I was using my DSLR (D5200) to digitize some old negatives. Many articles stackoverflow helped with ideas. SO I have a backlit surface on which I place the negative & then take a closeup shot of the negative. I then copy the negative image to my computer & convert/reverse it to a positive through a freeware program (a java program).

My question is on the exposure settings for the negative. After I take a shot of the negative, the histogram tells me its quite underexposed (the graph is mostly to the very left), but when I view the jpeg after reversal of the negative to a positive I find the image I get is almost entirely burned out. I have to then use a image editing Software (ViewNX 2), to reduce the brightness (-99) to get to see a decent picture. Why do I have to reduce the brightness, is this normal or is there something wrong with my process.

Maybe this is the basic thing that is expected to happen when we turn negative images to positives, not sure.

What should be the exposure setting when I photograph a negative?


Keep in mind that dark is bright on a negative. Anything black is going to become white, so underexposing the image of the negative results in an overexposure of the positive. Boost your original exposure of the negative and the inverted version will be more natural. It's probably being exposed dark due to being on a light table which is probably throwing off your auto-exposure, so you either need to alter your exposure compensation or set your exposure manually.

  • I did not mention this but, my exposure was manual, my focusing was auto. Maybe I should have tried the auto exposure too. I guess I was in manual mode & just continued. I will try with a higher exposure setting for the next set of negatives tomorrow & share the results.
    – user132797
    Aug 17 '13 at 16:51
  • I enhanced the exposure by about 4 stops & the positives come out without the washout. Thanks.
    – user132797
    Aug 18 '13 at 6:34

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