How to convert color negatives to digital prints

Written by louise balle
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A colour negative is the reel of film that you produce when you take pictures using a standard, old-fashioned camera that takes full colour shots. If you prefer to use this type of camera, you can convert a colour negative into a standard digital photo print using Adobe Photoshop's inversion feature. You can then use your digital print to post online, share with friends via e-mail, or add to your custom designs in Photoshop.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Colour negatives (film) from your camera
  • Scanner and corresponding software
  • Adobe Photoshop

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  1. 1

    Have the camera film developed at a supermarket, pharmacy or one-hour photo location first, then use the negatives that the developer includes with the prints.

  2. 2

    Scan each colour negative strip into your computer as you would any normal photo. Be sure to set your scanner so it produces a high-resolution computer image at 300 dpi (dots per inch) or higher. Scanner settings differ by the device brand, but see "Resources" for general guidance.

  3. 3

    Save the scanned image file as a JPEG, then open the file in Adobe Photoshop.

  4. 4

    Use the "Rectangular Marquee" tool (located on the "Tools" window) to select the first photo on the negative strip. Press "CTRL + C" to copy the photo to your application clipboard.

  5. 5

    Select "File" then "New" on the Photoshop menu---a dialogue box will pop-up. Change the resolution to 300 dpi or greater if it is not already preset at that number. Set the "colour mode" to RGB if you plan to use the digital picture on the web only, or to CMYK if you plan to print it at some point. Click "OK" to create the new file.

  6. 6

    Paste the first photo image to this new file ("CTRL + V").

  7. 7

    Click "Image" then "Adjustments" on the Photoshop main menu. Select "Invert." The negative will invert to the correct colours for the photograph (or something very close).

  8. 8

    Adjust the colours of your newly inverted photograph if you wish. Click "Image" then "Adjustments" and finally "Levels..." This will bring up a tool that allows you to adjust the colouring. Click the "Auto" button to optimise the look of the photo.

  9. 9

    Print the digital image from Photoshop and save it to your computer.

  10. 10

    Repeat steps 4 through 9 to convert all of your images from the colour negative.

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