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Dutchess_III's avatar

Is there any way to electronically develop a negative?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42477points) October 12th, 2015

I’ve come across a couple of negatives in this box of pictures I’m working on. It seems like some place, somewhere, in some photo manipulating place online, I once saw an option to “reverse colors.”


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19 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They make scanners just for this, they’ll adjust the colors as you scan the negatives. Much easier than trying to do it in photoshop

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. Expensive?

zenvelo's avatar

You can get a very good scanner that can do this easily for under $75. Look for one that includes a negative tray.

Or, you could take it to your local camera store, if you have one nearby. The one in our town is now called *Click*Scan*Share.

Dutchess_III's avatar

$75 would be well worth it!

jerv's avatar

This may sound silly, but there is a chance Walmart or some other drug store could help. While many only do printouts from digital cameras, there are still a few that do more; things like film processing and slide scanning.

Once you get it digitized, the sky is the limit.

BTW, I had a little fun with your avatar.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Walmart did that as early as last year for me. The thing is…I have boxes and boxes and BOXES of negatives from the 80’s on. They’ve all been developed at one time, but some of my favorite ones are missing. That’s what made me go “hmmmmm” about getting a printer.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I like what you did with my avatar! Can you clean up old pics? Wait..weren’t we just talking about that on FB, but your son was getting married the following month….?

jerv's avatar

I love XnView.

I have been known to clean up old pics; color balancing, adjusting lighting, maybe a little noise reduction. And I found XnView to be handy for that sort of thing as it isn’t the clunky overkill that GIMP is.

“Wait..weren’t we just talking about that on FB, but your son was getting married the following month….?”

I know that wasn’t directed at me!

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, so it wasn’t you! It was some jelly tho. But thanks for the link!

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jerv I’m playing in that program, fooling around with this pic….all I’ve done so far is turn it to stone. Sigh. Can you point me in the right direction, please?

jerv's avatar

I generally start by adjusting the Brightness/Contrast/Gamma/Color balance. It’s all one dialog box with a few sliders that you can access either from the menu (under Image—> Adjust…) or from a button that looks like some test bars above a slider.

Old photos tend to turn yellow. I initially attempted to just “cheat” and convert it to greyscale to counter this, but that wound up putting holes in the image as the computer couldn’t figure out the best shade of grey to use. Cranking up the slider on Blue tends to counter yellowing quite well.

Age also reduces contrast as the blacks lighten and the whites darken. A little tweaking of the Gamma and Contrast got me a picture with more definition that is generally greyscale, as a black-and-white photo should be. Gamma basically changes the darkness of medium shades without making whites whiter or blacks darker.

For certain sliders, it only takes a minor tweak to have a huge effect on the picture. On the sliders that go -100 to +100, I rarely go past about 30 points from center. Also, when I use those, I generally make sure the “Apply to image” box is checked so I can see the results in real-time as opposed to changing it, closing the box, finding out it’s wrong, and repeating that process about 27 times.

I wound up using Contrast 30, Gamma 0.80, and Blue 20 and got this. The brown stains are more prominent though, but that sort of thing is better handled with GIMP and takes long enough that you’ll quickly find out why those who retouch images for a living charge so much for their services. A filter is quick and easy, but manual touch-ups like those required to handle those cracks where the photo was folded take considerable time and effort.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thank you very much. It is clearer. I’ve saved this in my fluther files. I’ll play around again tomorrow.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Comparing the picture to the original, there really is an amazing difference!

jerv's avatar

That’s pretty much all that needs doing for photos that aren’t cracked or stained. That one box is the only thing I used to spruce up some old photos a neighbor of mine took in Vietnam.

The basics really are that simple; a little blue to undo the yellowing, a little Contrast to counter fading, a little Gamma to balance out the tones/shades that are lighter than black but darker than white, and maybe a little adjustment to Brightness. Color photos may take a little tweaking to the Red and Green as well, but you’ll usually wind up adding Blue anyways. I have yet to re-do an old (>20 years) photo that didn’t wind up adding blue.

The only time it gets tricky is when you get into the more detail-oriented work like filters (some images look better with a little blurring/softening) or adjusting only a spot instead of the whole image, as is needed to get rid of cracks. Just the simple adjustments to lighting and color will do at least 90% of the job though, so it’s kind of optional whether you get tricky or not; it isn’t a mandatory complication for good retouch work.

Dutchess_III's avatar

40 GA’s, Jerv. Thank you. I’ll be doing my homework tomorrow, Teach.


Every picture I’ve had taken of me since I hit 40 looks better a little blurred. :( Except a slew my husband took the other day, of my cousin and me when we were visiting. I was astonished at how pretty I was. Still trying to puzzle that one out.

jerv's avatar

For anything made of paper, it kind of is. Especially if that paper contains chemicals like inks or dyes. Dyes are inherently a bit unstable, which is why some recordable CDs lose their data after a few years; they use a dye and after a while it discolors enough that the laser can no longer reliably tell the 1s from the 0s. So “old” is relative and context-sensitive.

Dutchess_III's avatar

As far as I know, all negatives are made of plastic.

jerv's avatar

Was thinking photos since that one I retouched was a photo, not a negative.

Negatives have similar chemicals.While the plastic is far less affected by time, the colors will still change.

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