Lightroom/Camera Raw: Ability to invert negative scans to positives (color and black-and-white)

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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 8 years ago

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Anthony Blackett

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So very disappointed that another update (Lr Classic 8.4) comes along with no sign of any implementation of a negative/invert setting that will allow users to process DSLR scanned negatives with ALL controls functioning normally.

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Antoine Hlmn

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They do not take photographers feedback very seriously, you know :/
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Steve Lehman

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To get a Negative to a Positive in PSE, click Filters>   Adjustment>   Invert.  
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Roelof Moorlag

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This is not the solution all these people waiting for. Did you read their posts?
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Romualdas Budriūnas

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Please, please support working with negatives! All the workarounds for working with negatives (inverted curves, LUT profiles, plugins like NegativeLabPro) break some essential functions of Lightroom Classic, for example, face detection doesn't work on such images.

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Eric Bowles

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There is obviously a need for this function.  A third party has developed a plug-in - Negative Lab Pro - to convert negatives to positives.  
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Steve Lehman

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Eric, Romualdas, Anthony

I gave you this solution, above:  Get Photoshop Elements (PSE) which works with Light Room. 

In Elements, go to Filters > Adjustments > invert.  That will invert your negatives to positives.  And, yes, Adobe is reading and learning from you.  

Steve Lehman, mcse   

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Jerry Syder

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I still don’t get why it bothers you so much, Steve. Is it going to be detrimental to your workflow and have a negative impact on you if they did this? If not, then why block others that want it. If you don’t want to use it, then don’t. The whole argument as to what was intended for what is besides me. We live in a progressive world where we move forward. I don’t think it’s for anyone to argue what was intended by Adobe, that’s their say and either way, a successful company has a development department and desire to move forward(read have to) and embraces requests like these. Do you remember the transition between horses to cars? And well, now we’re pushing through the next phase which is electric cars. If you or anyone else want to live in the Stone Age and not reinvent and not progress, that’s up to you. DON’T hinder others.
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Romualdas Budriūnas

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The whole point of Lightroom is non-destructive RAW workflow. All workarounds - Photoshop, PSE, conversion to TIFF by NegativeLabPro or Ligthroom itself, are destructive ways (you will need to repeat next steps if you want to change what you did in previous step). It's not for DSLR scanning only, traditional scanner with VueScan RAW DNG format would also need this. Regarding disk space, no problem with a single image converted to TIFF or PSD. But for not very large photo archive of 10 000 images, storage in redundant TIFFs instead of just original RAW file may mean some TB of excess space (multiply that by number of backups you make).
Solution might be not that complicated - just change the order when Camera profile  LUT is applied - it should be in the beginning of RAW processing pipeline, not the end. In the end, it is essentially artistic effect, not camera profile. (I understand that in a complex product like LR is, any change in the code is not simple).
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Jeff Stovall

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Just wanted to put in a plug here for Negative Lab Pro. It is a fantastic conversion tool for color negatives and retains the raw workflow-it is entirely non-destructive. You are somewhat forced to use the adjustment tools built into NLP because the inverted negatives are so sensitive to color adjustments, but the conversion happens entirely using Lightroom's own raw adjustment capabilities. It allows you to go back into the interface at any time and make further adjustments on the raw image, just like Lightroom. You only export the converted file to a TIFF if you want to make further edits in Photoshop or other external editor.

And using the Invert command in an external editor does not make a usable, quality conversion of a color film negative.
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Linwood Ferguson

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And using the Invert command in an external editor does not make a usable, quality conversion of a color film negative.
I like and use Negative Lab Pro, but I think the last statement is more a function of technique and skill.  What NLP is doing under the cover is nothing different than inverting editing the R, G, and B tone curves separately in Photoshop.  Indeed, I would argue that you have more capabilities in PS because once done you have a lot more tools for restoration as well as color.

I certainly agree that simply inverting the master (combined) tone curve without adjusting color clipping will yield basically a mess that is hard to clean up.  Sites that recommend just doing that are along the lines of ones that say "just set your camera to auto and push the shutter release".   Not exactly wrong, but... 
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Romualdas Budriūnas

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You only export the converted file to a TIFF if you want to make further edits in Photoshop or other external editor.
Not just for external editing. Many functions within Ligthroom become broken (doesn't work at all or act too weird to be used) on inverted photos: Face recognition, CA correction, Dehaze, Split Tone corrections, HSL corrections.