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A Preset For Using Negatives in Aperture

This one came from a request from the “Ask a question” page. A reader was wondering how you convert negatives inside of Aperture. I immediately thought to myself, what an interesting question! There’s no “invert” adjustment and no negative presets built in. In the immortal words of Barney Stinson – “Challenge Accepted”!

Of course, it’s easy enough to invert an image using the curves tool, but there’s more to it than that, as negatives have an orange backing and are not just an inverted positive. So I dusted off my old film scanner that I haven’t used in quite a while, and after searching for a while to find all the parts, and to find compatible software to get it working under Lion, (thank you Vue Scan) I scanned some negatives and worked out the best way to do it. It was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be but in the end I was able to re-create what I believe is near enough to the correct results.

Here’s the thing though – you shouldn’t have to use this. If you’re scanning images yourself, you should always use your scanner’s “negative” function. This has the necessary colour adjustments built into the software and you will end up with a positive image. Most, if not all scanners capable of scanning film should have this function. Still, I can concede that you might have some images that were scanned incorrectly and you need to fix them, so feel free to use these presets – but be aware that they are not the best option.

I’ve taken some scans of some old film I had (from 1997 I believe) and they’re of noting particularly interesting, but it should give you an idea. For the purposes of this excersise I scanned them twice, once as a positive, and again correctly as a negative. I then used the correct negative scan to use as a reference to get the image right


Here’s a negative scanned as a positive

Scan 120102 0004

Here’s the same image, scanned as a negative using the scanner’s built in negative function.

Scan 120102 0005

Here’s the result of my adjustments in Aperture to “fix” the first image above to be correctly displayed.

Scan 120102 0003

Here’s another example – this one has been scanned correctly in the scanner software…

Scan 120102 0002  Version 2

…. and here’s the Aperture version using the preset to correct a version with the negative scanned as a positive. Confused yet?

I’ve created these through guesswork and eyeballing the result too so your mileage may vary. I’ve two presets included in the pack – each with varying strength. They seem to work well, but I can’t guarantee anything.

Another thing to bear in mind is that I’ve used a curves adjustment to invert the image, so if you’re making adjustments, anything you change above the curves adjustment in the hierarchy will have the opposite effect. For example, playing with the recover slider will actually increase the blacks and so on. I hope this is of help, and please let me know if you use these and they are of some help.

Note: Aperture 3 is required for adjustment presets. For instructions on how to install watch this video which shows you what to do


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6 Responses to A Preset For Using Negatives in Aperture

  1. John Taylor January 3, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    Ah, thanks for these. They seem to have the pontential to work nicely with black and white as well

  2. P Downey October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Presets worked great. I found a few dozen extremely large 1940’s negatives of family that nobody could develop and my scanner doesn’t have a negative mode. We were able to invert these nearly 70 year old negatives into viewable photos. We are now finally able to see a portrait of great grandparents for the first time. Thank you!

  3. Heidi January 22, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks so much Thomas, undertaking a ‘scanning-project’ and this helps me note which negatives I’ve decided not to scan in the event I want to return to scan them later.


  4. khasiat buah manggis bagi kesehatan July 5, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    What’s up, this weekend is good in favor of me, for the reason that this point in time i am reading this fantastic educational article here at my house.

  5. Jez April 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks so much. Perfect match to what I was looking for.
    Thank you for your generosity. You have made my day.


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