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. https://www.negativelabpro.com/  
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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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Linwood Ferguson

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Steve, what people are asking for is for Lightroom to invert the tone curve early enough in the develop process that the sliders work correctly afterwards.  I think we all realize we can drop out of ACR/LR and invert and save as a TIFF -- but it's SO nice to have a non-destructive workflow with efficiently sized files.  

The mechanics are mostly there -- you can do this with manual inversion, but because it is late in the process the sliders are then all strange, and features like facial recognition, red-eye fix simply do not work.
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Steve Lehman

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You know what Linwood?  I don't really care if I need to click 10 times as long as it works.  I can understand that red eye does not work, and facial stuff does not work, but if the invert works then it works.  Nobody likes to click so many times, but I am a software engineer, used to clicking many times for everything I achieve and I do not complain about a few clicks as long as it works.  We code, and when we do it takes somewhat 3 to 7 characters to make one thing work.  So I don't complain about how many times I need to hit my keys.  We hit our keys so much, we use gaming keys which are heavy duty and we type 110.  Extra hits don't mean anything to me.  
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Linwood Ferguson

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Steve, not sure which direction you mean.  If you mean that you don't mind going through the invert-to-positive-TIFF, OK, I get it.  And that indeed works fine, just more disk, more circuitous. But it works.  If that's your desire, great.  Doesn't mean that is the only possibility.

If you mean more work in LR to invert manually, it's more than just more work -- it breaks valuable features.   If you take that argument to the extreme, why use lightroom at all, just do everything in bridge and photoshop.  Many of us have been there, it works fine, it's just a lot of work.  Adobe knows how to fix it, they have said so.  It just isn't on the top of their list.

LR became so popular by being a convenient, non-destructive workflow.  Being able to do the inversion properly as a part of the LR workflow would be a useful addition to many of us.  Like other things ... say books for me... it might not get used by others.  But I suspect none of us use all of lightroom. 
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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"Extra hits don't mean anything to me."

Steve, but it does to everyone else replying in this post. What you're suggesting is a destructive workflow. The request being made here is for a true raw data invert function internal to LR that does not break the non-destructive workflow.
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Eric Bowles

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Agreed - the whole point of LR is to have an efficient, non-destructive workflow.  IF a plug-in from another company can handle this feature, it's a prime candidate for Adobe to add this feature to LR.  While I own Elements, the last thing I want to do is needlessly have to create a TIFF and go to Elements to edit a basic negative.
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Robert Somrak, Champion

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I watched the plugin you linked to and it inverts the Tone Curve too, just like the kludge we have now.  
(Edited)
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Among other things, Negative Lab Pro provides setting sliders that work as expected (i.e. it re-inverts the sliders), ameliorating the simple hack of inverting tone curves. (But still not as good as having it built-in.)
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Steve Lehman

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You have your way and I have mine.  I don't mind working with PSE.  It will launch from LR and yes, I have LR and PSE in many versions, plus 5 others.  I am patient enough to wait for it to launch.  I heard all this the first time and didn't need 5 of you to tell me the same repeat of what Linwood said.  Thanks Linwood for your feedback.  
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Anthony Blackett

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I have already demonstrated a year ago, with an example posted in this discussion, just how poor a result you get for digitised colour negatives using the round trip of Lightroom RAW to Photoshop TIFF and back to Lightroom TIFF.

All that is being asked for is the addition of native Lightroom functions to (1) Invert a colour image and (2) remove the orange Colour Mask. These need to be separate functions so that digitised B&W negatives can also be handled. Both must be applied early in the RAW processing pipeline to allow Lr Develop adjustments to work correctly. Including these two functions in Lr would allow users to maintain an uninterrupted RAW workflow for Lr processing of 'camera scanned' colour and B&W film/glass plate/etc. negatives.

I think that most Lr users who have contributed to this discussion over the past 8 years are very well aware that PS and PSE have an invert function, so continuing to suggest this as a viable alternative is not helpful.


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Steve Lehman

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LR was made to work with Elements as well.  And, Elements can convert RAW to TIFF with a DNG converter.  Also, having the full Photoshop you do not need LR or Elements DNG to convert RAW to TIFF.  And working with both apps is not a problem with most of us professionals who have many apps to work with.  But having the many apps as the rest of us do, WE don't need LR or Elements.  But we have them and WE know how to manipulate them further than you have described. 

So it's no skin off my nose.  I can get along with MY Photoshop very well, as the rest of us are more experienced.  Eight years?  I have been using Adobe products since 1992.  I was also on the Microsoft team when we developed PictureIT which was a bomb.  Before that I was on loan to Adobe as test engineer.  It was either that or be sent to marketing to teach technology which I did later anyway.  That's where the send ya when you're busy teaching the other engineers in development.  I am NOT in Adobe's development team, now.  

We don't have to be a rocket scientist to work these apps just have enough patience to work them.  I have intense patience.  The rest of you appear to not have that.  AND I will say what I want according to the 1st Amendment but thanks for the opp.  

Steve Lehman Windows MCSE engineer   
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Jerry Syder

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But why is it such a big issue if Adobe add the functionality in LR? Wouldn't that be easier for all instead of living with a workaround? Why is it being protested? It's not a bad thing to want a better way? If/ when this is provided and some feel the need to be less efficient, then they can continue to do so. 
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Steve Lehman

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LR was meant as an add-on for Elements and Photoshop - not to keep adding functions onto it as if it was the only app to use.  In LR every setting is in half-steps compared to Photoshop so you get more to use, as you can dim or brighten in half steps. 

A link was added between LR and Photoshop.  LR remains to be what it is, an added measure to blend colors better.  Photoshop should be the one to use for your camera and LR should be your advanced blender or digital developer.  Those who have LR don't know how its to be utilized with the other Adobe apps.  You need to reach out to other apps to make everything work for you.  

Your question is like saying, why can't we have Windows as a slave to another package say, Word?  We can have Word be the go-to for EVERYTHING and Windows will just be out there somewhere for some other reason.    

The answer to that is, exact that.  Windows is out there - tying in all the apps to make all of them work together.  If you had ALL of the Office Production products from Microsoft, you would see lots of tools that do things you never thought of before.  It's the same as Photoshop or Elements tying all of the other apps together with it. 

Thing is, a lot of you are complaining because you never learned how to use them together.  Now you only want ONE to work everything for you when it should be the other way around. 

LR alone is NOT a useful tool compared to Elements and Photoshop and should have all of them working for you, together.  LR is lacking in many ways and none of you have really found the best of the two types of apps.  None of you have seen Elements in the same way the rest of us have.  Maybe you got used to the Elite class of Elements but never got to the PRO or advance class to know all the tools in Elements and especially a full version of Photoshop which has all of it in one app combined.   

Some of you have and you are still complaining that you are lacking tools which you probably haven't seen before which are actually in Photoshop.  If all of you had a full version of Photoshop you would find ALL of the tools there, like in Elements but MORE plus a converter for RAW to TIFF right in Photoshop.  DARE to spend more money for something greater- to get tools you will never have in Elements and you will NEVER have in LR. 

But all of you don't want to spend any money for them.  And THAT'S the real problem.  You'd rather have one that is cheaper.  Then you want it to be added onto so you can keep the cheap app and not spend any money. 

Adobe didn't push you into buying apps. YOU did.  But none of you are getting all of the tools you are looking for because you have never seen the full Photoshop.  If you had, you would NOT complain about ANYTHING and you would have ALL of the tools to do EVERYTHING.   

I'm not selling you apps.  I am settling a problem that you created by only using ONE app and getting so intense into it, that you won't buy another.  And you know they all work together but you don't want to spend the money to get the extra tools you want.  

So here's the bottom line - nobody is going to shape your app into a custom app that only YOU want.  No developer is going to work into it something other than it is already.  If you want more, you need to buy it because it is already made for you. Spend more money to get what you want.  Stop trying to manipulate a developer into putting something into LR that is already out there, in another app.   

SL
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Thomas Geist

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There's a famous quote:

"That's your opinion, man."

You keep writing long and tiring novels about how YOU think people are supposed to work with LR and what features they get to ask for this tool.

Well, that's your opinion, man.

There are tons of users who use LR and choose not to use any other software in conjunction with it. Their choice. And they are absolutely entitled to ask for additional features in the software of their choice that they pay for to use.

So why do you waste your and our time  on a thread that some users set up to ask for this?
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john beardsworth

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"LR was meant as an add-on for Elements and Photoshop"

No it wasn't. And brevity is a virtue.

While I might be moderately-pleased if Lightroom did have an inversion feature that kept sliders working naturally, those who want it should also remember that LR was deliberately designed for a digital-to-digital workflow. And just 59 votes after almost a decade is a pretty good indication of the request's likely future....
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Anthony Blackett

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I'm not convinced that the me-too votes mean all that much.

Here is an idea with 61 me-too votes that has been implemented:

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

I think there are some features that have been added to Lightroom over the years that nobody even asked for! Flat field correction changing from a plugin to being part of the Lr core comes to mind! I'm not saying that is bad, it's actuall good for users, just it doesn't seem to have anything to do with an idea's me-too count.
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Linwood Ferguson

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Adobe didn't push you into buying apps. YOU did.  But none of you are getting all of the tools you are looking for because you have never seen the full Photoshop.  If you had, you would NOT complain about ANYTHING and you would have ALL of the tools to do EVERYTHING.
The one critical difference is a raw, non-destructive workflow for all of us who are imaging negatives not the classic way of a scanner but with a camera and macro lens.   One can (with a bunch of layers) do a non-destructive inverted workflow in Photoshop, but not one from raw. 

Now... I think it's a reasonable question whether we are getting true value from maintaining raw (other than some saved disks space -- quite a lot actually if you use layers ).  But if there's a way to do this in Photoshop, please share. 

Incidentally most people I know who have discussed this have the photography plan with classic so they do have Photoshop.  I really don't think this is a cost issue, I think some of us who do raw for 98% of our normal work, would like to do it for negatives also.   

Maybe THAT is a mis-placed devotion, but please do not assume it is because we don't have, or don't know how to use, the other tools. 
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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.
(Edited)
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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.