionality, then you need to let Adobe know that you want it. It's that simple.

Just FYI, I have a BS in Physics (UC Davis, 1969) and I'm all-but-dissertation for a Ph.D. in vegetation ecology (also UC Davis), where I worked extensively with matrices of species=by-plot and environmental variables-by-plot data. I also managed projects to produce digital vegetation maps using low-elevation (airplane platform) digital imagery. I am familiar with matrix mathematics/algebra in the analysis of both types of data matrices.
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Lee Jay

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Jeff, writing a profile is much less "kludgy" than inverting. You can invert already just by inverting the tone curve in point curve mode (put the lower left point in the upper left and the upper right point in the lower right).
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Christian Hogue

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we want an Invert! not have to do this "workaround"
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Keith Reeder

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"We" DON'T want an invert. Maybe YOU do...
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Walker Blackwell

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There's always a ton of people looking to get Lightroom to do more than it was built for. This is because the database/organization in Lightroom is the best game in town. We all gravitate to it and want to put all our files there. So here's another request from left field that might not be so wild.

I would like to see an Invert button, RGB/LaB curves, RGB Levels, and Linear raw editing in Lightroom. I know I know. It's not the way Lightroom works; Lightroom is for raw cameras, etc,etc.

BUT!

1. Nobody is making scanners anymore.
2. There are billions of pieces of film that still need to be scanned.
3. 21 megapixels (and up) + a 100mm prime macro lens do a handy-dandy job of copying 35mm film at 4000dpi resolution. (Hass. just came out with a 200mpx camera. It is drum scanner like.)

So . . . . soon (like in 4 or 5 years) this will be the way pros (and LOC, and a handful of major archives) scan film. And the software that will support those raw files? Right now it's Bibble 5. Lightroom doesn't have acceptable chromatic control.

If Lightroom could interpret a RAW file in a Linear fashion (ie: not messing with L and saturation values but keeping them in line), and give us RGB curves and levels, we could very quickly build out neg profiles based on published Gamma curves for various films types. This would quickly make LR the defacto input workflow for both camera scanning and raw tiff files from every scanner out there. It already works perfectly for BW film. What about color negs?

The raw controls that LR has, already, would make it superior to all other scan invert apps. Stacking Recovery or Fill control on top of a perfectly inverted raw color negative scan would be very sweet indeed.

This would also have the effect of making Lightroom the main starting point for any photographic workflow. It would quickly populate through every fine art photo department in the country (yes, cneg film is still a part of the curriculum). A vast new generation of students would be introduced to Lightroom as a required software just like Photoshop. Right now ACR is free. Why pay for Lightroom?

The "raw scan" competition is Bibble5, Silverfast, and Flexcolor. All 3 of these applications don't interact with Photoshop in any meaningful way and Bibble is the only one capable of interpreting raw camera scans.

My two cents,
Walker Blackwell

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom and Negatives.
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Jeff Kennedy

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Thanks, Walter, for your well-crafted arguments. Apparently Adobe doesn't read their own user forum posts, because I've received exactly **zero** response from Adobe on my post.
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Tim Reeves

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This feature still hasn't been implemented

There's still hundreds of articles talking about work arounds and expensive third party colour profiles.

Come on Adobe, there's literally no reason to not implement this feature.
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Keith Reeder

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"Come on Adobe, there's literally no reason to not implement this feature"

Yes there is - most people don't want or need this.
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Tim Reeves

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Invert feature in lightroom request (or stackable LR edit layers!).

Can we get an invert button in lightroom?

There are countless people using lightroom to digitise film negatives, and with the meteoric rise of DSLR scanning rigs this number of people is only set to rise.

Can we PLEASE get an "invert" button that allows all the other features such as white balance, fill lights, etc to work NORMALLY, the often given answer of "Just invert your tone curve" is wholly insufficient due to how it interacts with lightrooms other tools.

Alternatively can we allow colour profiles to be applied concurrently so we can use one "layer" to un-invert and another "layer" to do corrections from there. Some sort of stacked topography that works in the library is desperately needed to fix the mess from exporting to and from between PS and LR. By incorporating a stacked, layered work flow of physical and non physical (PS& LR) edits it would add to the usability of the adobe suite greatly.

Alternatively, just an invert button, it's not a tricky job!
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Rick Schuster

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Please add an invert button, Adobe! It would be such a simple solution this problem. I'm only "scanning" black and white negs right now (digital camera, macro lens), so the inversion isn't terribly complex, and I easily created a preset to invert the tone curve on import. But it's a pain to have to work with the tone curve and all the basic adjustments backwards.
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Wayne Gisel

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I too vote for an invert button. However, this thread has been going for four years with no response (yea or nay) from Adobe.
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Keith Reeder

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Because there are hardly any posts supporting it.

New features are a popularity contest, and this is clearly not a very popular request.
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Thomas Kaae Colding

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I and a lot of my fellow photography friends are desperate for an invert button that doesn't destroy the rest of the adjustment sliders ....sigh :(

Cheers
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Rick Schuster

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I've resigned myself to the fact that this will probably not happen, so I've been trying to figure out the best workflow around this problem. I thought I had it figured out by using the DNG Profile Editor app (free download from Adobe) to create a custom camera profile that had an inverted curve. It was easier to do than I expected, and at first seemed to work great -- I created a Lightroom preset with the new camera profile applied, and when imported into Lightroom with that preset applied, the images came in already inverted, and the tone curve looked normal, not flipped. Hurray! But I quickly learned there was a problem -- all the sliders still work backwards. Drat! My hopes of an easy solution were dashed, so I decided to create an automated 'droplet' app in Photoshop to simply invert images and re-save them (I'm working just with black & white negs at the moment, by the way). This is easier if using JPGs than raw files, and after some experimentation I decided that I don't need raw images anyway -- my JPGs are nearly indistinguishable from the raw files, and dslr-scanned negs have little dynamic range, so there's really no need for me to shoot raw. So now I can simply drag a whole folder of images onto my photoshop droplet, and all the images will be automatically inverted and re-saved, then I can import the already-inverted images into Lightroom. There's lots of info out there about batch-processing in Photoshop so I won't go into detail, but you just create an action, then File>Automate>Create Droplet.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Another way to speed the workflow, entirely within LR: Use a develop preset that inverts the tone curve. Then use an export preset that exports an image back into the catalog as a 16-bit TIFF, stacking it on top of the original.

To invert a batch of photos, select all of them in the Library. Then from the Quick Develop menu, select the develop preset. Then right click the images and do Export > your export preset . The inverted images will be stacked on top of the originals.

Perhaps not as convenient as having an option in Develop, but it gets the job done with just a few clicks.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Note that the develop sliders will now work as expected with respect to the positive image.
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Rick Schuster

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Brilliant!
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joe picard

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled scanned negatives in LR.

I'd love to have an invert or negative check box in LR. This would be very helpful for working with scanned B&W film as DNG. While your at it if there was a color negative tool for inverting colors and removing color cast from scanned color negative film as DNG you'd make even more friends!
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Fredrik Persson

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Camera Raw: Possibility to invert image for handling film negatives..

It would be great with an "Invert"-button/command in Camera Raw, when working with reproducing negatives, (shot by camera instead of scanned) otherwise you have to do more of the correction/editing in Photoshop.
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Jeff Kennedy

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled B&W Negative-to-Positive Inversion on LR4 RAW Import of a Camera-based Neg "Scan"....

I don't own Photoshop, only Lightroom 4. I want to digitize hundreds of 40-year-old legacy B&W negatives, using a Nikon D4 or D800E, a macro lens and a Nikon ES-1 slide copy attachment. I want to maintain a 16-bit B&W RAW (NEF) workflow. No roundtripping a super-large TIFF file LR4 > PS > LR4. I want the equivalent of a Photoshop Filters > Adjustments > Invert option at the **beginning** of my RAW workflow, so that I can process a positive image, rather than a negative image, ideally with all the sliders working as if the starting image was a B&W positive image to begin with. Ideally, this could be implemented as a RAW image import preset. Let me know if this functionality can be added: Jeff Kennedy Thanks!
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Thomas Geist

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Lightroom Point Curves - extend their universal use.

The requests for more precise point curves, possibly with a larger display as well as levels in other threads are is not so far fetched. I want to add another little function to it, that would prpbably be super easy to include (even in its late state as a public Beta): invert.

Why all this? Take a look here: http://theagnosticprint.org/future-of...

Considering all the tools and functions LR already has, it's just a small step short of being the #1 software for dealing with negatives. "Not much film shot these days" you say? True, but there are vast amounts of negatives out there waiting to be digitized. Read this article and you will understand. The scanning days (especially in the higher end segment) are cming to an end since the hardware starts dying down and replacement and sewrvice is not much lnger availavble.

Still there is a huge legacy of negatives out there, some of it of incredible importance. Digitizing via DSLRs / MF camera backs seems to be the way to go. Ans LR has almost everything needed to be the tool for it. again - the article makes my point clear.
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Gunter Sommerfeld

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Lightroom: Need inversion of scanned negatives to positives.

Lightroom is useless because it doesn't handle B&W negatives of which I have over 5000. (it lacks the inversion facility to get a positive image)
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Thomas Geist

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Gunter, just invert the curve and you're done. You can even save an inverted curve as a Preset.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Thomas Geist wrote, "Gunter, just invert the curve and you're done."

There are two serious issues with this:

1. After inverting the tone curve, the other sliders work backwards, which is confusing if you also work with positives.

2. Due to the non-linear nature of the Develop module's image-adaptive controls, inverting the tone curve gives much different results than doing the inversion in Photoshop. See this thread for more details: https://forums.adobe.com/message/8067...
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Mike Fraser

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Two (very) simple Lightroom requests for film photographers.

Two simple requests for Lightroom:

1. An 'Invert' command. Many of us use Lightroom to manage our film scans, and currently have to go through Photoshop to invert (CMD-I) to process our negatives. Staying within LR for this would be hugely helpful (reversing the RGB curves works, but results in all of the sliders working backward).

2. A per-channel 'Auto' button for RGB curves. One of the key parts of converting colour negative film scans to positive is to correct for the orange film mask, and this involves maximizing per-channel contrast (and snapping the neutral mid tones). This currently requires a roundtrip into Photoshop.

Adding these two features would make Lightroom THE preeminent tool for processing film scans (other RAW processors do offer per channel contrast maximization, but not invert). Photoshop would still be used for other important tasks, but the primary workflow could be entirely within Lightroom.
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jim van kennen

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it would/will be great. the work rounds are arduous. thanks
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maxpierson

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Yup. This seems like a simple fix that would be hugely helpful for my workflow
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Mark McGillivray

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This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled Invert Colours.

Can you please add a simple "Invert Colours" function to the develop module? I take a lot of Solargraph images which I then scan as a paper negative and its frustrating to load them into Photoshop only to invert colours - since LR develop module has much more intuitive funcionality for the remainder of my processing
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Henrik Olsen

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I too would love an invert feature when using my DSLR for scanning film negatives into raw files for later edits all within LR. As pointed out many places, inverting the tone curve is not that useful, as many other treatment controls are then inverted, and making contrast adjustments in tone curve is also still inverted.

The solution to export and reimport tiffs with an invert curve preset is noted though as a workaround. But I like to have only my raw files if possible, nothing else - hence the wish for an invert switch in the develop module. Thanks.

If anyone else could use this feature, remember to vote at the top of this page.
(Edited)