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I have scanned some film negatives (35mm) and have run into the classic orange color problem. Using the Gimp, simply inverting the color of the image (Colors->Invert) leads to a very discolored image that is quite different from the original developed copy.

Unfortunately, the scanner I am using doesn't provide any automatic correction and I'm stuck doing it myself. How would I go about correcting such an image - keeping in mind that I do not have access to the camera that the pictures were taken with? Is there a tool (preferrably free) that can perform this correction automatically? Are there standard parameters I can use?

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Once you invert the image, you'll have a blue or blue/green cast. If you can find an image with a known neutral (gray) spot, use the gray eyedropper in the level tool on that spot and it should clear away the color cast. I'm not sure how to then save that adjustment to apply to your other images, but they should be correctable with that same adjustment.

You can also do this: before cropping the image, so that you still have some unexposed portions of the film visible, use the white eyedropper tool on one of these unexposed edges. That should turn the light orange to white, which when inverted will be black.

There is also a photoshop plugin here

  • One of the negatives has a blank (white on the negative, black when developed) frame. Would that work? – Nathan Osman Feb 4 '12 at 5:15
  • I just gave this a try and it's definitely a step in the right direction - a huge improvement over the original. The image still lacks a lot of the red highlights (cheecks, face, etc.) that the original developed photo contains, however. – Nathan Osman Feb 4 '12 at 5:21
  • That might work. If you have some of the edge of the film scanned, you could even try correcting it before inverting. – MikeW Feb 4 '12 at 6:21
  • Simply using a blank negative won't work very well. This is because the orange mask in the negative actually varies based on the exposed color and level (to correct for cross color exposure effects in the C-41 chemistry). Go with the PS plugin if you can, as this would have the color mixing matrix to deal with it better. – Skaperen Feb 5 '12 at 0:02

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