How to Convert Color Photo Negatives With Photoshop

Written by faith alessio
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In the past 10 years, film cameras have become far less popular because digital cameras are so convenient. As a result, fewer people print photos from film. Even professional photographers have many high quality digital camera options. But what about those film negatives you found in an envelope in the attic? Or what if you've lost original photo prints but you've kept the negatives? It's good to know how to convert your own negatives into printable colour photos.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Colour Scanner
  • Adobe Photoshop

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  1. 1

    When you set up your scanner, make sure your options are set correctly. Optimally, you should scan at 300 DPI or better, and in full colour. You can scan the negatives separately or scan several at a time. Be sure to save the files to your computer in an accessible place.

  2. 2

    Open the files in Adobe Photoshop. To convert a negative, simply find Image > Adjustments > Invert in your menu. Better yet, use a keyboard shortcut: Command+I if you are using a Mac, Control+I on Windows.

  3. 3

    Colour-correct your photograph. When inverting from a negative, the image's colour can turn out strangely, especially if the negative is old and somewhat faded. The most common problem is an orange or yellow cast. Use the Color Balance and Selective Color tools, accessible in the Image > Adjustments menu, to fine-tune colour. Each of these tools opens a dialogue box with sliders, menus and settings. You can type in settings, use presets, or pull the sliders around to see what looks right for your image. If you're in a hurry, use the Auto Color and Auto Tone functions, also in the Image menu. These may not be the best choices, though, because computer programs, no matter how sophisticated, can misinterpret colour information when using automatic functions.

  4. 4

    Save your files in the TIFF or JPG format. TIFF files keep the quality of your image static, but they take up a great deal of space on your hard drive. JPG files are much smaller, but each time you save them a small amount of colour information is lost. You choose whether disk space or image quality is more important.

Tips and warnings

  • Some scanners actually have settings for scanning negatives. If your scanner supports those settings, you don't need to use Photoshop.
  • Watch out for slight discolouration in the inverted negatives. It can be hard to notice, but can be fixed easily in Photoshop.

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